Persecution of the church began in Jerusalem with the stoning of Stephen. Now, Saul was on his way to Damascus to round up any escaping believers so he could bring them back to Jerusalem in bonds. And then, Jesus appears to him. In a moment, everything changes for Saul. He is blind, and has a vision that a man is coming to him as he waits three days in Damascus. Accepting Saul is hard for the disciples, but Ananias also has a vision and the Lord sends him to Saul to restore his sight. Saul begins to proclaim, and then prove that Jesus is the Son of God …
Why Are You Persecuting Me?
It wasn’t enough for Saul to pull people out of their houses in Jerusalem, he wanted to follow those that left the city and arrest them also. In Act 9:2 he wanted authority to find “any who were of the way”and to return them “tied up” to be punished and executed. Paul says later in Acts 22:4-5 (LEB) ⌊I⌋ persecuted this Way to the death, tying up and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as indeed the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me, from whom also I received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and* was traveling there* to lead away those who were there also tied up to Jerusalem so that they could be punished. And, he didn’t just bring them in Paul says in Acts 26:10 (LEB) which I also did in Jerusalem, and not only did I lock up many of the saints in prison, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when* they were being executed, I cast my vote against them.*
Is it any wonder that the Lord asked in Acts 9:4 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”. If Saul hadn’t been part of the mob that took Jesus before Pilate for him to be crucified, he had certainly seen the miracles done by the apostles in Jerusalem, And, is it any wonder that Saul asked in vs 5 “Who are you, Lord?” because he didn’t believe there was a Messiah, especially one that had risen from the dead. What Saul believed had changed. For now, he was blind, and was fasting and praying as he waited these three days.
He Has Seen in a Vision
Ananias responds quickly to the Lord in his vision even though this was likely a new experience for him. Even so, Ananias knew it was Jesus. Jesus did say, in John 10:4 (LEB) Whenever he sends out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
In this vision, In Acts 9:10-11, Jesus told Ananias exactly where to go, who to see, and what to do. He also told him that Saul was there praying and already had a vision that Ananias was coming to lay hands on him to restore his sight. Ananias reacts, in Acts 9:13 “Lord, I have heard … how much harm … and here he has authority …”. Jesus answers in Acts 9:15-16 “Go, …”. Ananias takes action on what Jesus has spoken to him, he has faith in God, and sets aside what he has heard about Saul’s past. Ananias is rightly concerned about the authority that Saul has, but God has a different future for Saul that he lays out before Ananias. We might call it revelation, but it is that knowledge of the future that empowers Ananias to go to Saul.
Saul and Ananias both had a vision. Both responded by following the instruction they had been given. And in Acts 9:17, we see that Ananias had also been shown what happened to Saul on the road so he greets Saul and lays hands on him saying “Brother Saul, …”. Saul received his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit, was baptized, had a meal, and fellowship, not just with Ananias, but with the disciples in Damascus. Ananias had immediately accepted him as a brother in Christ.
Jesus is the Son of God
In Acts 9:20 “Immediately he (Saul) began proclaiming …” then it says in Acts 9:22 (LEB) But Saul was increasing in strength even more, and was confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by* proving that this one is the Christ. Saul began proclaiming, and then proving. We might interpret this as Saul, who new all of their arguments and how they interpreted scripture, was now as he debated with them, organizing, some would say internalizing, his new revelation into a full and clear understanding of the scriptures.
In Acts 9:21 “all who heard him were amazed, and were saying, Is this not the one who was wreaking havoc …”. Then in Acts 9:23 (LEB) And when many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted to do away with him. No one could counter his statements, they exhausted themselves trying, then “plotted” as they had with Jesus, as they had with Stephen.
But they wouldn’t take him in public, Saul was in the synagogue, he was with the other disciples, he wasn’t hiding, but the “Jews” that had plotted, were in Acts 9:24 (LEB) “they were also watching the gates both day and night so that they could do away with him”, to catch him away from the people if they could so they could kill him.
Saul knew how they operated, he had been one of them, and a leader of them but now he was cut off from their support and cut off from any connections he had in Jerusalem. How could he even care for his own needs aside from eluding these who sought his life. Then in Acts 9:25 (LEB) But his disciples took him* at night and* let him down through the wall by* lowering him* in a basket. How many times have I read this and not noticed, “his disciples”. When did Saul get disciples? When God called him there were those ready to stand with him. Look around, who is ready to stand with you?
Speaking Boldly in the Name of the Lord
It isn’t a big surprise that he wasn’t immediately accepted in Jerusalem. They didn’t have a word from the Lord as Ananias had. Then in Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him and* brought him* to the apostles and related to them how he had seen the Lord on the road and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.
Again in Acts 9:28–29, as he had done in Damascus, he was speaking boldly, and debating, and again, “they were trying to do away with him”. so, without his own means of support, in Acts 9:30 (LEB) And when* the brothers found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. There are times for us to intervene in the work of another, at our cost, for their protection.
A main instigator was not only removed from the area, but now was on his mission to the gentiles. And the result was in Acts 9:31 (LEB) Then the church throughout all of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being strengthened. And living in the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it was increasing in numbers.* The power of the Lord had overcome the power of persecution and again, the Church “was increasing in numbers”.
Immediately He Got Up
In Acts 9:32 “Peter was traveling through …” apparently visiting the saints on the way. Peter came to Lydda which is West of Emmaus from Jerusalem and would have been on the road to Joppa. Then in Acts 9:33-34 there is an unusual account of healing because it says that “he (Peter) found there a certain man”. In most accounts, people are seeking healing, and then they receive. Here, Peter calls him by name and tells him to get up, and Aeneas gets up healed.
Peter wasn’t speaking like this to every person he met along the way, and every person under his shadow was not being healed as had happened in Jerusalem. What was different? Though it isn’t recorded, doesn’t it seem that Peter went looking for this man, “and he found there a certain man named Aeneas”. However it happened, and as a result of this miracle, in Acts 9:35 “all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon … turned to the Lord”.
He Prayed, and, He Said
In Acts 9:36-37 we learn of Tabitha, who was “full of good deeds and charitable giving”, but fell sick and died. Then in Acts 9:38-39 And because* Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, when they* heard that Peter was in ⌊Lydda⌋,q sent two men to him, urging, “Do not delay to come to us!” 39 So Peter got up … Joppa was perhaps three or four hours walk and that means it might have been the better part of a day after her death before Peter could arrive.
It doesn’t seem that Peter responded because of her good works, but because these disciples sought him and asked him to come. And it doesn’t seem that Peter was moved by those who were weeping and grieving because in Acts 9:40 “Peter sent them all outside”.
Peter was now doing what he had seen Jesus do, (see Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25). And, Jesus had told them in John 14:10-13 “the works I am doing he (the one that believes) will do also” and then finishes in John 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. So, Peter prays, as it says in Hebrews 4:16 (LEB) Therefore let us approach with confidence to the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. And then he simply said, “Tabitha, get up”. Once we have gone toe the throne room of heaven with our request, our intercession, there is no need for great words to impress others, just simple action, speaking the word God has given us. Jesus commended the centurion that understood this principle in Matthew 8:8-13, and Peter is now experiencing this as he give Tabitha (Dorcas) his hand.
A Memorial Offering Before God
In Acts 10:1 is “Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort” so he wasn’t a weak man, not a local conscript but likely a career soldier. A Centurion was a “Commander of 100 men in the Roman army … he was the working officer … besides maintaining discipline among the ranks. He had to oversee executions for capital offenses”.1
And yet, he was not what we might expect of a battle hardened commander.
- Acts 9:1–9
- Acts 9:10–19
- Acts 9:20–25
- Acts 9:1-43
- Acts 10:1-8
- 1. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Centurion. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 421–422). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.