Connecting to the Larger Story
One of the people who was most prominent in persecuting the young church was a Pharisee named Saul. He had followers of Jesus brought before the courts and was able to have some of them stoned for their perceived crime of following Jesus. As the converts to the faith scattered into the countryside and neighboring towns, Saul followed with his mission to destroy the church.
Important to Note
1) Saul - who later be renamed Paul - had a vision of Jesus in a blinding light on the way to Damascus. Being blind, he had to be led the rest of the way and then rested for three days. God gave Ananias the task of healing Saul of his blindness, but Ananias was reluctant because he knew of Saul's reputation. Yet he still obeyed despite the danger.
2) God told Ananias that Saul was chosen to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. To this point, the disciples had only sought out converts among their fellow Jewish people. Saul would take the message outside the Jewish community and establish churches in areas of modern-day Turkey and Greece filled with Gentiles - non-Jewish people. This was very different, because most of these Gentiles had not believed in the God of Israel before coming to believe in Christ.
3) After his conversion, Saul found that the disciples did not yet trust him. He continued to pay for his persecution of the church until Barnabas vouched for him and he was able to prove himself as a true follower of Jesus. Once he had proven himself, those who had been his allies in persecuting the church sought to now kill him. Just because he had converted did not mean that the consequences of his crusade against the church would not follow him.
Thoughts for Reflection
1) How are we called to risk ourselves to serve God?
2) Why would God call someone so opposed to Jesus to be so important in establishing the church?
3) Why does God let consequences of our behaviors follow us even after we have repented?