Can one be totally dedicated to a cause not knowing s/he is on the wrong side? This is Saul in the first couple verses of Acts 9. He witnessed the stoning of Stephen in chapter 8. Now he sets out with a mission of destruction to what verse 2 in Acts 9 calls members of (ESV) The Way.
There is only ONE WAY!
He goes to the Chief Priest asking for what we would call in today’s language, warrants to arrest any Jews who proclaim Christ as Savior. The Jewish Sanhedrin had no jurisdiction over Gentiles or Gentile believers but if a Jew, one would fall under the Roman authorized and supported Jewish (Judaism) leadership and the Sanhedrin. This seems odd for a power like Rome to defer to another authority within its own domain. Especially after the trouble the Jews caused for them. This, in fact all changes in 70 A.D. when the Romans finally destroy the Temple and Jewish independence; about 30 years from this point in Acts 9.
Oddly as it may seem, Saul, soon to be evangelist Paul, the one seeking authority to destroy The Way (Christians), is one of the primary reasons Rome turns on both the Jews and the Christians. This chapter in Acts is known as The Damascus Road chapter. Saul sees a bright light from heaven as he travels to Damascus with warrants in hand. His accompanying comrades or Temple Police witness the voice event but see nothing or no one. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4 – ESV)
Saul replies “Who are you, Lord?” The fact is the word he used in the Greek, LORD (kurios) means “supreme being.” Saul already knew the answer to his own question. Jesus simply takes him to a moment or reality…”I am Jesus, the one you persecute.”
JIV: This is a moment of past, present and future per those who call upon the name of the Lord as Christians. Saul knew well of the crucifixion of Jesus only a few years earlier. He is now talking to the same one he in spirit helped to kill. Saul saw Christianity as a great threat to Judaism. We now move from God (Old Testament) to Jesus (New Testament); one and the same but a change from Judaism to Christianity…another way of defining this moment.
Paul is told by The Voice of The Way to continue on to Damascus, but he is now blind. There is great symbolism in him being blind. John 9:25 reads…”I was blind but now I see.” This passage reports a miracle of Jesus. There is something of huge value in temporarily retreating to this passage in John 9. Jesus is asked by his disciples “why is this man blind? What sin did he do that blinded him? HERE IS THE KEY VERSE: (ESV) “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This man had a difficulty or birth defect for one purpose…so that “the works of God (be shown) through his healing.” Why am I diseased? Why am I a cripple? Why do I have cancer? Why is it such a young person died? Why does God let this or that happen? So that the works of God may be shown (given opportunity) to show through him or her. It may not always be an earthly healing we see, but we do see the “works of God” manifesting in his or her life.
Amazingly, a leadership of Judaism, this time the Pharisees, questioned the blind man’s healing. He claims it was Jesus. As it states in verse 9, some tried to convince themselves it was a look-a-like person who was now seeing. The blind guy must have stepped off the face of the map because such a thing cannot be done…so they thought (see Acts 9:28)
The Pharisees cry that since it was the Sabbath it couldn’t be of God. It was traditionally a day of peace and rest. By Jewish Law work was forbidden on the Sabbath. This reminds us of Colossians 2:16…” Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” …or what day one calls his or her Sabbath? Man-made tradition and rules!!!! We have so many man-made rules we don’t know the difference between what scriptures actually tell us and what some theologian or denominational doctrine tell us is as much gospel as the Gospels themselves. How will we understand if we do not know? How will we know or have true knowledge if we are not personally aware of bible facts by study?
In desperation, verses 18 and 23, the Pharisees call the healed man’s parents to testify if this is really their “from birth” blind son? They say YES but in fear of the authority of the Sanhedrin, they defer to their son saying, “Ask him. He is of age.”
In Acts 9:22 the finality of being sanctioned from the synagogue or as in Catholicism, excommunicated, was foremost in his parents’ mind. As a Jew, to say Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), was fatal. They passed the buck to their healed son. This reminds us of the End Time reference found in Luke 12:53; Father against son, son against father; mother against daughter, daughter against mother. See below copy of ancient fragments discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
This fragment states of a time yet to come when such will be fact!
It actually addresses a time when the sons of light will battle with the sons of darkness. By implication we can deduce this will be a time of great distress and no one trusting another.
Now the Pharisees get religious. In verses 24, 25 they tell him to give glory to God for this man (Jesus) is a sinner for having worked on their Sabbath. The healed man simply says, whether he is a sinner of not I do not know. But, once I was blind and now I see.
Here is a point too often missed from the pulpit or the Sunday Bible study hour. He healed man says “whether Jesus was a sinner or not, he did not know.” Hmmmm?
Now it gets real interesting. The Pharisees question him again but the healed man gets frustrated with their persistence. He tells them, I already answered your questions. What is wrong with you? In essence, what is it you don’t understand about me being healed? Do you wish to become his disciples (learners)? The Pharisees make a fatal statement…(V28) “And they reviled him, saying, “’You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses’.” They don’t even claim to be disciples of the God they had just ordered the healed man to give glory (v24). They are students of Moses whom they never personally knew from 1,500 years earlier in Hebrew history. Jesus they can see at this time.
Then the Pharisees get totally outwitted by the healed man and “cast him out” of their presence (9:34).
Just above in this article you should have read a hmmmmm statement. The healed man did not know if his healer (Jesus) was a sinner or not. Now we find the answer. Recall that Jesus mudded the eyes of the man commanding him to go to the Pool of Salome to wash off the mud. He did NOT KNOW what Jesus looked like as his previous contact with him was when he was still blind. His faith did not heal him and he knew not Jesus.
Beginning at Acts 9:35, we must read the conversation that followed when the healed man was cast out of the presence of the Pharisees.
Joh 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Joh 9:36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Joh 9:37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”
Joh 9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Joh 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
Joh 9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”
Joh 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Jesus finds the man a second time and asks him if he is aware of who is “the Son of Man?” He says no but I want to believe. Who is he? Jesus tells him, “It is I who stands in front of you.” So often, in fact too often we hear that JESUS IS LOVE without hearing the rest of the detail (story as Paul Harvey once proclaimed on radio). Jesus said he came to judge (v39). The only reason that the Pharisees had any sense of guilt is the closing verse. In simplified English, if you were not aware you would not know or understand. But now that you are aware, you are guilty.
Rev. Dr. Jstark