The Troubled Thoughts of a Blind Persecutor
In the early hours of morning, when the sun was beginning to stretch its gaze across the dusty roads of Damascus, Saul sat silent, blind to the eastern glow. His companions sat nearby in the stillness, regarding him with uncertainty.
“Do you want something to eat?”
“No,” said Saul.
“It would be good for you to strengthen yourself.”
Saul made a small motion with his hand.
“Were you able to sleep?”
“I have bread here. Do you want some?”
“No,” said Saul.
The companions unrolled the bread from a long strip of cloth and began to eat, saying nothing further.
Saul shifted. He felt the stiff edge of rolled parchments in his garments. They were the letters from the high priest. In all the dizzying events of the past day, he had forgotten they were there. While staring at a wall, his eyes blank and lost, Saul felt the parchments, scraping a finger against a stiff curve. His heart grew heavy and his mind continued to reel.
His companions silently watched as they ate.
It is a wonder to think what Saul of Tarsus thought during the days of his blindness after the Lord had visited him. While the mysteries of the heart remain hidden under lock and key, I suspect that Paul, in the darkness of his blindness, would have reflected at least on the following:
- He would have felt the bitter realization that he was a murderer, killing not only an innocent man (Stephen), but a man whose message stood true in its sharp accusation. The Christian he stoned spoke truly. They were egregiously stiff-necked and fighting God. The need for forgiveness would loom large in his heart.
- This would naturally mean that Stephen was right. Saul would have realized that they wrongly crucified the Messiah, the Son of God, and were hurling blasphemous insults at their Lord, not only in word but in deed. The need for forgiveness would continue to loom large in his heart.
- Saul would have realized that the church which he was persecuting was the Messiah's people. Something new and profound had entered history, and he and his Pharisaical friends were woefully separated from it.
- Saul would have reflected on Jesus' words, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” He probably would have wondered how it could be that persecuting Jesus' people meant persecuting Jesus Himself. This would in turn suggest an intimate union between Christ and His people- a vital union deserving intense consideration; one might dare think of a head and a body.
- The thought of resisting the Holy Spirit would have cut him to the core. Man's hardness of heart would have been a topic of sudden and intense relevance.
- Saul's mind would have run through the Scriptures over and over and over again. An entire reevaluation would have taken place, as his mind Googled various stories and texts with a new lens in place. Cherished interpretations once held dear were suddenly smashed. He undoubtedly knew that he needed to reconsider the Scriptures afresh, and that this would require serious reflection.
- The Kingdom of God must already be here in some sense. It had to be a present reality. Perhaps his “already-not-yet” perspective emerged here in kernel form.
- Saul would have reflected on the disconnect between the behavior and beliefs of the early Christians and those of the Pharisees. Since the Christians did not keep the law in exactly the same way as they, it must have meant that salvation was not through Saul's conception of law-keeping. The role and place of faith would be something he knew he needed to think deeply upon.
- Saul would have wondered why the Lord chose to reveal Himself to him. Why him? Why bring him to his knees?