Acts 9

1 Saul had begun persecuting the Church in Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen, but he was determined to wipe out the new Christian church entirely and wanted to pursue Christians in other places (Acts 8:1-3). To continue his personal mission, he needed authority of the high priest to enter synagogues in other places. The high priest at that time was Theophilus, son of Annas (a.k.a., Ananus), who was appointed to that position in 37 AD, replacing his brother, Jonathan. Annas, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, had presided over Jesus' mock trial (John 18:12, 13, 24). At the trial of Peter and John, Annas, and the rest of the high priest's clan, continued to show their opposition to the teaching of Christ (Acts 4:6). Thus, carrying on the family's distain for Christianity, Theophilus was undoubtedly happy to find someone to champion the cause against Christians. Christianity was a radically different form of Judaism that departed from the comfortable traditions and ingrained teachings of the major Jewish denominations of the day. The high priesthood had felt politically threatened by Jesus throughout His ministry, and Paul, being quite zealous for Judaism, undoubtedly felt that Christianity was a heretical infestations that needed to be squelched.
2 Paul wanted to first go to Damascus, the capital of Syria, about 130 miles to the north and east of Jerusalem. Damascus, like Jerusalem, was part of the Roman Empire, but ruled by local leaders. It is believed that at the time of Paul, the Nabatean king, Aretas IV, presided over Damascus. He hated Roman control, and Damascus had a large Jewish population. Thus, it was likely that he would recognize the extradition request of the High Priest. Paul intended to arrest suspected Christians and bring them to Jerusalem to stand trial before the Sanhedrin, the "supreme court" of the Jewish religion of the time. This situation was unique because the Jewish government was both religious and political. The central Jewish authorities claimed jurisdiction over all Jews regardless of their secular nationality."Christian" was a term that would be invented later (Acts 11:26). Until that point, the Christian faith was known as "the Way." Undoubtedly, this refers to Jesus' phrase, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).
3 It was around noon (Acts 22:6) when Saul saw a light that was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13). It is possible that it was the Shechinah glory in a similar form to lightning. The exact location of this event is unknown, but apparently, it was close to Damascus.
4 Dazzled and confounded, Saul fell to the ground in wonder. Next, he heard the voice of the resurrected Christ asking him a question. Jesus made it clear through His words that by persecuting Christians Saul was persecuting Him. The situation is ironic because Paul had thought he was destroying "the way" to please God, but as he would later realize, he had been persecuting Christians to protect the Jewish political and traditional establishment, not to further God's kingdom (Rom 10:2-3).
5 Jesus knew Saul's name, but Saul did not yet know Him. Several commentators feel that Paul was addressing Jesus in purely civil terms, since the same word for "Lord" might also be rendered "sir." However, it is certainly believable that Paul, being completely awe struck, might have recognized and responded appropriately to the divine encounter.The phrase "it is hard..." was not originally in this verse, but was later inserted from Acts 26:14 (Wycliffe).
6 Some Greek versions have a half verse at the beginning to make it look like Paul's testimonial in Acts 22:10. Jesus simply told Saul to continue to Damascus and wait for further instructions. Obviously, Paul's original intention for going there would be completely replaced with a new mission.
7 His traveling companions were awestruck when they saw the light and heard the voice. Having initially fallen to the ground either in fear or the awesomeness of God's presence (Acts 22:14), they then stood back up to view the amazing scene. Acts 22:9 indicates that they did not understand what the voice was saying. Jesus spoke in Aramaic, which his companions may not have understood (Acts 22:14). The voice may not have been loud enough for the others to hear it clearly. This verse seems to indicate that Jesus did not appear in physical form during this encounter, but there is much debate about this. Nonetheless, Ananias would later tell Paul that Jesus had indeed appeared to him, so regardless of whether there was a physical manifestation, he was commissioned directly by Jesus, qualifying him as an apostle (Acts 9:17, 1 Cor 9:1).
8 Saul was blinded by the experience. He had been strong enough to lead a crusade against Christians when he started to Damascus, but now needed assistance to reach his destination.
9 Everything changed once Saul met Jesus. He needed time to pray and repent. His experience forced him to accept a new worldview - one that he had previously rejected rigorously. The impact was so profound that he did not eat or drink for three days.
10 In Damascus there lived a well-respected, devout Jew named Ananias who had become a Christian. Nothing else is known of this man through the Scriptures, but there are several traditions about him, including the idea that he might have been one of the 70 disciples of Luke 10:1 and was later martyred. The site where it is believed his home was has, always been a place of worship since his day, but it has changed hands between Christians and Muslims many times.Jesus spoke to Ananias through a vision, most likely in a dream: evidence that this task was very important. Ananias was responsive to Him and willing to listen.
11 Visions can range from vague to specific, and here, Jesus gives Ananias explicit instructions on who he is to look for and where he is. It is likely he knew where Straight Street was already, since it was a wide, colonnaded street that connected the theater to the governor's palace and served as a large market place, but it is unclear if he knew Judas. By specifically asking for Saul based on his home town, it is likely that Judas would be more willing to let a visitor in. There is a mosque in Damascus near the eastern gate on Straight Street today that is reputed to have been built over a church that was built over the original site of Judas' house.Jesus begins to describe Ananias' mission to see Saul with the indication that he is praying. He is in communication with God, just as Ananias was accustomed to doing. Saul and Ananias had something in common, which was their faith in God. Saul's faith was brand new, but it linked the two together. This serves as an assurance to Ananias, and the reason becomes clear in the next few verses.
12 God gave both of these men visions to prepare them to meet. For Ananias the vision was instructional, while For Paul it was to be further evidence that what He had experienced was truly from Jesus. While Paul's experience of this vision is not recorded elsewhere, it obviously happened between the road to Damascus experience and Ananias' vision.
13 This does not appear to be a statement of reluctance because Jesus does not rebuke him. It is most likely a statement of amazement. The man who was an enemy of God has now become His servant. Paul's reputation had preceded him, and many confirmed the facts of the matter. Ananias may have also felt a short burst of apprehension in the idea of actively seeking out the one who had specifically come to the town to arrest people like himself for deportation and prosecution.

The first Christians were called "saints," coming from the Greek word meaning "not of earth." The idea is that followers of Jesus were consecrated to live their lives with a completely different frame of reference than the earthly people around them.

14 Paul's purpose for coming to Damascus was no secret.

Christians defined themselves as those who called on the name of Christ. Paul would undoubtedly be looking for those who would be praying to Jesus.

15 Paul was commissioned from the beginning to go to the Gentiles. This would be astonishing and offensive to many Jews of the day, but it was God's plan to offer salvation to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The reference to kings foreshadows Paul's defense before the highest authorities in his own country and the Roman Empire. Paul would be teaching Jews all over the Empire, but he would find more success among the Gentiles. With this assurance, God told Ananias to go immediately.
16 Suffering is a normal part of the Christian experience because the world, in general, is hostile to the message of Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had been an enemy of God and caused his followers to suffer. Now, however, Paul would become God's friend and a powerful advocate. The proof that his conversion was genuine, he would join in the suffering of Christians, and indeed suffered in dramatic ways at times (2 Cor 11:23-28).
17 Ananias then went to Paul and laid his hands on him to convey the healing power of Christ. In addition, Ananias calls Paul a "brother," identifying him as a fully accepted convert into the body of Christ. He confirms for Paul that it was Jesus who appeared to him on the road, further indicating that this was the work of God, especially if Paul had not given specific details about what happened to anyone. As final proofs of the fact that God was working in this situation, Ananias indicates that Jesus sent him to Paul to restore his site and give him the Holy Spirit.

Some have objected to this last idea: that a non-apostle could have been used to bless Paul, an apostle in the making, with the Holy Spirit. However, there is no record of any of the apostles being baptized either by another apostle or Jesus. It should be clear that it is the power of God that is important, not the perceived strength or weakness of those He chooses to work through.

18 Most translations leave us with the picture of scales literally falling out of Saul's eyes. We might imagine in such a case that his corneas had been damaged by the epiphany on the road, but God miraculously generated new ones, leaving the old ones to be shed like a snake's skin. However, others indicate that the phrasing should be more like "... he regained his sight as if scales fell from his eyes." In this case, it is a figure of speech emphasizing the quickness of the event. In this latter case, we might suppose that there had been significant damage to Saul's retina, and that God cured the problem.
The "removal of the scales" also serves as a picture of the spiritual scales that had been removed from Saul's mind. After his conversion, he could see both physically and spiritually.

As is proper for an obedient Christian, Paul is immediately baptized as a public statement of his faith.

19 Having been both physically and spiritually healed, Paul ceased fasting and became strengthened again. Because of Jesus' intervention, Paul was now sharing meals with believers instead of throwing them into prison. It is also likely that during this recovery phase he learned as much as he could from the disciples there with him.
20 Fully recovered, Saul immediately began preaching about Jesus, convinced, now, that He is the Son of God because he had encountered Him resurrected. Some early Greek manuscripts have the word Christ instead of Jesus here, but most scholars agree that Jesus more clearly explains whom Saul was preaching about. Certainly, the Jews would already believed that the "Christ" would be God's Son, but what they needed to know was that Jesus was the Christ.
21 The people of the city were understandably amazed at Saul's 180-degree spiritual turn. He went from being the primary opponent to "the Way" to being one of its most vocal preachers. He had been a destroyer of the Church, but now was one who God would use to grow it far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East.
22 Paul kept increasing in strength - probably meaning that he was growing spiritually stronger. Paul apparently began teaching the same way as is recorded elsewhere. He would go into a synagogue, market, or other public place and simply begin preaching about the Christ. Jesus was a controversial figure, of course. The Jews had expectations that the Christ would free them from Roman rule, among other things. However, Paul was able to show the true purpose of His life, death, resurrection, and return from the Scriptures. He overwhelmed the Jews with proof, which caused much agitation since the idea that Jesus was the Christ was unacceptable to some, and the ensuing debates, as many religious discussions do, became very emotionally charged situations.
23 Combining this verse with Gal 1:17-18, one can conclude that Saul had traveled to Arabia and then back to Damascus over a three year period. Upon his return, Saul began preaching again. Some of the Jews considered Saul's teachings to be blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in the Scriptures, while others may have felt Saul a dangerously destabilizing factor both politically and religiously. Given Paul's manner of teaching, at least some may have felt personally insulted. However, they apparently did not have any legal recourse to bring him to trial either before the local Jewish or civil authorities, so they plotted to murder Saul themselves.
24 2 Cor 11:32 indicates that there was some government involvement, but to what extent is not completely clear. The Jews may have implicated Saul in some way or simply requested the governor to apprehend Saul for them so that they could try him on religious charges and subsequently murder him. It is apparent that the government officers were not going to make an arrest in the city, but instead detain Saul if he decided to leave. High walls surrounded Damascus, so it would have been fairly inexpensive to post a few officers at the city gates in order to identify those entering or exiting. However, Saul was somehow informed about the plot.
25 Saul had come to the city to persecute others, but now he was the one being hunted. Certain of his demise if he remained, he fled the city. In a manner similar to the spies of Jericho in Josh 2:15 and David in 1 Sam 19:11-12, the disciples put Paul in a large basket and lowered him through an opening in the wall, away from the guarded gates.

As did Jesus and the other early disciples, Paul would often live "on the run," escaping from those who sought to stop the Christian message by killing or imprisoning the teachers. Some have questioned whether this is the proper course of action for a people willing to die for their faith. According to Jesus' instructions in Mat 10:23, yes, because while their is a certain type of honor in martyrdom, it is far more noble to continue to share the Gospel with others in the hopes that many more will believe and gain eternal life.

26 Saul fled to Jerusalem, hoping to join the original Christian community for a while and discuss Jesus' commission to him with the leadership there. However, the last time Christians in Jerusalem had seen Saul, he had been rounding up believers and throwing them in jail. They were very concerned that he had not really changed, but possibly was attempting to become a mole in the group in order to destroy them from the inside out. Still today, when a notorious sinner decides to follow Christ, many do not believe it. Yes, there are charlatans, but there are also genuine converts.
27 Despite the Jerusalem Christians' resistance to meet with Saul, Barnabas took action and brought Paul directly to the apostles, Peter and James, to introduce him to them. Barnabas, like Saul, was from Cyprus, and it is possible that they had known each other in that country. If this is the case, it would certainly strengthen Barnabas' character analysis if he had seen Saul before and after his conversion. Barnabas not only testified that Saul was a genuine convert, but that Jesus had spoken to him in such a way as would qualify him as an apostle. Saul was taking his commission very seriously and had boldly proclaimed the Gospel in Damascus. This would unquestionably have shocked the Jerusalem Christians, but there is no indication that they later questioned his authority to be an apostle and preacher.

Some have inferred that the disciples in Jerusalem had not heard of Paul's conversion and have come up with several possible explanations why the news had not traveled from Damascus to Jerusalem over the three years between these two events. However, the wording is much more indicative that the apostles had heard the rumors, but found it difficult to believe. It is also likely that there would have been little information if Paul had spent most of the three-year time span in Arabia.

Barnabas means "son of encouragement" in Greek. He lived up to his namesake by being and advocate for others here and other places in the New Testament.

28 Finally convinced, they accepted Paul and he participated in the church there. He also continued to be an outspoken preacher in Jerusalem.
29 Paul's main area of ministry was with the "Hellenistic" Jews. These were Jewish people who were born and brought up outside of Judah. They tended to speak Greek, the "universal" language of the day, and they read from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul probably felt this was his natural area of ministry, himself being brought up in a Greek-speaking country, but yet trained as a rabbi in Jerusalem. This was also likely a group that he had associated with before (Acts 7:58). Unfortunately, these men were no more inclined to accept Paul's teaching about the Gospel than the Freedmen synagogue had been of Stephen's preaching in Acts 6-7. Paradoxically, Paul again found himself on the opposite end of where he once was. Previously, he had agreed with the execution of Stephen for preaching the Gospel. Now, a plot to kill Paul was being hatched by his former compatriots for the same reason.
30 Word of the plot to kill Saul reached the church, and they helped him escape by taking him to the port city of Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus, his hometown, and capital of Cilicia. He would spend approximately five years there.
31 Suddenly, the Church experienced a time of peace in all the regions that Christianity had spread to. Although some have correlated this with the departure of Saul, it is apparent from the previous verses that persecution had continued for the three years after he was converted and largely absent from the area. Others have suggested that instead, the Jews attention was diverted when they themselves found themselves being persecuted. Apparently, in 39 AD, emperor Caligula demanded that his statue be placed in the Jewish Temple, and he threatened war against them if they did not comply.

During this time, the Church was being "built up" and becoming firmly established. It was obvious to all that they revered Jesus and relied on the Holy Spirit to comfort them. The church had increased during the time of persecution, but they continued to increase after the first severe wave of opposition subsided. It has been widely pointed out that during times of hardship, the church tends to grow because when people are willing to suffer for what they believe in, it inspires others to take a closer look at those beliefs, and perhaps accept them for themselves. However, it is obvious that the universal truths of Christianity are not only for times of suffering, but for everyday life as well. The love that Christianity advocates should inspire people in good times as well as bad.

32 Peter's ministry involved all the regions in the area, and he traveled from place to place to encourage the local churches. In this instance, he traveled to Lydda, a town about 10 miles SE of Joppa in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. The Greeks called it Diospolis, or city of Jupiter, and a temple to that god was built there in that period.
33 In Lydda, Peter came across a man who was paralyzed and had not been able to get out of bed for eight years. The man was probably Jewish, but went by the Greek name Aeneas. It is quite common in the New Testament to find people with both a Jewish and Greek names.
34 Peter tells Aeneas that Jesus healed him as he spoke, and the evidence would be that he was to get out of his bed and make it. Aeneas immediately found that he could do so.
35 This miraculous healing of a paraplegic was amazing, but people would not believe it simply by hearing about it: they had to see it for themselves. The tragedy of this man was obviously well known, and when people saw the evidence of his recovery and heard that it was through the power of Jesus that he had been healed, they turned to the Lord and put their faith in Him.
Sharon (or Saron) is a 10 mile wide band of fertile land in Palestine stretching 50 miles along the Mediterranean coast. The northern point is Haifa on Mount Carmel, and Lydda was on the southeast edge of this plain.
36 In the nearby seaport of Joppa, there was a woman named Tabitha. Her name means "antelope" in Syriac, an animal that was considered to have beautiful eyes by Arabic and Persian poets. It was common to name beautiful young women after animals. The Greek translation of her name, Dorcas, also means antelope. Tabitha was a Christian woman renowned for her good deeds and acts of kindness to the poor.
37 However, death must come to the believer and non-believer alike. At that time, Tabitha became ill and subsequently died. As still is common today, the body was washed and put on display so that friends and relatives could come and pay their last respects before the burial. In the modern western world, it is common to do this in a funeral home or church, but in those days, this was done in the deceased's home.
38 The church in Joppa obviously had heard that Peter was in Lydda, and they urged him to come. Exactly why they asked for him to come is unclear. No apostle had yet raised someone from the dead, so some dismiss the idea that the people had any expectation that Peter could be used to revive Tabitha. Peter was known for the healing miracles that God performed through him, so some have suggested that the people actually sent for Peter while Tabitha was still sick, but she had died before he arrived. Still others suggest that they only expected Peter to be a comforter to help them cope with the loss of such a wonderful woman.
39 Peter went with the messengers, and when he arrived in the upper room where the body was, the widows whom Tabitha had helped happened to be there. Their benefactress was gone, and they were naturally sad about this. Peter talked with them, and they showed him the garments Tabitha had made for them, which were likely the only clothes they had to wear.
40 Peter sent everyone out of the room. Why is not clear. Some have suggested that he was not certain at this point exactly what God was going to do here, and needed to seek His will in private. Others have suggested that he did not want to make a public spectacle of this revival, which would have brought more attention to himself than to Jesus. During his time of fervent prayer, a moment came when Peter knew he should command Tabitha to arise. When he did, she saw Peter and sat up.
41 Peter only touched Tabitha after she had returned to life, thus avoiding any ceremonial uncleanness that would have come with touching a dead body. In a significant act, he reached out and helped her up. This, along with the fact that this significant miracle directly benefited Tabitha, shows that women were valuable members of the Christian community, in contrast with the surrounding societies that often viewed them as mere property. Finally, he presented her alive to all who had come to mourn her death.
42 Such an astonishing miracle could not be contained, and people all over the region talked about it. Such powerful evidence compelled people to believe in Jesus.
43 The people of the area received him well, so he stayed there for a significant amount of time. His choice of lodging was a bit unusual. A tanner was considered unclean because he dealt with blood and the skins of dead animals. Although often treated with contempt by the Jewish elitists, Peter perhaps found himself able to live above common prejudices. Such adjustments would be even more necessary as he ventured into the world of the Gentiles in the next chapter. God was giving ample evidence that Salvation was available for men, women, Jews, and Gentiles. There is no birthright that either guarantees or is required to find favor with God.