He would know the Torah inside and out and off by heart, and also had heard many people speak of Jesus. Saul had heard the oration of Stephen, prior to his stoning, Saul knew all the theology already, and was passionately against it. He had been 180 degrees off course and had the whole thing inverted, but now, being full of the Holy Spirit, having just received a knockout revelation and been rendered blind then given his sight back, he was definitely going to set the record straight.
But first things first. If you remember, as soon as Jesus was baptised and received the Holy Spirit he was led by the Spirit into the desert. It seems like Saul had a similar instruction placed upon him. For as he later explains,
‘I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.’
In today’s parlance, I guess he needed time to process. Which will have required a complete replacement of his old world view and religious understanding with the new revelatory heaven and earth view that will have been rising within him from the Holy Spirit. At some point he will also have to process his own guilt and also face the destruction of his old life. Between the wilderness of Arabia and the city of Damascus Saul is converted into a full on follower of the Way he tried to destroy.
‘Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the son of God. All those that heard him were astonished and asked “Isn’t he the man that caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on his name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.’
Sauls theology would have proved it to them, in the sense of combining multiple threads of historical revelation and prophecy into a strong cord of logical truth. And equally or more so, Saul himself was proof that Jesus was the Christ. Saul was living proof of the power of Jesus, as God, and of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as part of that Godself.
‘After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan.’
Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the city wall.’
So the persecutor has now become the persecuted and has to escape the city, quite a reversal of position. It sounds like Saul had quite a following in Damascus, at least amongst those who didn’t want him dead. He heads to the spiritual and religious capital, Jerusalem. Perhaps he will become a powerful influencer there as well.
‘When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples there, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, he told them how Saul, on his journey, had seen the Lord, and the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.’
This vouching of Barnabas seems to reassure the disciples,
‘So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.
It’s not the first and won’t be the last time people want to kill Saul. He’s a Jew and an ex Pharisee, and he’s testifying to Jews and Pharisees in a compelling way. It’s a head on clash of the most vital importance to both parties. It’s an irreconcilable situation and doubtless it’s bringing a lot of heat.
Saul is a powerful character, challenging and confrontational, a reborn Pharisee turned proclaimer for Christ. It’s also possible he still holds himself in some regard, maybe he has some spiritual pride, perhaps he considers himself a leader and isn’t quite the team player. At any rate he doesn’t seem to fit. And people are trying to kill him. Which as well as being bad for Saul might also bring more unwanted attention, including the eye of Rome, of which Saul was a citizen, upon all concerned.
‘When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus’.
Acts 9:30 51
Saul, it’s time for you to go home.
To be continued …
Extracts from All People Must Know