9 Back to Saul—this fuming, raging, hateful man who wanted to kill every last one of the Lord’s disciples: he went to the high priest in Jerusalem 2 for authorization to purge all the synagogues in Damascus of followers of the way of Jesus.[a] His plan was to arrest and chain any of Jesus’ followers—women as well as men—and transport them back to Jerusalem. 3 He traveled north toward Damascus with a group of companions.
Imagine this: Suddenly a light flashes from the sky around Saul, 4 and he falls to the ground at the sound of a voice.
The Lord: Saul, Saul, why are you attacking Me?
Saul: 5 Lord, who are You?
Then he hears these words:
The Lord: I am Jesus. I am the One you are attacking. 6 Get up. Enter the city. You will learn there what you are to do.
These are shocking, unexpected words that will change his life forever.
7 His other traveling companions just stand there, paralyzed, speechless because they, too, heard the voice; but there is nobody in sight. 8 Saul rises to his feet, his eyes wide open, but he can’t see a thing. So his companions lead their blind friend by the hand and take him into Damascus. 9 He waits for three days—completely blind—and does not eat a bite or drink a drop of anything.
10 Meanwhile, in Damascus a disciple named Ananias had a vision in which the Lord Jesus spoke to him.
The Lord: Ananias.
Ananias: Here I am, Lord.
The Lord: 11 Get up and go to Straight Boulevard. Go to the house of Judas, and inquire about a man from Tarsus, Saul by name. He is praying to Me at this very instant. 12 He has had a vision—a vision of a man by your name who will come, lay hands on him, and heal his eyesight.
Ananias: 13 Lord, I know whom You’re talking about. I’ve heard rumors about this fellow. He’s an evil man and has caused great harm for Your special people in Jerusalem. 14 I’ve heard that he has been authorized by the religious authorities to come here and chain everyone who associates with Your name.
The Lord: 15 Yes, but you must go! I have chosen him to be My instrument to bring My name far and wide—to outsiders, to kings, and to the people of Israel as well. 16 I have much to show him, including how much he must suffer for My name.
17 So Ananias went and entered the house where Saul was staying. He laid his hands on Saul and called to him.
Ananias: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, sent me so you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
18 At that instant, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see. So he got up, received the ceremonial washing of baptism[b] identifying him as a disciple, 19 ate some food (remember, he had not eaten for three days), and regained his strength. He spent a lot of time with the disciples in Damascus over the next several days. 20 Then he went into the very synagogues he had intended to purge, proclaiming,
Saul: Jesus is God’s Son!
21 Obviously this amazed everybody, and the buzz spread.
The People: Isn’t he the man who caused so much trouble in Jerusalem for everyone identified with Jesus? Didn’t he come here to arrest followers of Jesus and bring them in chains to the religious authorities? Now he’s switched sides and is preaching Jesus?
22 As time passed, Saul’s confidence grew stronger and stronger, so much so that he debated with the Jews of Damascus and made an irrefutable case that Jesus is, in fact, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.
23 They didn’t like being confounded like this; so after several days, the Jews plotted to assassinate Saul. 24 But he learned of the plot. He knew they were keeping the city gates under constant surveillance, so they could follow and kill him when he left. 25 To save Saul, the disciples came up with a plan of their own. During the night, they put Saul in a basket and lowered him by ropes from an opening in the wall of the city rather than passing through the gates. Their plan worked, 26 and he returned to Jerusalem.
He tried to join the disciples there, but they didn’t think he was sincere.
27 Only one person accepted Saul as a genuine disciple, Barnabas, who became Saul’s advocate to the apostles. He told the whole story of what happened in Damascus, from Saul’s vision and message from the Lord to his transformation into a confident proclaimer of the name of Jesus. 28 Finally they accepted Saul and gave him access to their community, and he continued to speak confidently in the name of the Lord. 29 He dialogued—and argued—with a group of Greek-speaking Jews. That didn’t go well either, because soon they were plotting to kill him also. 30 His fellow believers helped him escape by bringing him to Caesarea and sending him to his hometown, Tarsus.
31 And so the church enjoyed a period of peace and growth throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. The disciples lived in deep reverence for the Lord, they experienced the strong comfort of the Holy Spirit, and their numbers increased.
32 Peter hadn’t been idle during all this time. He was having a number of amazing experiences of his own, traveling from group to group and visiting the various communities of believers. Once he came to a town called Lydda, a border town between Samaria and Judea, and met with God’s special people there. 33 He visited a man named Aeneas. This poor fellow had been paralyzed for eight years, unable to leave his bed.
Peter: 34 Aeneas, Jesus the Anointed heals you. Get up! Now you can make your own bed!
And immediately—he got up! 35 All the local residents—both of Lydda and nearby Sharon—saw Aeneas healthy and strong again, so they turned to the Lord.
36 In a nearby coastal city, Joppa, there lived a disciple whose Aramaic name was Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek. She was a good woman—devotedly doing good and giving to the poor. 37 While Peter was in Lydda, she fell sick and died. Her fellow disciples washed her body and laid her in an upstairs room. 38 They had heard Peter was nearby, so two of them went with an urgent message, “Please come to Joppa as soon as possible.”
39 Peter went with them and immediately entered the room where the corpse had been placed. It was quite a scene—the widows of the community were crowded in the room, weeping, showing the various items of clothing that Dorcas had made for them.
40 Peter asked them to leave the room; then he got on his knees. He prayed for a while and then turned to her body.
Peter: Tabitha, get up!
She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 41 Giving her his hand, Peter lifted her up. Then he called in the other disciples—including the widows—and reintroduced them to their beloved friend. 42 The news of this miracle spread throughout the city, and many believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time as the guest of Simon, a tanner by profession.