Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. (NIV) Acts 9:1
In his own words, Paul said: “… I went after the Christians mercilessly, hunting them down and doing my best to get rid of them all” (Galatians 1:13). Threats and slaughter become the very breath of Saul. His fury included the arrest, imprisonment and death of Christians. Paul was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). As if no disciples of importance in Jerusalem, Paul focuses on pursuing those, beyond Judea. He goes to Damascus to determine if are any Christian believers there so that he might persecute them.
Damascus had become a dominant trading and transportation center. Perhaps, strategically Paul wants to keep the lies from spreading to other areas of the world. His objective is to search out all those of the Way – the phrase that’s a scornful label for the early Christian movement used by their enemies. Paul set out for Damascus as an aggressive persecutor of the disciples of Jesus, but will becomes a champion of their cause.
Damascus was about 135 miles from Jerusalem or a journey that would take at least a week using donkeys or mules for transportation. As Paul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him in his native language of Aramaic: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Paul responds by saying “Who are you, sir?” To his surprise the answer is: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Paul’s conversion is due to the personal appearance of the risen Lord, who appeared as literally as He did when He appeared to the disciples for 40 days before He ascended to Heaven. It is not a mere vision. It is not a figment of Paul’s imagination. It is not a dream, but a manifestation of the risen Lord.
Paul saw Jesus Christ, “risen, living, speaking, and His face shining with light above the brightness of the sun.” When have you seen the risen Christ with the eyes of your heart?