This story picks up after Stephen was stoned. Saul (see note below on "Saul vs Paul") was continuing to persecute the church. He even went to the High Priest and had him send letters to the synagogues in Damascus warning them that any followers of Christ (or "the Way" as it was referred to here) would be bound and brought to Jerusalem for trial. Saul was presumably on his way to Damascus to make good on his threats when something dramatic happened...
Saul is Blinded
As Saul was traveling, suddenly a bright light shone around him. A voice called out to him by name! "Saul, Saul, why are you opposing me?" Saul knew this was supernatural - not an ordinary light and voice. So he called out and asked, "Who are you, Lord?". It was Jesus! “I am Jesus,” he replied. “I am the one you are opposing. Now get up and go into the city. There you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6)
There were men traveling with Saul and they heard this too, but they didn't see anything. And then Saul got up from the ground, opened his eyes, but he couldn't see anything! He was blind for 3 days and couldn't even muster the strength to eat anything. The first part of God's plan to get Saul's attention was complete. Now, he enlisted the help of someone else to finish the job.
Saul meets Ananias
God spoke to man named Ananias (who lived in Damascus) and told him to go to where Saul was staying, the home of a man named Judas on Straight Street. God told Ananias that he had already given Saul a vision of a man with his name coming to lay his hands on him so he could see again. Initially Ananias was scared. Don't forget about the letter Saul had sent to Damascus ahead of his trip there!
But God reassured him that Saul had been changed by his experience on the road to Damascus. So Ananias obeyed and went to the house where Saul was staying. Ananias laid his eyes on Saul and confirmed to him that the man he saw on the road there was in fact Jesus.
Just then something like scales fell off Saul's eyes and he could see again! He was baptized, began eating again, and regained his strength.
Saul has Changed!
Immediately, Saul began meeting with the believers in Damascus and preaching in the very synagogues he threatened to kill Christians in. Finally, Saul's great passion and intellect was being used for Jesus instead of against him. Many of the believers still feared him, though. Surely someone like Saul couldn't just change that suddenly, could he?
The Jews that were living in Damascus were not happy about this at all! They began to think about ways they could kill Saul. Saul found out about it and the Christians in Damascus helped him escape the city in a basket they lowered through a hole in the wall. Paul went back to Jerusalem, but the Christians there were afraid of him too! But a man named Barnabus helped the believers in Jerusalem accept what happened to Saul. He told them all about Saul's journey to Damascus and his experience there. So Saul stayed in Jerusalem and boldly spoke about Jesus and told his story. The Jews in Jerusalem didn't like him anymore than the Jews in Damascus, though. So the Christians in Jerusalem had to help Saul escape there too and he ended up back in his home of Tarsus for a while.
In later lessons, we will learn about this man Saul (also called Paul) and his huge impact on expanding the early church throughout the Middle East and into Europe.
**Note: Saul vs. Paul
Saul is also referred to as Paul in the New Testament. Some mistakenly assume that Saul's name was changed at the point of conversion to Paul. While this is a very common occurrence in the Old Testament when God calls someone out for a special work (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel), we have no indication that this is what happened here. The early mentions of the man in Acts are almost exclusively "Saul", while the later mentions and all the later books are exclusively "Paul". But the only clue we have of a transition comes in Acts 13:9: "Saul, who was also called Paul"...
Saul is a Hebrew name. Paul is a Greek name. Perhaps since Paul's ministry focused on the Gentiles (and Peter's focused on the Jews), he decided to use his Greek name instead of his Hebrew name. Or maybe he really did go through a name change and he himself chose to mark his conversion by changing how he was named. Or perhaps God did indeed tell him to change his name, but it was just not recorded anywhere in scripture.
Regardless, we should teach our students that Saul in the New Testament is the same person as Paul. We should primarily call him Paul, since that is how is referred to most commonly.
What is the brightest thing you can think of?
Today, we're going to learn about a man in the New Testament that saw a very bright light that changed him forever!
If you think your children can handle it, have them close their eyes as you teach them the story. Ask them to imagine what it must have been like for Saul those 3 days when he couldn't see anything. Also, imagine what it must be like to be someone blind from birth?
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Acts 9:1-19
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?