Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-8; 22:4-11; 26:9-18
When Stephen died, there was one religious leader who liked what he saw. He was called Saul. Saul had wanted Stephen dead as much as any of the other religious leaders. Stephen’s death marked the beginning of a terrible time of suffering for Jesus’ followers. It was also a time when God’s people showed great courage. Over and over again, people chose to die for what they believed. They did not turn their backs on Jesus. Many believers were forced to leave their homes and run for their lives.
The enemies of Jesus had hoped to kill off His followers. Instead they only made them stronger. The number of believers grew as they scattered. They ran away from bad men like Saul. As they ran, they told people that Jesus was worth living . . . and dying for.
Saul plotted about ways to kill Jesus’ followers. He hated anyone who had anything to do with Jesus. His hatred was very dangerous and ugly. Saul went to the chief priest and asked if he could search for Jesus’ followers inside and outside the country. Then he would arrest them all. He wanted to bring all of Jesus’ followers back to Jerusalem. No matter if they were men or women, he would have them killed.
Word that Saul was on his way spread fast. All the believers in the area prayed for each other. They knew Saul was more terrible than any other. He was cruel. Saul went to Damascus first. He carried important letters which gave him the right to arrest any of Jesus’ followers. Armed guards traveled with him. As Saul traveled in that direction, though, a truly amazing thing happened! A light from heaven flashed around him. It knocked Saul off his horse!
Saul fell to the ground. He heard a Voice say to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you hurting me so much?”
“Who are You, Lord?”
“I am Jesus of Nazareth. Through my followers you keep arresting me. Through them you put me into prison. You kill me over and over again. Now get up and go into the city!”
The men who were with Saul heard the Voice too but they saw no one. Saul did as he was told. When he opened his eyes, he found he was blind! He had his men lead him to the place Jesus had told him to go. There he waited in darkness.