Saul was closely associated with the Council and other leaders of the Jews. He would have well known the events which led to Jesus’ execution and the “wild story” of His resurrection. It is precisely that, that seems to be one of the driving forces of his persecution of the fledgling Christian movement. It does not make sense for the dead to return.
But this is exactly what had happened. It is interesting to note that in Luke, Jesus had ended the parable of the rich man and Lazarus with an assertion that if one would not believe the words of Moses and the Prophets, they would not believe even if one returned from death!
Paul on the surface, a man who professed that his “righteousness based on the law, [was] faultless;” nevertheless he persecuted the church for the claim of resurrection (Philippians 3:6). Maybe it was his dedication to a narrow interpretation of law that “blinded” him. He was so caught up in the tangible and in the “concrete” written word, that he failed to see what the spirit underlying the word was teaching him.
He did not grasp what the Hebrews writer concluded: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).” Jesus, Himself had picked up on this when Thomas called for a physical sign of the resurrection, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (John 20:29).”
So there was Saul, fixated on what he thought he knew. The witnesses of Jesus’ actions during His ministry were ignored, and those who proclaimed the risen Christ were persecuted.
Then, Bang! Saul encounters Jesus on the Damascus road. All of his assumptions and prejudices were challenged.
“Saul, why do you persecute me?,” Jesus asked.
“But, who are you?”
“I am Jesus!”
[One can imagine the embellishment to the scripture:] “But, you’re dead!”
Saul, was blinded by the brilliant light of Jesus’ presence. In a sense, he had to be physically blinded, in order to truly spiritually see. This was a conversion, and changing of the path he was on.
Yet, this life changing realisation, goes in the face of Jesus’ suggestion in Luke that even if one witnessed one returning from the dead, and didn’t believe the scriptures, they would not believe. Maybe it is still the case with Saul. He did believe what Moses and the Prophets had taught, he just failed to fully understand. It was his dedication to the principle (with a little enlightening from Jesus) that prepared him for what was to come.
Saul (now Paul) was transformed and could now profess, “for we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).”
Are we bound by our assumptions (religious or secular)? Do we take the “seeing is believing” approach? Or do we “close our eyes” to possibilities that don’t fit into our conceptions or plans? If so, let us seek our own Damascus moments.