Acts 9:1-19 (The Message)
All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”
“Yes, Master?” he answered.
“Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”
Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.
The Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus was a major event in the New Testament. Saul who became Paul the Apostle. Thirteen of the epistles are attributed to Paul, making him the most prolific writer in the New Testament.
Paul writes of his conversion experience in I Corinthians.
The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence.
I Corinthians 15:3-9 (The Message)
January 25 is celebrated as the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle. The feast is celebrated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches. It concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Most saints have feast days commemorating their death. Paul is the only saint to have a feast commemorating his conversion.
Paul spent much of his early life in Jerusalem persecuting Christians. He stood by as Stephen, the first martyr after Jesus, was stoned to death, perhaps holding the cloaks of the stoners.
But on the road to Damascus, sometime around 35 or 36 AD, Paul was blinded by a light and met the Christ he persecuted. Paul began a teaching and preaching career and was one of the great evangelizers of the early Church. He traveled to many countries throughout the region preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of his letters were written from jail.
In 57 AD, while teaching in Jerusalem, Paul was warned that the Jews were angry with him. He was captured and imprisoned in Caesarea. Held there for two years, a new governor reopened his case. When it was suggested he return to Jerusalem for trial Paul appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen.
On the journey to Rome, Paul was shipwrecked at Malta. He later arrived in Rome around 60 AD and spent two years under house arrest. Paul wrote the Books of Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians during his imprisonment in Rome.
We are not told in Scripture when and how Paul died. But in what is believed to have been around 110 AD, Ignatius wrote that Paul was martyred. Tradition believes he was beheaded during Nero’s reign.
Tradition has also held that Paul was buried in Rome and that his tomb was in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. In June 2009, Pope Benedict announced that radiocarbon dating of a bone, found along with pieces of incense, purple and blue linen revealed the bone dated to the 1st or 2nd century. The Vatican believes this is consistent with the belief that this was the tomb of the Apostle Paul.