Psalm 24, Acts 9:1-22
July 19, 2015
In 2001, I got new eyes! I’ve probably related this story to some of you. 2001 was when I received what I consider to be a medical miracle – a miracle called “Lasik” surgery. After wearing rigid contact lenses for 25 years, I finally decided to take that big step.
Well, before the surgery my eyesight was pretty bad. I was in the doctor’s office that day, and I remember him saying, “We have to test your vision.” I said, “Ok.” So he covered my one eye and said, “Read the lowest line you can on the chart.” I cleared my throat and said (very ceremoniously!) “A!” He said, “That’s it?” I said, “That’s it!” So we switched eyes, and he said, “Now read the lowest line.” I said, “Look, I know it’s ‘A,’ but only because I just read it!”
So, we went through the whole procedure, and then after the surgery things were really blurry! And the nurse who was taking care of me, (in the very “comfy chair!”) took me into another office, sat me in another chair, and said, “We have to test your vision again.” I said, “You’re joking, right?” She said, “No. We do! So, I want you to read the lowest line you can.” I said, “Ma’am, I’m taking your word for it that there’s even a wall there!” She smiled, took a few notes and she let me go.
Well, I went home, and eventually I went to sleep. And when I woke up, I could see a little better, but not much. However, hour by hour throughout that day, my vision got sharper and sharper and sharper. And at my follow up visit, I was 20/10! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was like I got new eyes! And I thought of that today because, in this story, Saul “got new eyes.” And he “got new eyes” in more ways than one!
This was an amazing story. As we begin chapter 9, Saul was the “chief persecutor” of the new Church. And he was, as Luke says it here, “Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” That’s pretty strong language! Notice, it wasn’t that he was “Searching out and arresting” the disciples of the Lord. He was “Breathing threats and murder.” And that makes me wonder about how we define murder? Could the stoning of Stephen be construed as “murder?”
Anyway, that’s what Saul was doing. And at the beginning of this chapter, Luke tells us that he had gone to the religious leaders – who were also the civil leaders, if you remember. And he had gotten from them official sanction to go after Christians, and bring them bound – “in chains” – to Jerusalem, to be put on trial. And, as Luke is careful to point out here, that meant men and women! Saul was on the way to Damascus to do just that. And that’s when this event took place.
Now, we know this story. Saul was blinded by a great light. He heard the voice of Jesus. And when it was over, he was led into Damascus, where he spent 3 days in a very “distraught” state of mind. It says he neither ate nor drank. A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a show about how to survive natural disasters. And on the show the host talked about the “Rule of 3.” He said, “You can’t survive more than 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, or 3 weeks without food.” You see, I’m full of all kinds of interesting information!
Well, Saul was working on that middle one. He was 3 days without water. And at that point, there enters one of the real heroes of this story – this man named Ananias. And no, he wasn’t crazy about this at first. God told him to go to Saul, and he said, “You’re joking, right?” Well, God wasn’t joking. So Ananias went. And he touched “brother Saul.” And Saul was healed.
Saul was given “new eyes.” And as I said, he was given those “new eyes” in more ways than one! When he received his sight, Luke describes it as “something like scales” that fell from his eyes. Well it was more than that. Those things that kept him from seeing things God’s way – things like pride and ego, they also fell away! He had been more than physically blind! He had been spiritually blind, too. And now he knew it!
Saul started to see things with God’s eyes! And as he was going through this powerful experience, I wonder if he thought about some earlier times, times when Jesus accused the Pharisees of being “Spiritually Blind.” Do you remember? At one time he called them “Blind guides!” “You strain a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” he said. (Matthew 23:24) Still another time, he accused them of being “the blind who were leading the blind.” (Matthew 15:14) That’s a pretty harsh thing to say to those religious leaders!!
I also wonder if Saul was there when Jesus healed the Man who was born blind. You can read that story in John, chapter 9. I’ve said before how I believe Saul must have been around during Jesus’ ministry. To me that’s a lot more likely than him just “coming on the scene” sometime after Pentecost. I can easily imagine him being there that day, and hearing Jesus use the idea of blindness and sight as a means to talk about spiritual blindness and spiritual sight. He said this to those standing by. “…I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees heard him say that. Could one of them have been Saul? They asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?” Jesus answered them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt. But since you say ‘you see,’ then your guilt remains.”
Those are tough words! And I have to think all of that would have come back to Saul at that time. He had to have remembered those stories as he sat in darkness for those three days. And then, when he was given the experience of receiving sight, he must have felt a little like that blind man himself! He might well have remembered that man, and thought about what it was like for him to receive sight – for the first time! He must have felt at lease some of that amazement!
So then, what about us? This is a great story, and we could say a lot more about it. But, what about us? What about our “vision?” What about our “spiritual vision?” Do we strive to see the world as God sees it? Or do we insist only on our own perspective?
I’m told that something like 80% of all the input to our brains comes through our eyes! Think about that. Think about how much more sophisticated electronic things had to be to be able to transmit video, rather than just audio! (Television as opposed to radio.)
Well our eyes are the equivalent of that. 80% of the information to our brain comes through our eyes! Even the majority of our memories are stored as images. And if you think about it, we like to see things as we see them, don’t we! In both the physical and the spiritual sense, we like to be “in charge” of how we interpret all of those inputs! “Seeing is believing,” as the old expression goes. But is that actually true? Or is seeing and then interpreting actually believing? And is that interpretation based on what we’d prefer to see?! Do our pride and our ego sometimes color what we see and what we believe? And do we sometimes refuse to believe, even though we’ve seen? Maybe you remember the old saying that goes like this. “There are none so blind as those who refuse to see!”
Through this experience, Saul became that “New Creation” he told the Corinthian Church about in his second letter. “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old is finished and done, behold, the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17) But for Saul, it wasn’t an easy change. For Saul, he had to be “knocked off of his donkey!” That’s what it took for him to “see with new eyes.”
What about us? Do we resist seeing things God’s way? Or do we seek his perspective? Do we strive to hear his voice? Do we try to see things through God’s eyes? We are called to be “new creations.” As Paul said, “The past is finished and done. Behold, the new has come.” Do we seek that newness? Do we see with new eyes?
Heavenly Father, help us to see ourselves as you see us. Help us to seek to be the “new creations” Paul wrote about. Help us to recognize the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, that we may have the strength and courage to live the new life, to “see with new eyes,” to be the people you call us to be. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.