Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. (verses 19-22)
“At once.” That’s the phrase that stands out here. In Greek it’s a single word, meaning “immediately”, “straightaway”, “without pause.” If someone were on the brink of a body of water, this is the word that would communicate they had jumped right in, without hesitation, no holding back.
That’s Saul. He’s taken the plunge. It’s so abrupt, so sudden – it’s absolutely stunning. This is the man who was last seen tramping purposefully along the road to Damascus, letters in hand, carrying full authority to round up followers of Jesus, wherever he might find them, and lead them off to prison and potentially death. This was a man with fire and determination in his eyes. This was a man with burning hostility toward Jesus. And it was simply a matter of days ago.
But everything’s changed. The transformation is immediate. “At once” he switches sides. He’s now preaching the very message he was intent on persecuting – he’s declaring Jesus as the Son of God, having unreservedly embraced him as Lord. All of his rabbinic training as a Pharisee is now fully activated on the side of the Gospel, as he powerfully pronounces arguments proving that Jesus is the Christ. His opponents are left baffled and deeply angered.
The upshot? As immediate as his own transformation, Saul finds himself plunged into the same persecution he had been visiting on others. He’s now in the crosshairs of those who are intent on killing him because of his newfound allegiance to Jesus. His newly acquired friends in Christ lower him in a basket over the city wall so he can escape.
This is the power of divine encounter. Saul has met Jesus Christ. The transformation is immediate, but even more, it’s thorough and enduring. Later he will write: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He’d experienced it. Again, he will say: “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). He’d seen it.
The Lord meets us all in different ways. Sometimes its dramatic, sometimes less so. But he plans full transformation for us all. There’s no doubt. So, don’t hold back. Plunge right in. Submit to his work. If the progress thus far has been slow, ask the Lord for more. Remember Saul. The process and pace may be very different, but the Lord is in the business of “new creation.”
That’s what Saul’s story tells us.
Father, shine on me anew with the light of your Son, as you did with Saul.
Lord Jesus, meet me afresh with the power of your presence, as with Saul.
Spirit, strengthen me in my inner being, to engage with new passion, as did Saul.
Reflect: What step can you take “at once” this day (big or small) to express your commitment to Jesus?