Here we have Saul of Tarsus, basically breathing fire, seeking to crush this new ‘Way’ of following God in Christ. Saul was a ‘man of God’ thinking he was defending God, and earning God’s favor by crushing this rabble of Jews who were leaving Judaism, or perverting Judaism by incorporating following this carpenter from Galilee who could not possibly be the Christ.
In Paul’s way of thinking, these were perverting Judaism to the extent they needed to be either jailed or killed for their offenses to God. Paul’s later confessions to this extent about what he thought he was doing are very informative. (Surprisingly, other than Paul’s confessions, little is told in the Bible about the extent of what Paul was doing during this time – beside the fact he was persecuting the church to the extent they ran for their lives if they could.)
Of Jesus, it was prophesied: “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (Psalm 69:9) (This verse was referenced of Jesus by John’s Gospel as Jesus drove the money-changers and animal sellers from the Temple.) The same could be said of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was zealous to a murderous-raging fault.
Nothing could stop him. Saul was persecuting ‘the Way’ with the official auspices of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, and now he had papers from the High Priest to pursue those he had persecuted and drag them back from Damascus to jail or kill them at Jerusalem.
It is easy to imagine Saul on the road to Damascus licking his chops over the victims he was in pursuit of. All his attention focused on rushing into their perverted synagogues and grabbing those perverted worshipers and dragging them back to Jerusalem where their punishment could be completed. These weaklings in faith deserved whatever they got in his mind.
Then his attention was completely diverted away from what he believed to be true to what was actually true. He was knocked to the ground from his horse. Then, he heard a voice. (It may have been a familiar voice to Saul, considering he was at Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ ministry.) “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
That Jesus would come and save Saul of Tarsus from himself is one of the greatest glories of the mystery and grace of Godliness Paul would later describe…