Would you pick Saul from among the Pharisees to be one of your very best friends? Would you pick him to represent you to people who don’t know you; who may not even want to know you? I doubt I would, given a choice. I’d probably pick someone who actually likes me to represent me to people who don’t know me, or who, if they did know me, probably wouldn’t like me.
But Jesus does pick Saul. Even as “Saul is still breathing threats and murder against the disciples,” Jesus appears as a flash of light from heaven; this light is so intense, Saul falls to the ground. He hears Jesus ask, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4)
Saul wants to know who is speaking from the light. The voice says, “I Am Jesus, the One you are persecuting.” Then He tells Saul to go into the city. “And you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6) Saul obeys. Despite being blinded, he allows his men to lead him to Damascus. He remains blind and does not eat or drink for three days.
The Lord prepares for Saul’s coming; He appears in a vision to Ananias, telling him to travel to the street called “Straight” to the house of Judas where he will find a man from Tarsus who is called Saul. Ananias protests briefly as he’s heard “how much harm [Saul] has done to [God’s] saints in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)
The Lord proclaims, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My Name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name!” (Acts 9:15-16)
The Lord is not punishing Saul for the persecutions, threats, murders performed as a Pharisee. Rather, He is confirming that in serving the Lord, Saul will suffer.
Ananias explains this to Saul. He tells him that he is to regain his sight and “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17) Immediately Saul’s sight returns. “Then he gets up and is baptized.” (Acts 9:18)
Saul knows there’s no reason to delay. “Immediately he begins proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: ‘He is the Son of God.'” (Acts 9:20) In no time at all, the Jews are conspiring to kill him.
Yet when Saul goes to Jerusalem and “tries to associate with the disciples, they are afraid of him, since they do not believe he is a disciple.” (Acts 9:26)
Likely the disciples in Jerusalem are bewildered that Jesus has given this Pharisee such authority to preach the gospel. Does this man, who has done such evil deeds against Christians, really have the Holy Spirit? How is that possible? Why would God choose him?
Again, a case of judging by appearances — something with which most of us are familiar. On the other hand, Jesus knows everything about Saul. He knows things about Saul no one else can possibly know. And, Jesus calls Saul “My chosen instrument.”