“I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope.”
His traveling companions gently deposited the Pharisee at the edge of a sleeping mat in a small, rented room just off of Straight street in Damascus. This wasn’t how they’d imagined entering the city, nor was Sha’ul the man with whom they had traveled from Jerusalem. Only hours ago, he was a fiery zealot (though not literally associated with the Zealots), breathing murderous threats against the disciples of a Rav named Yeshua, who had died and supposedly been resurrected, vowing their imprisonment or destruction for (supposedly) speaking against the Temple and the Torah.
Sha’ul’s once penetrating gaze had dimmed, and wide-open but unseeing eyes had become dulled in the aftermath of the blazing light that bathed their party on the road approaching this city, and a voice only Sha’ul could clearly hear had spoken to him of things astounding and forbidden.
“We will take our leave of you now, my Master,” Simeon nearly whispered to the once vital but now strangely shrunken, frail Pharisee. “We need to secure our own rooms.” Sha’ul seemed deaf as well as blind for he did not respond. “We’ll bring back food.”
Without turning toward the speaking man, Sha’ul faintly nodded his assent as if he could still see the unknown vision from the road. Simeon and his two cohorts quickly escaped the oppressive presence of the now sightless and helpless minister of justice against the religious sect they’d learned was called “The Way.” Their once proud mission was reduced to ashes.
Although it was highly irregular, Simeon would send one of their group back to Jerusalem with a message for the High Priest, who, a Sadducee, had consented to issuing letters of authority to the Pharisee Sha’ul permitting him to arrest and remove any disciples of this Rav Yeshua from the local synagogues and return them for trial. Would the Cohen Gadol have any instructions given these disastrous events? What were they to do with Sha’ul now?
“Why do you persecute me, he said,” an abandoned Sha’ul muttered to himself in dim light and utter darkness. “Prosecute me? Prosecute him? How was I to know? How was I to know there was substance and power behind these measly group of heretics?” a still crushed and astonished Sha’ul murmured.
“How was I to know that you were the Moshiach, the Son of the Most High, the resurrected one?” Sha’ul abruptly screamed, as much to Yeshua as to the blind heavens!
Hearing no reply nor expecting one, the minutes lapsed and his rapid, ragged breathing slowed. Sha’ul supposed it was the traditional time for the Minchah, the afternoon prayers, and began to daven silently to Hashem, the Most High God, His God, who had abruptly become, if not a stranger, then at least the surprising source of something unexpected, as this new dimension of reality came into focus in the Pharisee’s life.
Throughout his prayers, Sha’ul’s mind raced in a countering subtext of desperate thought about who he is becoming now that he has been confronted by Yeshua, whose disciples he had condemned and yet how Sha’ul is condemned by the power behind and above the sect of The Way. Sha’ul had always been zealous for the Torah, for the sacrifices, for the Temple. He had kept every Law and tradition of his people in the manner of the Pharisees. He washed up to his elbows before eating every meal, kept all of the precepts so that he was always ritually pure, even when most of the time, he was away from Jerusalem and unable to make Temple offerings.
He was among the greatest of the Pharisees, in spite of his youth. A member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Jew among Jews. He had risen quickly among his peers, but then in those scant few moments of being blasted by the radiance of Heaven, he had fallen from the brightest heights and into total darkness; from the clouds to sheol.
Only his prayers offered faint luminescence, for even now, in his humility and humiliation, Sha’ul’s hope was in Hashem, Maker of Heaven and Earth. If indeed this Yeshua is the Son of the Most High…
“How, Oh Hashem? How could I have been so wrong?” Sha’ul’s prayers fell in disarray about his feet like wounded sparrows. “How can I put my hope in You when I have been so opposed to him? How could I have been so right and yet discover I’ve been so wrong?”
Sightless eyes wept bitter tears of contrition and repentance. This is the way Simeon found him when bringing Sha’ul his evening meal, which was repeatedly refused. This is how Sha’ul spent the next three days and nights, weeping, fasting, and praying, until another man who also had a vision, but a much more gentle one, came to Sha’ul’s room and introduced himself to the future servant of Yeshua as the disciple Ananias.
Sha’ul was about to receive another revelation, the second among many. The Torah, the Temple, the Priesthood, the sacrifices were eternal. But in Messiah, they could now be experienced in ways Sha’ul had never imagined.
This is another “transplant” from my old A Million Chimpanzees blogspot, and another example of “Biblical fiction”. This time I feature the transformation but not the conversion of the man most Christians know as The Apostle Paul. However, I present him in what I consider to be a much more authentic way both theologically and historically. For those of you who want a textual source for this tale’s background, open your Bibles to Acts 9:1-9