Week 15 of The Way: a new series on the Book of Acts
Acts 13:1-12 (Listen to Tyler's Sermon HERE)
On Sunday Tyler preached on Acts 13; in this passage, Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas are commissioned by the church to go to the Greek-speaking island of Cyprus. While in the island’s administrative capital of Paphos, Barnabas and Saul encounter the false prophet Bar-Jesus preaching to the region's proconsul (a governor), Sergius Paulus. When Bar-Jesus tries to resist the apostles' entering to speak with the proconsul, Paul preforms a miracle conferring blindness upon Bar-Jesus.
Hearing Tyler tell this story, I began to think about the significance of the miracle of blindness that is recorded here. One reading of this reveals a God who is seeking to strike down a false profit by publicly blinding him, stripping him of all his power and status. While this is most certainly an act demonstrating the power of God, another reading reveals a God who is full of mercy and compassion.
Firstly, It is important to note that the person through which the Holy Spirit blinds Bar-Jesus is Paul. Paul’s own conversion story is remarkably similar to this encounter with Bar-Jesus. In Acts 9, God forcefully intervenes in Saul’s life by appearing to him on the road to Damascus. Paul’s encounter with the living God leaves him blinded and, like Bar-Jesus, “requiring someone to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:11). This is certainly not coincidental. In the person of Bar-Jesus we see a Jewish man seated in a place of power who fervently believes that he knows the truth; a resume that is identical to Paul’s. Thus, this is a story not about Bar-Jesus, but rather; it is a story of God’s mercy through Saul as he faces a man who is the epitome of his pre-Christian self.
When Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, blinds Bar-Jesus it is an act of compassion. Paul immediately sees that Bar-Jesus is in the exact same place as he himself had been when he was persecuting the early Christians. Saul knows exactly what Bar-Jesus needs in order to live: he needs the truth to be revealed to him. The truth was that Bar-Jesus was already blind. He was spiritually blind as opposed to physically blind.
Paul too was spiritually blind as he walked the road to Damascus; he required a face-to-face encounter with the risen Lord in order to be cured of this. The symptom of physical blindness is just that, it is a side-effect pointing visibly to where the true problem lies, Saul and Bar-Jesus’ misunderstanding regarding the true identity of Christ. If Saul is forceful in this passage, it is because he sees whole heartedly the urgency of Bar-Jesus’s circumstances.
This miracle, though appearing quite different from other healing miracles, is still ultimately a healing miracle because neither man is left in their state of sickness. Our God does not leave us in our spiritual blindness. He is a God who reveals to us the truth so that we do not live a life in the darkness! How great is our God!
-Andrew Nelson, ASC Partner and Blog Coordinator
How has God moved in your life to bring you out of Spiritual Blindness?
How can you use your own story to share God's mercy with other people?