Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath. He was eager to destroy the Lord's followers, so he went to the high priest.
He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them -- both men and women -- back to Jerusalem in chains.
As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him!
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
"Who are you, sir?" Saul asked. And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!
Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
The men with Saul stood speechless with surprise, for they heard the sound of someone's voice, but they saw no one!
As Saul picked himself up off the ground, he found that he was blind.
So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days. And all that time he went without food and water.
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord!" he replied.
The Lord said, "Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you arrive, ask for Saul of Tarsus. He is praying to me right now.
I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hands on him so that he can see again."
"But Lord," exclaimed Ananias, "I've heard about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem!
And we hear that he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest every believer in Damascus."
But the Lord said, "Go and do what I say. For Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.
And I will show him how much he must suffer for me."
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you may get your sight back and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Instantly something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.
Afterward he ate some food and was strengthened. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days.
And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is indeed the Son of God!"
All who heard him were amazed. "Isn't this the same man who persecuted Jesus' followers with such devastation in Jerusalem?" they asked. "And we understand that he came here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests."
Saul's preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn't refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
After a while the Jewish leaders decided to kill him.
But Saul was told about their plot, and that they were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him.
So during the night, some of the other believers let him down in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They thought he was only pretending to be a believer!
Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus. Barnabas also told them what the Lord had said to Saul and how he boldly preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
Then the apostles accepted Saul, and after that he was constantly with them in Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.
He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they plotted to murder him.
When the believers heard about it, however, they took him to Caesarea and sent him on to his hometown of Tarsus.
The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it grew in strength and numbers. The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Peter traveled from place to place to visit the believers, and in his travels he came to the Lord's people in the town of Lydda.
There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years.
Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up and make your bed!" And he was healed instantly.
Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord when they saw Aeneas walking around.
There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas ). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.
About this time she became ill and died. Her friends prepared her for burial and laid her in an upstairs room.
But they had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, "Please come as soon as possible!"
So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other garments Dorcas had made for them.
But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, "Get up, Tabitha." And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up!
He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he showed them that she was alive.
The news raced through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord.
And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a leatherworker.