What does Acts chapter 9 mean?Acts 9 records perhaps the most significant event in the history of the church since the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Jesus has ascended (Acts 1:6–11). The Jesus-followers have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–12). The apostles' teaching that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has horrified and infuriated the Jewish leadership (Acts 4:1–22; 5:17–42). A deacon named Stephen has defended Jesus, and a mob, unable to refute his logic, has murdered him under the watchful eyes of the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:8—7:60). One of their assistants, a Pharisee-trained young man from Tarsus, the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, watched the murderers' coats, then won the chief priests' permission to hunt Jesus-followers in Jerusalem (Acts 7:58; 8:1–3). He imprisoned them, voted that they be executed, and tried to force them to blaspheme (Acts 22:19; 26:10–11). In response, the Jesus-followers fled Jerusalem, scattering over Judea, Samaria, and as far as Syrian Antioch, not too far from Tarsus. Along the way, they discovered that God's salvation is for more than the Jews; the Holy Spirit came on Samaritans (Acts 8:14–17) and an Ethiopian government official who worshiped the Jewish God (Acts 8:35–38).
When Saul realizes his persecution has caused Jesus' followers—and their beliefs—to spread, he gains authorization to follow them. Eventually, he travels far north to Damascus to arrest the heretics and bring them back to Jerusalem to stand trial. On his way, however, Jesus shows up, surrounded by the glory of heaven. Jesus reveals to Saul that He is alive. He tells Saul to go into Damascus and wait for a man to tell him what to do. Saul does so, being led by the hand as he has gone blind (Acts 9:1–9).
Meanwhile, Jesus appears to Ananias, one of His followers in Damascus, and tells him where to find Saul. Ananias is understandably nervous as he has heard about Saul's reputation. Jesus reassures Ananias that Saul is chosen to carry the message of salvation to the Gentiles and also reveals he's going to suffer while he does it. Ananias finds Saul, participates in restoring his sight, and tells Saul of his mission to the Gentiles. Saul accepts Christ, receives the Holy Spirit, and is baptized (Acts 9:10–19; 22:12–16).
Where days before Saul was bent on destroying Jesus-followers, now he is driven to make more. He goes first to the synagogues, a habit he will continue in his journeys, and declares that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah. Eventually, the Jewish leadership in Damascus develops a plot to kill Saul, but he escapes the city when his students let him out a window in the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:19–25).
Eventually, Saul returns to Jerusalem. Again understandably, the much-beleaguered church is reluctant to speak to him. Barnabas, a Jesus-follower from Cyprus (see Acts 4:36–37), trusts Saul and acts as his liaison. Soon, Saul is preaching the gospel in and around Jerusalem, especially to his fellow Greek-influenced Jews—the group that killed Stephen. The Hellenist Jews begin plotting to murder Saul, and the church leadership sends him home to Tarsus. With Saul the persecutor converted to a Jesus-follower and Saul the aggressive evangelist safely several hundred miles away, the church in Jerusalem has a period of peace and growth (Acts 9:26–31).
At some point during this time, Peter goes traveling; he eventually comes to the towns of Lydda and Joppa—both now suburbs of Tel Aviv. In Lydda, Peter heals a paralyzed man named Aeneas and in Joppa he raises the good Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:32–43).
The two incidents give a nice break in the drama of the story, but they don't seem particularly note-worthy. Peter has healed quite a few people in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1–9; 5:12–16). But this sets up Peter for another significant event. While he is in Joppa, a Gentile centurion will ask him to come north to Caesarea. There, Peter will lay the groundwork for Saul/Paul's future ministry. He will realize and officially validate that Gentiles can follow Jesus, receive forgiveness, and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). The last step of Jesus' mandate to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" will begin (Acts 1:8).