Saul, Barnabas and Mark sailed to the island of Cyprus, and when they arrived, they began to proclaim the Word of God in the synagogues. There was a certain Roman proconsul named Sergius Paulus who sent for Saul and Barnabas because he wanted to hear the Word of God. Yet he had a sorcerer in his entourage named Bar-Jesus (Elymas) who was a Jewish false prophet; here the story begins…
Elymas was opposed to the Word, and did all that he could to turn his master against the message that Saul and Barnabas were teaching. Apparently, Saul, under the leading of Holy Spirit, turned on Elymas:
Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. (13:9-11)
This is a very interesting few verses, for not only does the story take an unusual twist, but it contains three very interesting elements. First is that Saul was also being called Paul, and so was he known thereafter. Second, we have the third time that God, through the Holy Spirit takes decisive punitive action against someone in the book Acts, the other two being the story of Ananias and Sapphira, and most recently, Herod. In this, rather than striking the man dead, He made the man blind, and that is the second time someone who was attempting to stop the Word has been struck blind− Paul himself having been the other.
The third thing is this: In Scripture, blindness is an apocalyptic element. It symbolizes an inability to see the Truth of God’s message, which was certainly true for both Saul in his early persecution of the church, and for Elymas the false prophet. When each was struck with blindness, it was a stark dramatization of their spiritual condition. On the other hand, when we see Jesus restoring sight to the blind, we see an illustration of the work of Spirit in restoring lost humanity to a spiritual condition in which they can see Jesus and the truth He spoke in their rightful light.
This little demonstration was not lost on Sergius Paulus:
When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord. (13:12)
Will it be lost on us?