As Saul approached Damascus suddenly a light from heaven shone around him and there came a sound (like thunder). Usually in the Old Testament this would be a theophany of lightning and thunder – here though it is the appearing of the risen and glorified Jesus. Comparing with the other two accounts of Saul’s conversion it seems that those with Saul saw the light but not the glorious person within the light, they heard a voice but did not hear the words. Only Saul receives the revelation of the Lord Jesus.
The glorified man in the light asks Saul in Old Testament style – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” No doubt Saul would have been disturbed to be on the wrong side of this glorious being. The doubling up of the name is an expression of familiar tenderness. As Saul had persecuted David so this Saul persecutes the son of David – but this glorified man is not a humble shepherd boy. “Who are you, Lord?”. The Lord is none other than Jesus himself appearing in his resurrected glory. It is worth observing that Jesus so identifies himself with his people that to persecute them is to persecute him – we are in union with Christ.
One notes that Saul’s encounter with the light of the glorified man has left him blind and needing to be led by the hand. One of the covenant curses in Deuteronomy (28:28-29) for disobedience to God and the breaking of the covenant was that – The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness.
Saul would have understood his blindness to be an expression of his being under covenant judgment. His distress is expressed in his humbling himself i.e. going without eating or drinking for three days – fasting. Saul is out of the covenant relationship.
Saul’s first act of obedience to the risen glorified Christ is to go to Damascus and await further instructions from Jesus.
A final note is that Saul’s encounter with the glorified Jesus is very similar to Daniel’s encounter with the heavenly man in Daniel 10. There also the men with Daniel see and hear something but not the actual revelation. Daniel’s vision of the heavenly man concludes with words about the final resurrection. Saul likewise is going to receive revelation about the first fruits of the resurrection i.e. Jesus.