This is perhaps the most famous line from Stan Lee’s Spiderman, spoken by Uncle Ben. It is attributed originally to Voltaire in the 18th century. (One might say Jesus said it first in Luke 12:47-48).
Acts 13 records the inaugural missionary journey of Barnabas and Saul. At their first stop, we see what might be described as an abuse of power on the part of Saul. As he and Barnabas made their way across Cyprus, they encountered an honest soul in the person of the proconsul Sergius Paulus. With this man was a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus), also called Elymas, who sought to hinder the proconsul from obeying the truth.
Fixing his eyes on Elymas, Saul condemned him as being “full of all deceit and all fraud, son of the devil and enemy of all righteousness.” Invoking the name of the Lord, he pronounced a blindness upon Elymas that lasted some time.
I know that there were numerous times, particularly in the Old Testament, where God’s men brought miraculous calamity upon the enemies of righteousness (e.g., Elijah – 2 Kings 1). I know just a short while earlier the account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).
But when I read this account in Acts 13, I cannot help but think of James and John in Luke 9, when they responded to the Samaritans’ disrespect of the Lord by desiring to call down fire from heaven to consume them (v 54). In response, the Lord answered, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (vv 55-56).
Moreover, as I read through the remainder of Paul’s life and work, I cannot help but believe his thorn in the flesh was some type of malady with his eyes. Consider his statement to the Galatians of their willingness to pluck out their own eyes and give them to him (4:15), his reference to writing to them in “large letters” (6:11), and the references to writing only the salutation of several epistles. It certainly wouldn’t be unlike the Lord to work in such a way as to remind someone of an error they had made in time past (think to name a child Isaac, meaning “laugh.”)
Not saying this is so; just something to think about.