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May 07, 2004
This morning in my Bible reading I came across one of my favorite passages in the entire Scripture. It is in Acts 9 and involves just two people – the disciple Ananias and Saul. Saul, notorious for persecuting Christians, has departed Jerusalem after obtaining a letter granting him authority to arrest any Christians he finds in Damascus in order bring them to Jerusalem for trial before the puppet court of the Sanhedrin. But lo and behold, while on the road to Damascus he has a dramatic, life-changing conversion experience where Jesus called to him “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and then struck him blind. Jesus commanded Saul to go to Damascus and wait to be told what he must do. Saul had those who were traveling with him lead him to the city and he waited for three days and nights without any food or water.
The camera fades out on Saul and now we are introduced to Ananias (not to be confused with Ananias husband of Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit or the high priest Ananias) who is called “a disciple at Damascus.” The Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision and told him “Arise and go to the street called Straight and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” God told this disciple to run an errand on His behalf.
I love Ananias’ response as he tries to give God a bit of a newsflash. I can just picture Him stammering a bit and starting the sentence with “Ummm…God…?” He says “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” Ananias had not only heard of how Saul had been decimating the church in Jerusalem, but also knew that he was on the march to Damascus, ready to destroy that church as well. We can well imagine that Ananias and the other believers were probably terrified as they awaited Saul and his cohort, for they knew their lives might be lost for the sake of Christ. And now here God asks Ananias to go and confront the ringleader of their persecutors. Ananias takes the opportunity to remind God of just who Saul is, giving a few of the man’s credentials. After all, he has done “harm…to Your saints in Jerusalem” and is now ready to “bind all who call on Your name” in Damascus.
Ananias showed weakness here. He did not have unwavering trust in God. As a matter of fact, he reminds me of me! I suspect I would have said the same thing to God just in case He had somehow forgotten a little detail. After all, this Saul guy was dangerous! Didn’t God know that?
God did know that. He tells Ananias “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My sake.” God knew exactly who Saul was and gave Ananias the assurance that He was still in control. As a matter of fact, He was going to use this man to do incredible things for His kingdom. Saul, the chief of sinners, was God’s chosen means of bringing the gospel to great and small, Jew and Gentile alike.
Ananias is obedient and has the great honor of laying his hands on Saul in the name of the Holy Spirit. At that moment Saul’s blindness is ended. As a symbol of the end of his spiritual blindness he is baptized, probably by the hand of Ananias himself. We then read that “Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.” Whether at that point Saul was the student or the teacher we do not know.
At this point Ananias fades from the story and we hear of him no more. His role in the drama of Acts is small, yet significant. We see a man who wavered when he heard God’s voice, yet despite his initial hesitation he was faithful and obedient. While at first he thought he might have to correct God, in the end he submitted himself and his very life to God’s call. God then used this man to further His purposes in launching the career of the most influential of the apostles. Ananias’ obedience led to a great harvest for the kingdom.