In Acts 9 we find Saul, a known terrorist affirmed by the chief priests, “breathing threats and murder” (Acts 9:1) to followers of The Way (first century Christians). He starts to travel to Damascus in hopes of finding more people to persecute. “Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” (Acts 9:3-4) The voice reveals itself to be Jesus and Saul is told to continue to Damascus as planned and wait for further instructions. Turns out Saul was blind and his fellow travelers mute after the whole thing. Three days without food, water, or sight, Saul finally experiences relief.
On the third day while Saul was praying Ananias, follower of The Way, receives instructions.
“The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias….get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man from Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel…’” (Acts. 9:11-15)
When I first read this passage jealousy and judgment rose in me on Ananias’ behalf. God chooses Saul, a murderer, to spread the news about Jesus to the Gentiles, kings and Israelites. Others have followed Jesus from the beginning and seem awfully more qualified, yet Saul. Someone who has taken pleasure and extreme measure to work against God is God's #1 pick. Really?
“So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul’…” (Acts. 9:17) The rest is history.
“Brother Saul…” Ananias didn’t just obey God, but his heart was so in tune to His Master’s he was able to genuinely call Saul a brother. Ananias had love for Saul, a person who had been on a killing spree of all his brothers and sisters in Christ. May I be like Ananias.
If you read on Saul is filled with the Spirit, given his sight back, baptized and becomes one of the most memorable apostles and authors of the Bible. It was a rough beginning for him as an apostle of The Way, but eventually people came around and believed in the forgiveness of Jesus that they preached.
Acts 9 continues to be one of my favorites. I love how powerful Jesus is that when He shows up people are blinded. I love the concrete redemption in a bloodthirsty murderer who sees Jesus and whose life is transformed by Him. I love the humility of Ananias. He trusts God and does not let jealousy prevent him from obedience. He has faith enough to see a vision, courage to confront a scary man, and the gentleness to call him brother. I love how God sees past our hate, our threats, our murder, and our sins only to find a child whom He believes in and loves. I love that when followers of The Way had their opportunity at Saul, an enemy to their faith, they did not kill or yell or hate. Ultimately forgiveness reigns allowing Saul's faith and leadership to develop encouraging others for thousands of years beyond his conversion moment.
May I be like Ananias. Humble. Obedient. Kind.