This past Sunday, in her sermon, Major AnnMarguerite Jones quoted from Acts Chapter 9, which has the account we usually refer to as “Paul’s Damascus Road experience”.
I was intensely moved again by the realization that just two words spoken in love at the right time and empowered by the Holy Spirit can (and did) change the course of history!
Let me quote the passage here from the New International Version translation:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'
5 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,”'he replied. 6 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, 'Ananias!' 'Yes, Lord,' he answered.
11 The Lord told him, 'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.'
13 'Lord,' Ananias answered, 'I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.'
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
I’m sure every believer is familiar with this story, undoubtedly related first-hand to Dr. Luke by Paul himself.
One has to wonder, however, how history might have been changed if Ananias had not set aside his understandable terror at presenting himself before Saul.
As we know, Ananias pointed out to God all the bad things that could happen and probably would happen if he carried out the mission to which he was appointed. I (we) are forever indebted to Ananias’ obedience and courage in the face of known danger and his willingness to believe God’s purposes rather than give in to his own emotions. His actions are a sermon in itself.
There is a saying in our modern culture that says “Go big or go home!” And Ananias decides to go big! He could have just complied with God’s will and merely been the messenger delivering the good news to Saul. But no! Ananias goes for broke and does what Jesus did! He goes to Judas’ house, on Straight Street, knocks on the door and asks if Saul from tarsus is lodging there. Being told yes, he asks to see him and entering into the room he says the two words which epitomize the mind of Christ in a believer.
He says 'Brother Saul'! [Pause to let the stupendous enormity of that sink in!]
Saul was his sworn enemy! Saul was on a mission to eradicate people like him who followed “The Way”! Saul had the weight and power of the religious establishment in Jerusalem solidly behind him! But Ananias is not swayed by any of that - for to him it had been revealed that Saul was to be God’s instrument in spreading the news about Jesus to the whole world - therefore they were brothers in Christ!
It is quite probable that you and I are believers today because of the obedience of Ananias!
Can you imagine the effect those words had on Saul? Here was first-hand evidence of God’s forgiveness, grace and love in action!
In the same way, I believe that you and I should not be deterred by seemingly overwhelming obstacles to proclaiming the Good News in our circumstances. We should see every human being, even avowed enemies, as souls for whom Jesus died and embrace them as brothers and sisters, not because of who they have been or are, but because of who they are destined to become when they are reconciled to Christ.
Thank you Ananias for your faithfulness and example to us all!
Be like Ananias!
Blessings on you and yours,