Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do." The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for 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 harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake." So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.
Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?"
My thoughts -
In my Bible there's a heading for this section that says "The Conversion of Saul". This was a big event for the early church. One of their persecutors converted. The man who had presided over the stoning of Stephen and had been given authority to persecute and arrest the faithful became one of them.
This was also a big event for Christianity in general. Without the conversion this man goes down in history as Saul, a man who persecuted first century believers. An important figure? Perhaps, but probably not. The early church had no real shortage of enemies. For them I'm sure Saul was a significant one, but historically speaking I don't know.
But with the conversion here we have the Apostle Paul. An important figure? Absolutely! In fact, he's an important enough figure for Christianity that the bulk of the unsolicited junk mail and Twitter spam I get from New Atheists accuse him of founding our entire religion based on his own delusions and ambition.
I won't get into the veracity of their claims. It's unimportant to me. But even and especially non-believers know Paul. He was instrumental in the spread of the gospel in his lifetime and the author of the bulk of the New Testament. Other than Jesus there may be no person more important for the church than Paul. And that all came because of this conversion. God took an enemy of the early church and decided to make that enemy his chosen instrument for the spread of the gospel to all nations. This is a truly amazing thing.
So it may surprise you that I don't want to talk about Saul/Paul here. There was another man from this passage who did an amazing thing. Sure, Saul/Paul was miraculously converted. Jesus appeared to him, blinded him, and in his blindness Saul/Paul could finally see. But when God called Ananias he had no real way of knowing that.
Why was Saul going to Damascus? He was going to find believers there and, by order of the high priests, take them back to Jerusalem for trial. Stephen had already been stoned. Saul was "breathing threats of murder against disciples of the Lord". Ananias knows this. This man Saul was his worst nightmare. He was bad news for followers of Jesus. And now he's here. He's on a mission to arrest believers and take them to be potentially executed, and he needs Ananias to care for him.
He... wait... what?
Lord, you want me to do what? I've heard about this guy, Ananias might say. I know what he's doing. I know what he had the authority to do. And you want me to go to him. Do you think I'm nuts?
But God insisted. Saul was his chosen instrument. Sure, it's easy to see that now. We have the benefit of history now. But how was Ananias to know? Could God really be asking him to do this thing? How could he be sure?
But Ananias answered the call. He went to Saul. He laid hands on him and healed him in Jesus's name. He did this knowing that it outed him to a man who had the authority to lead him to his death for it. He did this knowing the risk. He did this because he answered the call of God. Even though that call could have him martyred.
Saul was then baptized and went out and preached proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God. Saul became the Apostle Paul, who all of us know. This happened because God called Ananias, and in the face of mortal danger Ananias answered that call.
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