Ananias doesn’t get a lot of sermons done about him. I’ve never read a bulletin article about him. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard of a church named “St. Ananias”. But he played a key role in one of the most important events of Gentile Christianity; Ananias was the man who baptized the apostle Paul. And there’s some important things we can learn from his brief but crucial mention in the Bible.
Getting a Scary Assignment
Saul of Tarsus had quite an anti-Christian reputation. It may have not been widely known that Saul had held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, but word of mouth had already carried the news among the disciples of Jesus in Damascus that he was on his way to the city to arrest, imprison, and persecute anyone who had believed in Jesus. He was clearly someone to avoid at all costs. And Ananias had planned to avoid him.
That is, until the Lord came to him with an assignment: “‘Ananias…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” (Acts 9:10-12). But Ananias objected, “…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” (Acts 9:13, 14). Can you blame him?
Can you identify? Of course, we seldom get an assignment from the Lord so fraught with danger, but we still have a similar assignment that tends to scare many of us almost to death, “Go make disciples…”
Showing Faith and Showing Up
Brave Ananias, however, didn’t make excuses, didn’t put it off, and didn’t wait for someone else to do it. Ananias takes, no doubt, a deep breath and heads off to Straight Street, asking for a certain Judas with a guest named Saul. He acts in faith, not knowing exactly how it would turn out—he might have been walking right into martyrdom for all he knew.
Of course, it could be argued that the Lord gave him extra motivation: “…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” (Acts 9:15, 16). But who’s to say that the person that you need to speak to about the Gospel won’t also have a very important purpose in the Lord’s plan.
Showing faith and showing up is all the Lord is looking for from us, too.
Knowing who Saul of Tarsus was, knowing what he’d done, knowing why he’d come to Damascus, it’s easy to imagine that not only was Ananias anxious, but perhaps even a little angry. But none of that showed. Notice that he laid his hands on him (in a healing way) and 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.” (Acts 9:17). Brother? Regain your sight? I can only imagine how those gestures of love from one of those “hated Christians” must have effected the now conscience-stricken Saul.
And there’s another great lesson here, too. Love is the key to effective evangelism. Love for the sinner; love for the Savior; love of God’s grace. As the saying goes, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Once telling Saul what he needed to do to be saved (“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Acts 22:16), Ananias baptized Saul and it is implied that he fed him (v. 19). But there had to have been more, because Ananias would have been the only disciple of Jesus who would have trusted him, at least at first. Ananias introduced him to other Christians, who fellowshipped with Saul and gave him at least encouragement, if not a few Jesus-stories, before he began proclaiming Jesus as Lord in the synagogues in Damascus.
The lost need the message, certainly, but they also need you. You. Your care, your fellowship, your introductions to brothers and sisters, your encouragement, your help, your friendship.
There’s no doubt about it, the Lord chose the right guy, when he chose Ananias. A man of courage, faith, love, and follow through.