Saul was there when the crowds stoned Stephen. He also led and took part in the great persecution that broke out amongst the Christians in Jerusalem. Now, having scattered the believers in several directions, he wanted to go to other cities as well to begin to bring those believers who had fled back to Jerusalem in chains.
Paul chose Damascus as a city where he knew that some of the believers – those of “The Way”, as they called the movement of Christ-followers at that time – had fled, so he went to the high priest to obtain permission and an endorsement that he could show to the priests in Damascus for his mission to imprison and lead the believers back to Jerusalem. But as he was on his way and nearing Damascus, Jesus appeared to him, knocking him down and blinding him with a bright light.
Jesus spoke to Saul, telling him that he is the one that Saul had been persecuting, but telling him little more. He only knew that he would be told what to do.
Meanwhile, interestingly, the people that were traveling with Saul didn’t see the light that had blinded Saul, nor did they see Jesus appear to him, although they did hear the voice. Jesus was very specific in getting Saul’s attention. Jesus specifically wanted Saul for the work that he would set him on. Not any person. Specifically Saul.
Now, as Saul enters Damascus, led by his companions who had gone with him to persecute the believers there, Jesus calls to one of those believers by the name of Ananias. Ananias already knew of Saul. The believers in Damascus had heard of him and knew that he was coming for him, and now Jesus was telling Ananias to go to him. Ananias, of course, has significant reservations, but in the end he is obedient and goes to pray for Saul who receives his sight, believes, is baptized, and receives the Holy Spirit.
So this morning, I was thinking of the evidence of the belief that we see in these two men. We don’t really know how Ananias came to believe in Christ, but I’m guessing that it happened at some point in Jerusalem, and now through the persecution, he has found himself here in Damascus, hiding away from Saul and the others who were persecuting him.
Meanwhile, it is clear how Saul comes to faith, as Jesus himself appears to him to make him believe and find faith.
But this morning, I was thinking that we see significant evidence of both of their faith. From Ananias’s perspective, he knew that he was putting himself in great danger by presenting himself to the man who was there in his city to imprison him. Yet he was obedient to what Jesus told him to do, even though it might mean that he would have to give up his freedom…and possibly also his life.
Meanwhile, Saul is now full of the Holy Spirit and goes into the synagogues to preach – what a change! Those that had been meant to receive him so that they could round up and imprison people of The Way are now the same ones that are hearing the Word of God. I can only imagine that Saul has much to learn, but that which he knows he is speaking. Not in private, but boldly to the people that he knows will be likely to persecute him now as a result of his preaching!
This is true evidence of the faith that these men are carrying. They do not believe a little bit. They haven’t added a little bit of a new religion to their daily lives. They are laying it all on the line. They are showing their faith in their actions. This is evidence of a faith that will last and that God will truly use.