It’s easy to be as dazzled by the enormity and power of God when we read of Saul’s conversion as Saul was dazzled by the light from heaven. However, tucked away in this miraculous conversion story is a tale of everyday obedience which had remarkable consequences. This is the story of Ananias (Acts 9:10-18).
Ananias was a disciple based in Damascus. We know nothing of him other than what we read in these few verses, yet he was the person God chose to go to Saul and bring him into fellowship. He was clearly a person who listened to God and who was close enough to him to be honest and open in his responses to Him. When God told him to go to a specific place to meet a specific person (the detail is reminiscent of Philip’s experience in Acts 8), he objected, knowing Saul’s reputation as well as anyone! Nonetheless, when God gave him further instructions – including the revelation of Saul’s future purpose as an apostle to the Gentiles who would experience much suffering (Acts 9:15-16) – he shows the depth of his servanthood through his simple obedience.
Ananias’s greeting to the persecutor-turned-believer demonstrates he had fully grasped (and fully trusted) what God had told him: ‘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.’ (Acts 9:17) In welcoming Saul as a brother, he showed an acceptance we are all called to emulate (I wonder if Paul thought of Ananias as he told the Romans, ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.’ (Rom 15:7)) In modelling obedience to Saul, he became the living embodiment of what Christian discipleship looked like. He reached out to touch the blind man and immediately Saul could see again. We don’t know what happened to Ananias after Saul’s baptism, and if you are like me, you itch to know the details of the life of this remarkable man. What we do know from these verses is that Ananias played a key role in the acceptance of Saul as a true believer and he demonstrated an obedience that went far beyond his doubts and questions.
In my own life, I wonder about the combination of the spectacular and the ordinary. The spectacular and miraculous happen much less frequently than I would like; the times when I have heard God’s voice in the way Ananias did are not that common. But at the same time, I know that the ordinary and everyday are just as much part of God’s modus operandi as the miraculous and stupendous. Ananias will forever be remembered for his everyday obedience, but for Paul, this was yet another turning-point orchestrated by God. Even our everyday conversations and chance encounters can be vehicles for God. Do we have the same kind of listening ear that Ananias displayed? Do we have the same willingness to obey?