The Adventure Begins… | Adam Smith
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 baptised, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
The adventure begins
Not all parts of the Bible read like the script of an action movie, but this passage does. There’s a good brave man (Ananias), risking his life and liberty to do what God has commanded. There’s an ex-villain (Saul), who had tried to terrorise the followers of Jesus until his own encounter with him. There’s a moment of high drama – and Saul is healed of his blindness.
He becomes so enthusiastic in telling others about Jesus, learning how it all fits together with what he used to believe, that finally he is threatened with assassination. A scene of suspense follows, as his friends lower him down the city wall in a basket and spirit him away to Jerusalem, where unsurprisingly people remember that he was their old enemy. But with strong support from Barnabas, he wins their trust. Finally, more assassination threats mean another quick move, this time to his home town of Tarsus.
What an opportunity for a series of sequels…
In the case of both Saul and Ananias, their lives took a new direction through an encounter with Jesus. Saul’s was drastic and dramatic, and his response was to pray and fast, then when he was healed he immediately asked to be baptised. For Ananias the encounter was probably as he prayed and he responded in obedience and trust, stepping bravely into a potentially dangerous situation. As we watch the story unfold, do we identify with either man? Or do we find their responses a huge challenge?
Perhaps there has been no event in our life as yet, where our faith was put to the test. We can be sure that if and when it is, God will provide the resources to handle it, if we turn to him. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ says Billy Ocean (not the Bible this time). The less tough we are ourselves, but the more open to God’s own ‘toughness’ ie his power, the more we will discover this to be true.
In the life of the movie, our new hero gets his training and it all works out well to the closing scene. In the Christian life, our training in holiness never ends – which makes life exciting. The way it works is step by step with Jesus, and alongside others.
So what’s the next step in your training? And who will be those other Christians alongside you?