In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, Ananias! Yes, Lord, he answered. 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. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.
Paul has been converted. Now he is a Christian. And what is the first thing he experienced as a Christian? The life of the body of Christ. That is wonderful, is it not? Two unknown, obscure Christians are sent to him. He meets them and is immediately helped by the strengthening that can come from the body, from other Christians. First there is a man named Judas. That is all we know about him. Saul is led to his house whom he has never met before. While he is there a man named Ananias is sent to minister to him.
Is there not a joyful, poetic irony about this, that the Holy Spirit has chosen two names which are tainted names elsewhere in the New Testament, Judas and Ananias. These names belong to two other people: Judas the betrayer of our Lord; and Ananias, the first Christian to manifest the deceit and hypocrisy of an unreal life. Yet, here are two people, bearing the same names, that are honored and used of God. It is just a little touch, but it seems so much like the Holy Spirit to use names like this.
These men come and minister to Paul. Ananias was understandably reluctant to come. Saul had been ready to drag people off to prison and put them to death because they were Christians, and so he is understandably hesitant. But the Lord reassures him, telling him to go because Saul is praying.
That is the first mark of a Christian; he begins to pray. He recognizes that God rules, and there is a relationship between man and God, and so he begins to pray. God says to Ananias, You needn’t be afraid of a man who prays. Go to him, because he is praying. Thus Saul of Tarsus began to experience the joy of body life through these other Christians ministering to him.
Father, thank you for this amazing story of Saul of Tarsus. Thank you for the impact his life has had upon the world as a result of this encounter with you on the Damascus road. Thank you for this wonderful picture of one like Paul being included in the body of Christ. Teach me to include others with the same spirit of love.
Do we tend to think of non-believers as pariahs, enemies, adversaries? Have we forgotten our own state but for God’s saving grace? Are we available to be instruments of Grace to whoever God leads us?