13 May 2011

Acts 9:1-20

"So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'" (v. 17)


Here is one of the great turning points in the history of the Church. Saul, a fervent persecutor of the Church encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. This dramatic experience turned his life upside down. Symbolically he was blind for three days after which he saw faith in a completely new way. No doubt there were many other factors which influenced this radical change. But this was the tipping point. Things would never be the same again.

It fell to Ananias to help Paul on the next step. In a scene reminiscent of that in 1 Samuel 3, where Samuel heard the Lord calling, Ananias heard the Lord calling him to meet Paul. His reluctance was natural given Saul's fierce reputation, and in a very human way Ananias remonstrated in verses 13-14. There was honesty there. Despite being given clear guidance, Ananias wrestled with the call. It must have taken enormous courage for him to meet Saul. Later in Acts 22:12 Paul pays tribute to Ananias and offers a brief character reference. Other than this incident we know nothing more about him. But he played his part in the chain and movingly addressed Saul the persecutor as "brother".

In verse 18 there is a wonderful give away sentence: "He got up and was baptized". Have you ever considered the freedom and generosity of that moment? The ex-persecutor was immediately and unconditionally baptized. He was not asked to go on any ten-week Christian basics course. There was no approval of any pastoral committee. Just a free and generous act of water symbolising new life. Luke (the Gospel writer and author of Acts) suggests that Saul was baptized in the house - no free flowing water as for the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:36). It would appear that there was more than one way to do things in the early Church.

To Ponder

This passage is laden with the Jesus' guidance and prompting. How do you discern his leading?

Ananias took a considerable risk in meeting Paul. When have you been the recipient of someone's generous, open-hearted risk taking?

Baptism is a powerful expression of starting a new life and belonging to Christ. How can your church invest more meaning into the service of Baptism?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tony Morling

Tony ministers in the Methodist Forest Circuit of London. He has a particular interest in making connections between faith and contemporary culture.