Saul’s conversion was quick. It’s not something a lot of us can relate to, I think. It was as if something clicked over in his head and he got it. Saul was someone who hated followers of the Way, people who believed in the resurrection and salvation. He worked hard to put them down and to get them to stop preaching the gospel message.
Saul was able to get permission to extradite followers of the Way, to bring them away from the temple if they weren’t from Damascus and either prosecute or persecute them. Either way, they would be gone from Damascus, which was his goal. While he was traveling he was blinded by a great light. He had to be led to Damascus because he couldn’t see. He fasted for three days and three nights. He waited for instructions from the Lord.
One of the things that struck me as I was reading this passage and as I’ve read it before is that Saul knew instantly who he was talking to when the light shown down on him and he heard a voice. He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” He knew whoever it was talking to him had great power, great strength, great muster to have to deal with him. He knew who he was persecuting and that the Lord he hated was now speaking to him.
Saul wasn’t to be left unattended, but he was left in a state of deep through for three whole days. He wasn’t given an opportunity to share with others what was happening to him, what he was going through. He had to think, reflect, listen to his heart and the words the Lord had spoken to him. His conversion and his call were quick, and his decision to follow the Way even quicker.
Not all of us take only three days to decide to follow Jesus. In some ways, I think that’s a good thing. In others, not so much. Saul was able to fully think out what it would mean for him to follow the Way, to follow the Lord and to stop persecuting others. What changes and transformation would be taking place in his life. He was able to know truly how his life would be going from there on out, at least to an extent.
Now, most of us here already believe like Saul does after his conversation. We’ve been followers of the Way for awhile now, and that puts us happily in the camp of understanding and relating more to Ananias in this passage than to Saul. Ananias has a very significant role to play in Saul’s conversion.
God calls on him to go to Saul, to lay his hands on him, and to heal him. This is someone who persecuted Ananias, who said horrible things to him and his family and friends. This is not someone Ananias would gladly be welcoming into his family. So his hesitation, his disbelief, his discomfort is completely reasonable in my opinion.
I’m sure we can all sit here and think about one person who we “know” would never convert, would never believe, would never be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I can think of more than one. With that person in mind, how would you react if God told you that you had to go and talk to them, that you had to heal them and love them, welcome them into the family of God with an open heart?
Not exactly the easiest thing in the world to even think about, right? Ananias was going through the same set of questions. He was filled with dread, with fear, with what if’s and disbelief. But Ananias knew that in God everything was possible, and that he should fear no one except his Lord. That meant he had to go. He had to listen to his own call.
Ananias called Saul his brother. A greeting reserved for those who were part of the family, who were close and connected already, for those who didn’t have fear and hatred mixed in there. Ananias took a step to bridge the gap between someone who was once a hater who had become a follower of the Way. Without Ananias, I do believe Saul’s journey would look vastly different. I believe he might have felt differently about other people of the faith, that he might have hesitated himself to begin his journey of discipleship.
But Saul didn’t. He didn’t hesitate as soon as his sight was restored, as soon as he was accepted into the family of God. He recognized God, he prayed for forgiveness, he was baptized as an outward sign of his faith and his transformation, and he changed his life.
Everything about Saul was transformed into a new way. Ananias, I’m sure, felt and saw that same transformation in his own life. It’s beautiful to experience a conversion like Saul did, but it is just as beautiful to watch and be a part of why that conversion is happening, to be the support system.
Every time I baptize someone, I ride a high for the rest of the day and even into the week and the month. The feeling it brings into my life is utmost happiness and joy, not because of what I have done, but because the Lord has entered into this soul’s life and will remain there forever, because God has done the hard work of loving someone who needed to be loved.
I know it’s the same in the church. The high from a baptism, or a wedding, or a birth, or a new member joining our congregation. It’s a high we live for and strive for, yet sometimes we hesitate like Ananias. We wonder if this person really truly is converting or if it’s just another ploy to weed out those who believe and let evil work in our lives. Sometimes we wonder how this person will ever fit into our family, and by not living out our calling, by not going and doing what God has asked of us, we are denying this person the life and love we care so deeply about.
We’re not changing our lives, and we’re not helping someone else to change theirs. Ananias teaches us that even if it doesn’t seem like the right time, or the right person, or the right family, if God is calling us to do it, then by golly, we should do it. We need to do it.
Ananias teaches us that God is above all our creator and giver of all things. God is the one who teaches and transforms the hearts of those who feel hatred and fear. God is the one who has done the hard work, and we are there to be instruments, to lead and guide in the way God wants us to, to be the ones who will take someone else by their hand, walk them through the baby steps of faith so that one day, one day they may be transformed. Transformed like Saul was to Paul, to the great preacher and teacher he was, to someone who can change more lives than we can count.