From Ryan Ruffing
The account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-19 is well known to most Christians. It is the event Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15:8 - “as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” In this dramatic event as the risen Christ makes himself known, Paul moves from darkness into a literal and figurative blinding light. Everything he thought he knew about this upstart sect and about God’s work in the world was wrong.
In the drama of this startling upheaval we consider the characters - Paul, the Lord Jesus, and playing what we might mistake for a minor role, the disciple Ananias. On this reading, it was Ananias’ words in verse 17 that struck me:
“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Did you miss it?
These simple words are astonishing in the mouth of one who just a few verses earlier is objecting to the direct, audible instructions of the Almighty God. The Lord tells him to go and minister to Paul (then Saul), and Ananias essentially says, “really? Are you sure? Don’t you know how evil he is?” How scared do you have to be of someone to talk back to God?!
Of course, as we know, his fear was fully grounded in reality. Just two chapters earlier we saw Saul oversee the stoning of Stephen, a horrific public event, which certainly would have become known to someone like Ananias. Can you imagine the righteous anger Ananias must have felt when hearing about the innocent Stephen’s death - how he must have been torn by fear, and hatred for the opponents of Jesus? Can you hear him crying out to God in anguish and in desperate prayer?
And yet, there is a miraculous shift in Ananias, who after hearing the reassurance of the one he has come to know as Savior, walks out of his home, finds the right street, and the right house, looks into the blinded eyes of his enemy, and calls him Brother. Isn’t that beautiful? Can there be a better testimony to the reality of the resurrection? Can there be any better evidence for the claim that the New Creation reality is on the scene, moving in the world?
The power of God’s resurrection work in the world makes possible the fulfillment of Jesus’ impossible instructions - “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). And this is precisely what Ananias does - in faith he chooses to love his enemy, pray for his persecutor, and see firsthand the work of God flooding into the world.
The radical, upside down, powerful, transformative, healing love of the Kingdom of God is made possible as we live in the reality of the risen Christ.
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen!