There are three people in the Bible named Ananias. All three are found in the book of Acts. The first one is a man who is married to a woman named Sapphira and together they are early converts to the Christian faith. They told the disciples that they had sold everything they owned and were giving all that they had to the Way or the church. Yet they lied about it and kept some back. When confronted about their statement of giving ALL they had to the church, when being given the opportunity to tell the truth, their lies cost them their lives. Another Ananias lived in Rome and was a Sadducee who essentially was responsible for Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. I have told this story before from different perspectives but never from this point of view.
The third Ananias is our character in today’s story. My name is Ananias and I live in Damascus. I own a little shop that sells spices. I travel quite a bit going to different cities and trading with other spice traders. There are many times I will be on the road for weeks in a row. We have made many friends in our business. My life seemed pretty full and I was happy until about a year ago when my life turned upside down. Every year we would make our way to Jerusalem for the time of Passover. We tried to get there every year for the Passover because the city was full of people and business was always good.
Being a Jew and having the opportunity to be close to the temple each year was always a great feeling. The crowds were large and people were willing to spend money especially next to the synagogue. I always laughed and told my wife, it’s amazing what kind of money we can raise just because people feel guilty for what they have done. Many would buy my spices and take them for the sacrifices. My line was it was twice as expensive inside the temple as it was outside the gates and the spices burnt like all other offerings.
About three years ago we had stopped along the shore of the Sea of Galilee to get some fish to salt. While we there a large crowd seemed to be gathering on a hill not far from Zebedee’s boat. We couldn’t find old Zebedee anywhere and when we asked they said he was really struggling since his sons had left him and might not have any fish that day. We moved on and somehow, we just seemed to get caught up in the crowd and followed along. There was a man sitting at the top of the hill and he was telling about these blessings that we would receive if we would be the light to the world. It sounded kind of weird to be honest with you.
There was a man and his wife sitting on the ground listening and I asked them who was talking, and he said his name was Jesus from Nazareth. He asked us to sit with them and so we did. I have to admit I really didn’t understand that much that he was talking about, but he had a way about him that seemed to lure us in.
Before we knew it, the sun was going down and it was dinner time. I was getting hungry and we had nothing to eat. Then some of his friends got up and told Jesus that he should send us all away to get supper. Jesus told the disciples that they should feed us and then with a couple fish and some loaves of bread he offered a prayer to God and said pass it out. They came around to all of us and gave us food. It was more than we could all eat, in fact when they were done, they collected 12 baskets full of food. I couldn’t believe it there must have been 5000 of us sitting there listening to him teach. It was the greatest miracle I had ever seen in my life.
From that time on, everywhere we went we heard stories of what Jesus was saying and doing. We heard how he healed people who were sick, and how he even raised a little girl from the dead, or at least that’s what they said. He kept teaching about the kingdom of God and the rumor was he might be the Messiah. The old Pharisees were not too happy about Jesus either. They thought he was upsetting the status quo and wanted him to leave town. But he refused. Then a year ago we were setting outside the temple in Jerusalem and he walked right past us. I waved to him, but his face was set on going to the temple and he didn’t see us. He went right inside the temple and pretty soon we heard all kinds of commotion going on and people were chasing their doves and goats out the gate. It was pretty funny to see, and he was yelling behind them not to turn his Father’s house into a den of robbers.
A couple days later Jesus was arrested and he was crucified for what he had done. We were getting ready to close the shop so we didn’t see all that was going on, but I heard it was quite the spectacle and they freed some guy named Barabbas and they executed Jesus. There were so many people in the city last year we decided to stay for a while until business slowed down. A few days after Passover there was a rumor that Jesus had been raised from the tomb, but it was all hearsay and we couldn’t really understand that. Then we were going from our room to the market one day and out of nowhere Jesus appeared on the street. There must have been about 500 people that gathered around him and he told us of the love that God the Father had for all of us and they would soon receive the Holy Spirit and when he said that it was like he was looking right at me. I really was confused now and didn’t know why he was looking at me when he said that.
We stayed on until the Pentecost holiday and that morning we were met outside by the one they called Peter and Zebedee’s sons and some other guys I didn’t know and they were all speaking in different languages. They asked my wife and I if we wanted to be baptized and being caught up in the moment we were baptized. After that we went home to Damascus but life would never be the same. When we went to church back home and told people what we saw, many didn’t believe us. Even more some of the rabbi’s started getting mad about it. Soon we were asked to leave and just a few of us started meeting at our house for church.
Things were getting pretty intense we heard that there were people from Jerusalem that were really upset about what we were doing and saying. They started to kick people out of the synagogue for talking about Jesus, and then Stephen was killed, stoned to death because he was talking about Jesus and the power of God’s love for us through the resurrection of Jesus.
We heard that there was a man named Saul of Tarsus who was coming to Damascus to round up people who were talking about Jesus and he had papers from the church that gave him the authority to arrest us. I was trying to decide where we were going to go so, we could get out of town and not be around when he showed up. My wife and I talked about Ephesus it’s nice on the coast this time of year and we could just hide out for a little while. We actually had decided to leave today.
Yet, two days ago a very bizarre thing happened. While we were packing, I heard a voice call me by name. I looked around and there was no one there. I turned to my wife and said, did you say something and she laughed and said no. You must be getting paranoid and she went in the house. Then I heard it again the voice said, Ananias listen to me. I said, “Here I am Lord.”
The voice said, “I want you to go over to Straight Street and you will find a guy by the name of Saul there in Judas’ house. He is waiting for you, he is praying and waiting for a man named Ananias to come, and you are to go and lay hands on him and baptize him.” I said, “Lord, I have heard from many how this Saul has domes some pretty bad things and was even there when Stephen was killed and now, he has papers to arrest us and you want me to go and see him?”
But Jesus said, “Go and do as I have told you for, I have made him an instrument to tell the Gentiles and kings about me and all the people of Israel.”
I ran inside and told my wife that I had just heard the Lord and this was what he wanted me to do. We thought about it for a while and then I decided I had to go and do it. I went to Judas’ house and sure enough there was a guy who was sitting on the floor and he was praying and kind of rocking back and forth. I walked over to him 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.” Then I touched his head and these things like scales fell from his eyes. He immediately wanted to be baptized and so I did and then we gave him some food because I found out he had not eaten for three days since he lost his sight.
Now that crazy fool is in the temple everyday preaching about Jesus. I go and listen to him quite often, and he comes to our house for church it’s the weirdest thing to see. He says he is leaving soon and going to preach about Jesus to all the Gentiles but first he is supposed to go to Jerusalem and meet with Peter and the rest of the guys. I said how do you know this is what you are supposed to do? He gave me a little wicked grin and said, because Jesus told me to. I just have to smile, because I know that when Jesus tells you to do something you just have to do it. I would have never imagined myself doing the things I have done all because Jesus told me to do so. The story of Jesus is just too remarkable to keep to ourselves. We have to tell the story of the one who loves us so much that he gave his life for our sins so that we may go to heaven. It’s a story that never gets old. It’s a story for the ages. Amen.