We all like good surprises. The Apostles could never have anticipated the details of how the gospel would spread. At least, we could say, they should have been joyously surprised at the gospel’s amazing progress: from Jerusalem to Samaria to Ethiopia (?)!
You may argue with me about how surprised the Apostle’s really were as they saw the growth of the early Church, but you really can’t argue about the surprise everyone felt when they heard about the murderer Saul. Ananias was surprised (Acts 9:10-19), the local Jews were surprised (9:20-22), and the Apostles wouldn’t even believe it (9:26-30)!
Saul was a focused individual. He watched (Acts 7:48), approved (8:1), persecuted (8:3), planned (9:1-2), and progressed (9:3). He appeared unstoppable! If you were to watch the hardened face of this man as he journeyed to Damascus you would never have guessed that he was a man who was about to be gloriously saved.
Herein is a mystery of salvation that Jesus mentioned in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23). Jesus taught that the human heart had to be prepared to be able to receive the gospel. If we apply this to the life of Saul we have to accept by faith that appearances can be deceiving. Although he appeared to be unchanged in his position toward Jesus ( “yet” or “still” in Acts 9:1), yet internally something was happening- God was at work. It’s a six day walk from Jerusalem to Damascus. One man began that journey and another man finished it.
What lessons can we learn?
1) If we apply the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23) to Saul’s conversion we see that appearances can be absolutely deceptive. We walk by faith not by sight. Therefore, get out there and evangelize! Does Faith Bible Church have a Saul of Tarsus somewhere? Let your faith inform your eyes.
2) Ananias was a relatively new Christian who received a weighty responsibility. Although we should never “lay hands suddenly” on a newer Christian; neither should we let them sit on the sidelines. Let’s get them involved, (Acts 9:10-19).
3) Jesus was gentle with Ananias. Notice how Jesus took the time to explain why he was asking Ananias to go find Saul; (Acts 9:15, 16). Jesus was willing to explain Himself in order to calm Ananias’ fear. The most often repeated command in the Bible is “Fear not!” While it is true we are to view ourselves as “slaves of Jesus” it is also true that we serve a kind master. Jesus told his followers in John 15:13-15: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” What an amazing thing! Ananias was Jesus’ friend! As a Christian you are Jesus’ friend. What has Jesus explained to you lately from his Word?
4) We learn something of the nature of the love of God. He loves sinners. Paul later wrote that his testimony is an example of the mercy of God (1 Tim 1:12-17). Remember God still loves sinners.
Salvation through Christ is still available for the most evil Americans among us.