Imagine the uncertainty, the fear, the foreboding. Many of them had moved from Jerusalem to Damascus to get away from the terrorist tactics of the tyrant, and now they had received news that Saul and his henchmen were coming.
Together, the First Church of Damascus gathered to pray. With a unified cry, they begged God for protection, for grace, for mercy. They asked God to stop their tormenters from entering their city. They asked God to turn them away, to send them somewhere else. Anywhere else. They pleaded with God, “If they come, hide us from them. Oh Lord, protect us! Please!”
The church was unaware that Saul had already arrived. Secretly, Saul had been taken to the home of Judas on Straight Street (Acts 9:11), a major east-west throughfare in Damascus.
Three Biblical characters share the name that meant “Jehovah has dealt graciously.” One Ananias was married to Sapphira. Both died in chapter five. Another was the high priest mentioned in Acts 22:12; 23:2 and 24:1.
The other Ananias “was a disciple in Damascus ... and the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ ‘Here I am, Lord,’ he replied. ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight,’ the Lord said to him, ‘to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight’ ” (Acts 9:10-11).
Ananias and the other followers of the Way had prayed for protection, but I’m guessing that they didn’t prayer for the salvation of Saul’s soul. Ananias was shocked to hear that Saul was in Damascus and that he wasn’t tormenting and torturing Christians. He was praying.
“ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name’ ” (Acts 9:13-14). Ananias had questions and concerns. “But Lord! I’ve heard about this guy!”
God didn’t stutter. He was direct. He made His will clear and plain. “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).
Ananias didn’t argue. He wasn’t reluctant or rebellious. He obeyed. “Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 9:17). Immediately Saul’s sight was restored, and immediately Saul “got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).
Before Ananias slipped back into complete obscurity, I suspect that he led Saul down to the riverbank and into the water. Chest-deep in water, Ananias, a faithful yet unsung saint, declared, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, I baptize you, Saul, my brother in Christ!”