Daily Archives: May 6, 2013

He Could See Again!

HE COULD SEE AGAIN

“But the Master said, ‘Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to Gentiles and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for — the hard suffering that goes with this job.’

“So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on the way here. He sent me so you can see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes — he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized and sat down with them to a hearty meal.” Acts 9:15-19 (The Message).

Jesus does not make mistakes. Sending Ananias to Saul was no guess-work. He had the inside story and His plan was right on track! Ananias took a little persuading and no wonder because he was aware that Saul was a dangerous man. Once he was convinced that Saul’s conversion was genuine, he no longer hesitated to obey the Master

The way he addressed Saul was touching. “Brother Saul!” Saul desperately needed acceptance in this crisis. What if he had become an outcast, rejected by the religious party he represented as a turncoat, and under suspicion by the group he needed so desperately to connect with? Ananias was the link and he did not fail the Master in his assignment. Perhaps this powerful moment prompted the apostle Paul to write:

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you in order to bring glory to God.” Romans 15:7 (NIV).

What a powerful experience! “Something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes.” This was much more that a miracle of physical healing. Paul knew what it was like to be spiritually blind. Was it Ananias’ act of brotherly love that was the final piece in the puzzle for him? Whatever happened in that moment, his sight was restored both outwardly and inwardly.

Paul must have drawn from his own experience over and over again as he poured his heart out in his letters to his many converts and fellow believers all over the Roman Empire. We are blessed to have the written record of his interpretation of the life and message of Jesus, filtered through his own mind and experience.

Speaking of his people and his state before he met Jesus, he wrote: “But their minds were made dull for, to this day, the same veil (of unbelief – writer’s comment) remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even today, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But when anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 (NIV).

Like the blind man of John 9, his unshakeable testimony was “‘One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!'” John 9:15 (NIV). The inward blindness of his heart was gone. The insight he received of the glory of Jesus and the kingdom of God so lit up his soul that he became as fiery a witness for Jesus as he had been an antagonist.

Nothing could put that fire out — not slander, persecution, suspicion, betrayal or even the threat of death could cool the passion of his heart for the Jesus who was alive, whom he had seen on the Damascus road and who had forgiven his misguided zeal and given him a new life.

A Man From Tarsus

A MAN FROM TARSUS

“There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: ‘Ananias.’

“‘Yes, Master?’ he answered.

“‘Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter his house and lay hands on him so he could see again.'” Acts 9:10-12 (The Message).

Strange, isn’t it, that Jesus didn’t speak directly to Saul and heal him without going through another human being! He could have, but He didn’t. Why? Could it be that He takes His partnership with human beings seriously?

When God assigned the management of the earth to people, He really meant it. He also meant us to live together as a unit, interacting with each other in the oneness that reflects His oneness in the Trinity. Since Jesus not only reconciled us to God but also to one another in Himself, it is always His way to foster unity between fellow believers by ministering His grace to one another through us by the Spirit.

Saul was isolated and disorientated by his shocking encounter with Jesus. He never dreamed that his mission to destroy the church in Damascus would turn out this way. On top of it, he was blind! Was this his punishment for what he had been doing? Then he dreamt that a man named Ananias came and prayed for him and his sight was restored. Was that wishful thinking? He did not know what to make of any of these things.

Jesus enlisted the help of a seasoned believer. Ananias was obviously comfortable with personal communication with Jesus. He was not thrown by this vision. His response was spontaneous. He knew who was talking to him.

“Ananias protested.’Master, you can’t be serious. Everyone’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that gave him licence to do the same to us.'” Acts 9:13-14 (The Message).

Ananias’ reaction was quite understandable if the news of Saul’s conversion had not yet reached him. Even if it had, he might have been suspicious. Was it a ploy to get in among the believers and then carry out his wicked plan to decimate them? Only a divine revelation would convince him that the change in Saul was real.

Saul needed the reassurance that the church would forgive and accept him. Because of the hostility that surrounded them, the believers stuck together and supported one another. How could Saul ever break through into the fellowship of a group of people he had come to destroy? Jesus’ solution? Ananias!

So He recruited Ananias to be Saul’s passport into the family circle in Damascus. From there he would find entrance into the wider church family when he could prove that he was no longer a persecutor but one of them.

Ananias needed convincing before he took on this assignment. Only reassurance from Jesus would set him on course to visit this man and welcome him into the fellowship of the church. He was not afraid to question His instructions and Jesus was not offended by his protest.

This story is a beautiful example of the vibrancy of a believer’s relationship to Jesus. This is no religious rigmarole but intimate fellowship with Jesus and the joy of doing life with Him. This is what He wants and this is how it should be.

Stone Blind!

STONE BLIND!

“His companions stood there dumbstruck – they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone – while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.” Acts 9:7-9 (The Message).

We tend to think of Paul’s “Damascus” experience as the moment when he had a blinding revelation of Jesus, lying on the ground and hearing a voice so real that his companions heard it too. No doubt that was the beginning but what about the three days of blindness and fasting in Damascus that must have elongated and consolidated that life-changing encounter with the Master.

In his letter to the Galatians, in the heat of the defence of his apostleship, he refers, possibly, to this interlude in his life, suspended in time, when the on-going revelation of Jesus forever cemented his conviction and his loyalty to Him as the Son of God. He lived in the aura of this moment for the rest of his life.

“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preach is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man…” Galatians 1:11-16 (NIV).

What transpired in his heart in those three days of blindness and solitude? No-one dared go near him – at least none of the community of believers – because his reputation had preceded him. He was probably too stunned to say anything to anyone. Even those who hosted him, most likely people of his old persuasion, seeing his companions were like-minded and would have contacts in Damascus, would have left him alone.

How would they have understood why he was suddenly blind and why the fire of hatred against the believers had gone out? They must have either tiptoed around him or left him alone to process what had happened.

Perhaps he reflected on the bewildering experience of watching Stephen die at the hands of vicious murders, and witnessing such grace that it fired his antagonism even more. Now the Jesus whom Stephen saw in his dying moments was the Jesus who had spoken to him outside the city. So He was alive after all! He could no longer dispute that, and fighting against it was futile.

Whatever took place in his inner being during those days, Saul was convinced that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead and that everything He had preached and claimed was the truth. From now on he, Saul, soon to be renamed Paul, would as fearlessly proclaim His resurrection as he had fought against it in his ignorance.

Nothing less than a personal encounter with the risen Jesus could have ever convinced him of that truth. For three days and nights he marinated in that moment until it energised and influenced every waking minute of the rest of his life.

Without the resurrection our faith is as empty and ridiculous as any other religious fantasies taught and believed as fact. Jesus Christ of Nazareth claimed to be the Son of God and, to prove it, He said He would be crucified and, after three days, He would rise again. He said it and He did it! Whatever else He said, did and promised hinges on this.

In those three days of physical blindness, Saul came alive, and was able to “see” more clearly than he had even seen before. His eyes were opened and he saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.