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My Last Kingswood Sermon: Ananias.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

We often talk about Saul’s Damascus road conversion, when he had a radical life transforming encounter with Jesus that turned his life around.

Yet we often over-look the great unsung hero of this story.

Ananias, just an ordinary Christian, this is a one and only mention of him in the Bible.

Yet God appears to him in a dream or vision and tells him to go to Saul and pray for his healing.

Ananias is confused and probably pretty terrified. This was a guy who was persecuting Christians, this is a man who was an accessory to the murder or martyring of Stephen.

If you are a Christian, Saul is on the top of the list of the “people you’d most want to avoid” list -and yet here is God asking Ananias to go and pray for him.

Imagine if you were woken in the night and told to catch the tube to Finsbury Park, go to the Mosque there and pray for healing on Abu Hanza? Imagine the fear? Imagine the “is this really you God?” questions you’d be asking. You are calling me to pray for someone I know hates Christians and wants us all dead or behind bars.

Yet Ananias goes and prays for Saul.

No, Gideon-esk give me 20million signs and then I’ll drag my feet and do it in a couple of months time. No wrestling, no prevaricating, just simple obedience and bravery.

Recently John Townley spoke at Hanham Mount about “Just Do It” looking at the story of the Wedding feast at Canna where Mary Jesus’ Mother said “Do whatever he tells you”.

Ananias shows us a beautiful example of radical faith, that simply says “yes” when God calls.

Ananias was someone who heard and heeded the voice of God.

Ananias leaves his safety and comfort to do something he doesn’t want to do, to go to a place he doesn’t want to go, and to meet a person he doesn’t want to meet, but yet he does it because of love and obedience foe his Saviour.

A few weeks ago I preached on Mark 5, where Jesus goes to the Gentile territory, to heal a demon possessed man ritually unclean (not just because he is a gentile) but also been self harming -covered in blood-, naked and living amongst the tombs, and spoke about going where we don’t want to go, meeting the people we don’t want to meet, and doing things we might not want to do.

Yet the difference here is one person looks respectable, and one looks wretched, yet both are far from God’s plan of salvation in Christ Jesus, and both had their lives transformed.

Sometimes those in need of God’s touch and healing from the outside look the most together and sorted yet God sees beneath the worlds respectable veneer, and religiosity doesn’t fool him either.

Is there things that God is/has called you to do, and you’ve not done them, maybe ‘put the answerphone’ on and avoided them?

More than this, look at his language, he calls Saul his brother, he doesn’t just obey Christ, but shows love to a truly repulsive individual, an individual the Church would probably have been happy if God had struck dead.

I wonder do we sometimes do the right thing, but do it with the wrong attitude?

He shows love for Saul and prays healing upon him, and scales fall from his eyes.

Before the road to Damascus, Saul would not have thought he was spiritually blind -rather he was the one with perfect “20/20 Vision”- but through his encounter he not only encounters the risen Christ, but clearly encounters himself too, and is transformed.

Ananias obedience is the catalyst for Saul to begin a new ministry of proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, I wonder if he hadn’t been faithful in his part of God’s plan we probably would not be here today know about Jesus.

So, let us be people who are like Ananias, faithful and obedient to Christ, who hear his voice, heed his call, and are obedient.

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