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Nobodies of the Bible: Ananias of Damascus

Updated on August 19, 2011

When we think of Paul's conversion, we generally associate it with the road to Damascus. Then still known as Saul, he was on the way there to round up all the Christians he could find, bind them in chains, and haul them back to Jerusalem for trial and execution. God stopped him cold.

Actually, as a result of the Damascus Road encounter, Saul groped around blindly, wondering what hit him. True, he did ask, "Who are you, Lord?" but the Greek for "lord" is kyrios, which could just as easily have been translated "sir." It was a perfectly ordinary word and did not indicate that Saul thought he was addressing God.

As it turns out, Jesus had knocked him off his horse and blinded him. Saul could not have gained any peace from that news. As he fasted for three days, his mind must have roiled with anxiety and confusion. God got his attention all right, but if groping around wondering what hit him was a conversion experience, then we all know lots of people we can stop praying for! If that's salvation, then maybe we don't need evangelists or preachers.

Paul's Conversion on the Way to Damascus / Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (ca.1600)
Paul's Conversion on the Way to Damascus / Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (ca.1600)

Paul's salvation came at the hands of a man named Ananias. The book of Acts has two men of that name. One dropped dead in chapter 5. We learn everything there is to know about the other after Paul's companions led him into Damascus.

Luke doesn't tell us much of what we like to know about people. We don't know if he was young or old, rich or poor, healthy or frail, married or single, educated or illiterate, respected in the community or an outcast, a new convert or seasoned believer. But we can see his heart.

  • He had a vision. People who had visions of God in the Bible were devout people, people of prayer, people who know how to worship. (cf. Is. 6:1-8, Dan. 9:20-21; Acts 10:1-3--not every account of a vision describes what the person was doing at the time)
  • He was not looking for a vision. His prayer was not self-centered. He was not focused on his own troubles. He must have been consistently obedient to whatever guidance he received.
  • God found him usable, but Ananias wasn't seeking to be usable. He was in love. This is grace at work, not Ananias's work.
  • God did not appear to Ananias to bless him or reward him for faithful service or to give him personal guidance. He appeared to Ananias to put him to work for his own purpose. He needed someone who would listen and obey.
  • Where in the NIV Ananias said, "Yes, Lord," translations in the King James tradition have "Here I am." How many times does God called someone who isn't there? But Ananias was fully present to the presence of the Lord.

Saul had also been praying. Though physically blind, he had a vision. In that vision, God told him to wait for someone named Ananias. In telling Ananias that detail, God did not leave him any room to weasel out of his assignment.

Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul / Pietro da Cortona (ca. 1631)
Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul / Pietro da Cortona (ca. 1631)

Still, Ananias hesitated. Saul, after all, presented a severe threat to the entire Christian community. Everyone knew his mission and everyone wanted to avoid him. So God explained himself to Ananias. That does not happen often. Many saints have the experience of obeying God with barely enough light to take the next step and no clue why they have to be in such a difficult situation. We see both God's sense of urgency and Ananias' yieldedness and trust.

Once Ananias found Saul, he addressed him without hesitation as "Brother Saul." He demonstrated complete, unhesitant love and acceptance to someone who had so recently been a threat to his very life. Placing his hands on Saul, Ananias prayed.

Luke does not say who baptized Saul, who offered him food, or how Saul's companions responded to the whole chain of events. It seems reasonable to suppose that Saul and Ananias had a much more extended relationship than Luke records, both that day and while Saul proclaimed the gospel in the synagogues of Damascus. But after Saul returned to Jerusalem, Ananias disappears from history.

It was more than ten years after this that Paul started his missionary journeys. It would be even llater, if ever, that Ananias would ever hear news of what Paul accomplished.

  • Did Ananias ever make the connection between his prayer for a confused and frightened young man and the tremendous success of a great missionary?
  • If we could meet him at the end of his life and ask him what he thought were the highlights of his life, would he have remembered this prayer?

If we seek God and yield to him, as Ananias did, we can do great things for the Lord. We may never find out in this life what they are. Our part is to serve God faithfully, not to wonder where the spotlight is focused.


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    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 4 years ago from North Carolina

      And thanks for commenting, Eunice. I appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Eunice 4 years ago

      Thanks for posting this. It has been a different and refreshing view of a very known story. Blessings.

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks, tee branch.

    • profile image

      tee branch 5 years ago

      i love the character of Ananais,Even though Saul was killing christians like himself,Ananais did not fear,He obeyed God and Yield to Gods word,by showing and act of forgiveness and Love of God,Not what I say But what GOD say and wants from me,send me Lord i will go Lord,I trust you Lord,when he came to his destination and met Saul he called him brother Saul.God let Saul see his darkness,his weakness,his wrong,to let him know i am in charge i can kill you but i will save you and use you for my good now,you tried you now you will try me and succeed,be one of the famous prophets,men of God the whole world will know it,love and do not judge,God use Saul a murderer he can use anyone he choses even if he has to chastise us,

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks, James. I always appreciate your comments.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      A great Hub, brother. I agree with you that Ananias is an undersung hero and we all need to accept our assignments from God as he did. Thank you for a good read and a prophetic message.

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks, Joni, both for the comment and the vote.

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 7 years ago

      Great insight into a very significant story. Suzie is right, we may never know when we are being urged to God's bidding. Loved your hub and voted it up.

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks, suziecat7--or, we can know we're doing something for God but have no idea how important it is.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I enjoyed this Hub despite the fact that I'n not overly religious. It's true - we may not really know when we are doing God's work.