The beginning of the worldwide Jesus movement

Posted Jul 9, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Acts 9:1-15

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest, 2 seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus. If he found persons who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?”

5 Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6 “Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”

7 Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything.

10 In Damascus there was a certain disciple named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

He answered, “Yes, Lord.”

11 The Lord instructed him, “Go to Judas’ house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias enter and put his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 Ananias countered, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man. People say he has done horrible things to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 He’s here with authority from the chief priests to arrest everyone who calls on your name.”

15 The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.

Acts 26:12-20

12 “On one such journey, I was going to Damascus with the full authority of the chief priests. 13 While on the road at midday, King Agrippa, I saw a light from heaven shining around me and my traveling companions. That light was brighter than the sun. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice that said to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me? It’s hard for you to kick against a spear.’ 15 Then I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are harassing. 16 Get up! Stand on your feet! I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you as my servant and witness of what you have seen and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you 18 to open their eyes. Then they can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, and receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy by faith in me.’

19 “So, King Agrippa, I wasn’t disobedient to that heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I proclaimed first to those in Damascus and Jerusalem, then to the whole region of Judea and to the Gentiles. My message was that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God, and that they should demonstrate this change in their behavior.

Reflection Questions

As an energetic young Pharisee, Saul hated the new Jesus faith. Eager to stamp out the message that Jesus was the Messiah, he went as far away as Damascus in Syria. Then a stunning encounter with the risen Christ changed everything. Acts told that pivotal story three times (cf. Acts 22:1-16 as well as today’s passages). Soon Saul began using his Roman name, Paul (cf. Acts 13:9). He was now passionate and driven to share persuasively that Jesus was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah.

  • Saul met Jesus in a dramatic, forceful way (perhaps because he had resisted many chances to respond to the message delivered in other ways). How did you meet Jesus? Was it a one-time event, or were there multiple movements toward (and maybe away from) Jesus as Lord of your life? What does it tell you about “the wideness in God’s mercy” that God seems to meet each person in a way that fits their life and personality?
  • Saul set out to arrest “persons who belonged to the Way” (i.e. believers in Jesus). Yet when the light shone around him, Jesus' voice asked, “Why are you harassing ME?” As a Christ-follower, do you realize that Jesus identifies himself that closely with you? How can it give you strength each day to trust that Jesus faces all life’s joys and sorrows right along with you (cf. Hebrews 2:14-18)?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, when you changed Saul, he went on to change millions of lives by his preaching and writing. Give me a listening heart open to meet you as you reach out to my heart. Amen.

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Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.

As I was considering today’s 2 powerful Godly messages, I thought of some of the great messages from history:

  • March 10, 1876 - Alexander Graham Bell: “Mr. Watson come here, I want to see you. I’d like to talk to you about your car’s extended warranty.”
  • December 17, 1903 - Orville & Wilbur Wright: “Success STOP Four flights Thursday morning STOP Home Christmas STOP Can't believe they lost our luggage in 59 seconds.
  • July 20, 1969 - Neal Armstrong; “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. Hang on. Someone’s knocking at the door. [End Transmission.]”

While the scene of Paul on the road to Damascus is the Granddaddy of all Godly messages, for today we’ll focus on the 2nd message delivered to Ananias. (Some pronounce it Anna-neye-us.) Now, Ananias is currently #1 on my Top 10 List of Unsung Heroes/Heroines of the New Testament, so this Insight will read more like an unabashed fan letter than the carefully reasoned & thought-out GPS to which you are accustomed. (Um…- Editor.) So, with that forewarning, let’s take a look at our hero, Ananias, & consider why you, too, should be enthusiastic about him 2,000 years later.

Ananias is called by Jesus & his immediate response is, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus doesn’t start with the usual heavenly preamble, “Don’t be afraid.” Perhaps this indicates a level of comfort that Ananias had with hearing from Jesus or that even Ananias was actually seeking Jesus’ direction. We spend a lot of time talking to God in prayer, but maybe we should also take time to listen for God’s call in our lives. This change in perspective could be a game-changer.

Ananias is given his assignment. Why is Ananias needed as some middleman? Jesus blinded Saul & Jesus could certainly heal Saul Himself. Perhaps Jesus is modeling how the Kingdom of God is going to work post-Resurrection where He is expecting His Disciples & followers to be acting in His stead, offering comfort to the afflicted, caring for the children, & feeding the hungry. But, I would also speculate that Jesus knew Paul would need a human sponsor to be effective in his ministry. Paul couldn’t be the sole witness to his miraculous conversion, but Ananias’ testimony could credibly endorse Paul and offer a strong introduction of Paul to the Jewish & Christian communities as a new believer in Christ.

Ananias reasonably pushes back against Jesus’ call. We should all thank Ananias for this pause. He gives each of us a license to ponder God’s call in our lives before acting. Now, we aren’t talking about the nudges to reach out to a neighbor or being a helping hand to someone in need. Rather, when we are contemplating the big “asks” from God, it’s okay to reflect on it first. Fortunately, we have additional resources available to us today, like consulting Scripture, visiting with our other friends in Christ, or checking with a Pastor to make sure we are truly hearing God’s word.

Ananias, who had probably laid out plans to avoid Saul all week, is now bravely going down Straight Street to Saul’s lodgings. How could Ananias possibly go through with this mission? Faith. Ananias knew his life pre-Christ & post-Christ & trusted Jesus to always be by his side. Likewise, we may fearfully face a dreaded trudge down our own “Straight Streets,” be it medical news, employment updates, or relationship changes. Perhaps Ananias’ courageous faith could be an inspiration for us all.

Finally, Ananias goes to Saul & the 1st words exchanged are, “Brother Saul.” Wow. Ananias could have berated Saul for persecuting his friends in Christ, he could have demanded some sort of confession, or he could have set down a long list of pre-conditions before coming to Saul’s aid. But instead Ananias unconditionally welcomes Saul into the family of Christ. This is so reminiscent of the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Saul must have felt so unworthy & yet also free. No wonder Saul was able to endure so much on behalf of Christ – he had already been given so much.

This scene offers something for everyone walking in Christ: Perhaps we need to emulate Ananias’ heart & extend grace to a brother/sister who has wronged us, or maybe, like Saul, we desperately desire to repent & go to God for forgiveness, or perhaps, like when Paul is forgiven, we need to then act on this loving act & boldly go into the world sharing the great news of God’s grace.

For a man whose actions were so critical to the start of Paul’s ministry & the creation of the early church, remarkably this is the only appearance of Ananias in the Scriptures. Some theologians believe he was one of the 72 Disciples cited in Luke 10:1 & that he was later martyred for his faith.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to the Ananias Fan Club website to see if their theme song “Rock Me, Ananias” is available to download.

Editor - To clean up a few odds & ends: The italicized additions to the historic messages are Darren’s edits, there is no Fan Club or theme song that mimics the 1985 hit, “Rock me, Amadeus,” & for those curious readers here is Darren’s Top 10 (Actually 12) Heroes/Heroines:

  1. Ananias
  2. Unknown Woman at the Well (Darren names her Brooke) – John 4
  3. Unknown Blind Man since Birth (Len Scrafter) - John 9
  4. Joseph of Arimathea – John 19:38-40
  5. Unknown Widow with 2 coins (Penny) – Luke 21:1-4
  6. Lydia – Acts 16:11-15
  7. Unknown Bent-Over Woman (Eileen) – Luke 13:10-13
  8. Nicodemus – John 3, 7, & 19
  9. Simeon/Anna – Luke 2:25-38
  10. Priscilla/Aquila – Acts 18:18-21

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