There are lots of candidates for being unsung heroes in the Bible, that is people who did incredible things but rarely get the recognition that other characters in the Bible do.
My favourite unsung hero, in the sense of being the one I find most inspiring, and challenging is Ananias. No, not Ananias who with his wife Sapphira lied to the Apostles and tried to defraud God and met an unfortunate end, but the simple believer we meet in Acts 9.
The background is that Saul has been on a crusade to stamp out the Church. He is now on his way to Damascus to carry out the next stage of this literally murderous campaign. Then he meets Jesus and is told to go to Damascus. Luke tells us this is what happens.
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 baptised, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9
Tom Wright says this about Ananias our unsung hero. …
This is why Ananias is my unsung hero, his life speaks volumes. Ananias reminds us that being a disciple is about openness and obedience to Jesus. Ananias was a simple believer who was open to hearing the voice of Jesus, and then was prepared to obey it wherever it led and whatever it cost. His life is a reminder to us that Openness and Obedience to Jesus are the essence of following Jesus.
We can see this willingness to hear and obey Jesus not just when he met with the Lord but also when he met with Saul. Remember, Saul had been carrying out a terror campaign against Christians, there is every chance that Ananias knew people that Saul had been responsible for killing. Saul had been Ananias sworn enemy and, in all likelihood, Ananias was on Saul’s hit list for Damascus. So, Ananias is to told to go and meet a man responsible for the death and torture of some of his friends and fellow believers and who was out to harm him personally. I wonder what I would have done in that situation, I wonder what I would have said to Saul? Just look at what Ananias did and said.
“Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul,”
I find that nothing short of incredible.
Ananias embraced Saul and then the first words that Saul heard from a Christian following his conversion was not “killer” but “BROTHER.” Ananias had heard Jesus say that his disciples had to love their enemies, so that is what he did. No questions asked.
Sometimes we make being a disciple way more complicated than it is. Ananias reminds us that we just need to make time to hear Jesus’ voice and then do what He says. I said it was simple, not easy.
One commentary on Acts I have says this about Ananias and his example.
“The enemy wants to keep us locked in a cycle that leaves no room for discernment. He wants to keep us so busy that we are not able to hear the voice of God when it comes. Ananias had to be still; he needed to be prayerful and intimate with his King to hear him speak like that. Lord, we need that stillness to reign in our lives and churches again. Father, forgive us for filling our time and not seeking your face”.
I am praying that Ananias will inspire me to do the same. How about you?