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Martyrdom of Stephen
Martyrdom of Stephen

Called to Disciple a Murderer

Everything he ever learned and believed was changed in an instant.  Ananias had grown up as a faithful, devout Jew.  He entered Jerusalem on this life-changing day for the feast of Pentecost, which the Jews called Shavuot.  They sometimes called it the “Feast of Weeks” since they observed it seven weeks or 50 days after Passover.

Ananias was excited to come to Jerusalem for this celebration.  Earlier in the year, he had come for the Passover.  He had heard about Jesus and knew that he was crucified at Golgotha while he was there, but had not witnessed the crucifixion.  Because of all that he had heard about Jesus, His miracles, and His teaching that held listeners spellbound, he could not comprehend why anyone would want to crucify this perfect man who had only helped others.

There were thousands gathered around the temple for Pentecost.  Suddenly, there was the sound of a rushing, mighty wind.  What looked like tongues of fire rested on the heads of the speakers (members of the original Jerusalem church with 120 members).  There were many people from other nations there who spoke different languages – and it was astounding!  Everyone heard the speakers (Galileans – Acts 2:7) talk in their own native language.

Some listened, some doubted, and some mocked the speakers.  Then, one man rose to speak.  Peter spoke.  The crowd hushed and were spellbound as they listened to his speech.  He explained how this filling of the Spirit was what Joel talked about in his prophetical book.

Peter proceeded to explain with words of conviction about Jesus: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:22-24).  A little later, Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Ananias was overwhelmed with conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, Lord, and Christ.  He joined the thousands who trusted Christ that day and followed the Lord in baptism.

The next few weeks were exciting and exhausting.  Ananias listened to the apostles’ teaching daily, absorbing as much as possible.  He was thrilled to share the gospel of Christ with everyone he could.  The crowds grew, and the church multiplied.  The Jewish leaders persecuted the apostles and other Christians and accused them of filling Jerusalem with their doctrine.  Growth continued.

Then, a horrible thing happened.  Stephen, one of our first seven deacons, preached with such power and conviction that it convicted and infuriated the Jewish leaders.  They forcibly took Stephen outside the city and stoned him to death.  Ananias could never forget the look on Stephen’s face as he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” And then, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:56, 7:59-60).  The name of the leader condemning Stephen was a man named Saul.

After that, there was intense persecution against all Christians, and we were scattered everywhere – not in fear, but joyously preaching the Word of God.  Ananias moved to Damascus.

Some time later, we heard the news.  Saul was expanding his campaign against Christians and obtained authorization to arrest and bind Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem for trial.  The Christians in Damascus prayed and then braced themselves for his coming.

A few days later, God sent Ananias a vision and a new commission.  He responded willingly before hearing the assignment.  Saul was now in Damascus at Judas’ home.  God wanted Ananias to go visit Saul.  God had already sent Saul a vision saying that a man named Ananias would come to see him and put his hands on him so he could regain his vision.

When Ananias heard what the Lord wanted him to do, his heart raced, his body trembled, and his voice shook.  He protested, “Lord, this guy has done all sorts of evil to the saints at Jerusalem.  And he has the authority to bind us and take us as prisoners to Jerusalem.  It scares me to death.  He might take me as a prisoner right away – or kill me.  How can I possibly do this?”

But God told Ananias His plans for Saul.  Saul was a chosen vessel of God to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.  Saul will also learn how to suffer for Christ’s sake.  (Acts 9:10-19)

Ananias obeyed and went to Saul, addressing him as “Brother Saul.” God had sent him to Saul to restore his sight and see Saul filled with the Spirit.  What amazing events happened after that through Saul, later called Paul.   God used Ananias, an unknown, seemingly insignificant Christian, to baptize and disciple Saul.  What if Ananias had refused God’s command?  By obeying God’s command, he became a co-laborer with Saul and a vital part of Saul’s (Paul’s) missionary ministry.

Sometimes, God asks us to do things we think are impossible or dangerous today.  Can you or I trust Him in our new assignment from God?  We may never become well-known.  But by obedience, we can become a significant part of God’s worldwide ministry.  “For we are laborers together with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

(The parts of the “Ananias story” not found in Scripture are historical fiction.)

About Dale B

I am a born-again Christian who loves to write and share the Good News about Jesus. Raised on a small Wisconsin farm and saved at age 12, I have been active in Christian service since that time. My many years as a pastor, accountant, and lay worker in the church have equipped me to help those in need. In retirement now in Texas, the Lord has led me to writing as a means of winning people to Christ and helping Christians grow in the Lord. By God’s grace I hope to be a blessing and encouragement to you.

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  1. Hi Dale
    Another winner!
    Thank you for sharing.
    God Bless~

  2. For we are all called to be servants of Christ. Ananias is a fine example who shows us how to obey God even when the call does not make sense to us.

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