If there was a man who did NOT have clear spiritual vision, it was a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus. He thought he knew all things Jewish. He was a Greek speaking Jewish pharisee. He knew the Hebrew Bible. He did not agree with Jesus’ teachings or that Jesus was the messiah and felt those who followed him should be punished. He thought he saw things perfectly clear. The rules. The interpretations. The history. Saul built quite a reputation going from synagogue to synagogue arresting believers and either astricizing them or having them flogged. Believers did everything they could to avoid him.
In Acts 9:1-19 Jesus had Saul’s attention in a dramatic and powerful way. A blaze of light. Blindness. Yes, Jesus had his attention and told him to go into Damascus and wait for further instruction. At the same time Jesus also spoke to his servant, Ananias who was not at all thrilled to be the one commanded to go to Saul and welcome him to the family of faith. In fact the text tells us Ananaias protests Jesus’ request to go and help Saul and tries to convince Jesus of the kind of man Saul is. (As if he didn’t know) Ananias was a respected and honored leader in the Jewish community and among followers of Jesus. He was confident and thought he saw things clearly. He thought he knew what was expected. He thought he could see clearly what Jesus was doing.
It seems both men were having trouble seeing with the 20/20 vision of Christ. Both men were dazed and confused upon encountering Jesus and what was happening or being asked of them. Both needed to adjust, clear or open their eyes in order to focus on what truly mattered.
It is easy to imagine both Saul and Ananias experienced some level of fear, anxiety, and utter bewilderment at what was going on. Saul for obvious reasons. Here was a devout Jew, a religious authority who had significant connections, contacts and power brought to his knees and depending on his official escorts to get him to the place he had intended to flex that authority and power. Ananias had some of the same. Here was also a devout man, believer in Jesus, also a religious leader with significant connections and authority in his own right and community. He too was brought to his knees and dependent on the very faith he professed. Both had eyes but could not see beyond their own position and circumstance.
Church, are we not much the same? Do we not find ourselves in the same position? So often we as followers of Jesus have eyes to see yet fail to take in the greater vision of Jesus Christ. So often we have eyes to see yet we let our own agendas, ideas, perceptions, and even beliefs get in the way of seeing what God has in store. We bulldoze into situations wanting things our way, Or we dig in our heels, refuse to see other viewpoints, or possibilities that Jesus might be presenting to us.
I am not saying we give up what we believe. I am not saying we accept everything blindly that comes along. I am saying, spiritual vision is about seeing that God’s power and presence of love is far bigger than our limited vision. God does have requirements of us (Micah 6:8 love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with God) and to love and follow Jesus does have expectations, AND both are rooted first and foremost in a love that sees beyond shaming people, marginalizing people, or hurting people.
We are not the ones with a greater plan, nor are we the ones who can see the grander vision. God is. Jesus is. This is a lesson both Saul and Ananais had to come to realize and my gosh, look at who they were! One is considered one of the greatest apostles to live and the other is called the unsung or forgotten hero of the New Testament. Who are we to think we can travel our journey of faith and not have to let the scales fall from our eyes.
We must be the ones to be dazed and confused and come out the other side truly transformed. We must be the ones in prayer and obedience seeking the way of Jesus. We must be the ones to develop and regain 20/20 vision in a world that desperately needs a bigger vision of love, forgiveness, and hope.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine