“What made you change your belief? You saw a light, and now you are a different man?”
It was the next day after Saul had arrived at Ananias’ home. He was sitting in the middle of the living room, circled about by members of the church in Damascus. He had been answering questions like this all day.
Some of the Damascus church members were excited to have Saul on their side, many others still believed that he was trying to act the part of a believer, so that he could identify the members of the church, to arrest them all later.
Several in the group were whispering at the back, “I don’t trust this. He destroyed the church in Jerusalem, and he just said that he was coming here for the same purpose, to bring us back to Jerusalem for punishment. Do we really believe he changed, just like that?”
Ananias stepped in with his hands held up in front of him, motioning for everyone to stop talking for a few minutes.
“Please stop. Saul has been through a lot in the last few days. I am sure that he has some things to figure out for…”
Ichabod, a tall lanky member of the group interrupted, “Ananias, why are you sticking up for him?” His narrow eyes showed his scrutiny.
Ananias breathed deep. This was hard for him to accept logically, much less explain.
“I…I was sitting still. I heard a voice…His voice.”
“Yeah, right.” Ichabod again.
“I am completely serious. As I tell you this, I question my own sanity.
“Jesus’ voice very clearly said for me to go to Ananias’ house, and that I would find Saul there. He said that he had plans for him.” He ended by pointing at Saul.
“And you went there, and poof, there was Saul?”
“Ichabod, I am going to ask you to give this a chance, give him a chance. I’m not asking for blind trust, just some time to let him prove himself.”
Ichabod shifted uncomfortably. Head cocked to one side, smug smile on his face. “So Saul, what are your plans now?”
With appropriate authority, Ananias continued where he had been interrupted a bit ago. “Saul has many things to figure out for himself. There is no hurry. We are done for the day. We can continue discussions tomorrow after our gathering.”
Saul cleared his throat, and stopped to compose himself with the confidence that he would have had one week ago in Jerusalem.
He looked directly at Ichabod. “I don’t know.” Then to the rest of the group, “Just to let you all know…I…don’t…know.”
Everyone paused to listen, because clearly Saul was going to say more but had paused to think.
“But when I do know, everyone will know.
“All I know right now, for sure, is that I am the same that I have been all along, but I understand so much more, and that is the difference.
“Everything that I have always believed was completely correct…” a pause for impact.
And it worked. Several of the people moved for the door. Others started to approach him, angry looks on their faces.
“Wait, wait!” Saul tried to regain control, now that he had their attention.
“But it wasn’t enough. As much as I thought I had it all figured out…I only knew and understood the half of it.
He told us all about himself, and we ignored it, because it was too incredible. We ignored what the scriptures said about Him, and ignored what he said about himself because we wanted something bigger, something more spectacular.
“He was plain. Wore plain clothes, looked like a Jew…nothing special. He talked mild, never raised his voice, never argued. It was very hard to accept.”
There were no replies from the crowd, but there were several groans of disgust.
“Before you accuse me, how many of you have not changed your thoughts about the Son of God in the past year?”
He scanned the crowd slowly.
“Yes, I can tell by your faces that I am right.
“He is in all, and above all, and superior to all, and when I consider that, I realize that I have been short sighted…much to my regret.
“When the scriptures have not been taken into consideration…”
After a moment of silence where he could collect his thoughts, and convince himself that what he wanted to say was really what should say.
“The Jesus that I knew and saw was a fake, a blasphemer, a misleading corrupt imposter. He was a trouble maker, driving a wedge. He was the man holding the axe at the base of the tree, and that tree was everything we believed. Such audacity was worthy of death…for simply claiming to be God.”
Now everyone turned, glaring at Saul, and several of the men looked to Ananias.
A man the same height as Ananias pushed his way through the crowd to face Ananias and Paul. He brushed dark curly hair aside, and focused dark eyes directly at Paul’s own. Everyone knew Crispin. He an attractive persuasive man that had gained the respect of The Way.
“Please. We trust you with everything within us, but right now this man cannot continue with us. Even now, we need to relocate because he knows where we live and meet. His words still make me question his position.”
Feeling the weight of all the eyes in the room focused on him, Ananias closed his eyes slowly, and then opened them again. The crowd waited for him to speak. He had introduced Saul in to the gathering, and now bore the responsibility.
He risked a glance at Saul. What is wrong with him, why is he grinning at me like that?
Saul nodded his head, to indicate that Ananias should continue. Ananias shook his head to say no.
He is nuts…he is actually enjoying this.
Saul moved closer to Ananias and whispered, “Then let me talk, trust me.”
Trust him?! I don’t even know him…
But I believe that I was sent to get him, and I believe that Jesus himself has appointed Saul.
Ananias nodded at Saul to continue.
Saul held both hands up in front of him defensively. “As I said, without considering what has been written in the past, then he is guilty without question…”
Then he started speaking very fast.
“But when considering all that that has been written, that we all have heard and seen, when that is compared to the His actions and words, he can be no other than Messiah.
“And now…my new friends…my burden to bear, as shown be by the Lord himself, is to find a way to convince others of that truth. Me. Who else in the world could possibly carry that burden? I’m am the one most respected by the church for standing up for what we believe. And now I am going to be the one that tells them that we all were wrong…that they are wrong.
“It is my place to tell everyone…not just the Jews that I know, but the Gentiles that I do not know.
“I will need your support, because the task before me will not be easy.”
Oddly, there was not much comment from the group. They seemed unsure of what to make of this man.
Crispin turned to face everyone but Saul and Ananias. “We can continue this conversation at my house. We can meet there tomorrow morning. Except for you, Thomas and James, because you have promised to repair Claire’s steps in her front doorway. Otherwise, I will see you all tomorrow.
“Saul, I think it best if you don’t attend.”
The crowd dispersed, and Saul looked at Ananias and shrugged.
“That went well,” Saul commented with a slight smile.
“Do you think so? Saul, a gentle approach might suit you better in the future.”
“Saul, did you hear me?”
“I would like to visit the synagogue, and tell them what has happened, and how I have changed.
“Uh, I don’t know if that is a great idea…”
“At the same time, I don’t feel ready to confront them. I fell that I need time to sort this out before trying to talk to others.”
“Saul”, Ananias replied, “I have many things to figure out for myself, I don’t know how much help I will be to you. I don’t do this every day. We are still trying to figure out what life in The Way looks like, much less take our beliefs to the religious leaders. Although starting from completely different backgrounds, it looks like in some ways, we find ourselves in similar situations.”
“Yes, I think you are right.”