The name Ananias, or Hananiah as found in the Old Testament, means "Yahweh has been gracious" and there are several people with this name in the Bible. In the New Testament we find three, all in the book of Acts, the first being a member of the Church of Jerusalem who fell and died when reprimanded by Peter for lying to the Church, the second was in Damascus, and the third was the high priest in the Temple of Jerusalem that persecuted Paul seeking to kill him. Here we will reflect a little on the second of these men.
This Ananias only appears twice in the Bible, in Acts chapters 9 and 22, where the important task designated for him immediately after the conversion of Saul, or Paul, is reported.
Ananias is presented as being "a certain disciple" in Damascus. In the New Testament the word "disciple" is only used in the Gospels and in the book of Acts, 28 times in all. The word always refers to the pupil of someone, in contrast with the master or teacher. In every case it means that the person so qualified not only accepts the opinion of his master, but also practices what he teaches.
In the Gospels we read about the disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:14; Luke 7:18; John 3:25), also of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33) and Moses (John 9: 28).
But the most common use of this word is to designate the followers of Jesus:
in the broadest sense (Matthew 10:42, Luke 6:5, John 6:66, etc.), being the only name given in the Gospels to those who followed Christ,
in a more restricted sense it was given especially to the twelve apostles, who were often simply called disciples (Matthew 10:1, 11:1, 12:1, etc.)
in Acts, after the death and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus, the disciples are identified as those who claim Him to be the Messiah, i.e. Christians (6:1,2,7; 9:36; 6: 6). Even Christians who were baptized only with the baptism of John are also called disciples (19:1-4).
Ananias was a Christian, and therefore would be of those that Saul, still breathing threats and deaths, wanted to lead as prisoners to Jerusalem. The qualification "a certain" seems to indicate that he was not a prominent person in the church, but Paul did mention him, in his account of his conversion given to the people in Jerusalem: he said Ananias was a "a devout man according to the law" and had “a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there”. This assures us that, even if he were just "a certain disciple", he evidently glorified God with a life of obedience to His precepts.
If it weren't for the part he was to perform with relation to Paul, perhaps we would never have heard about him, because he was just “a certain disciple". But God knew everything about him, and chose him for a particular task. How many times we also think that we are "just a disciple" of little relevance among the brethren, and accommodate ourselves to our relative obscurity. But God knows us perfectly, He sees our conduct, and we are called upon by Him to use our special spiritual gifts in His work.
The Lord appeared to Ananias in vision: when He has something to tell us personally, He does so in a way that doesn't leave us in doubt! And the order he gave Ananias on this occasion was undeniably amazing and scary: he should arise, go to the house of a man named Judas (probably a hostel) and search for a man “called Saul of Tarsus”.
The Lord continued, reassuring him somewhat by informing that when praying Saul had seen "a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." How extraordinary. We do not know whether Ananias already had previous experience miracles of healing, but the Lord was instructing him to interview the notorious Pharisee Saul, who fiercely persecuted Christians, and to heal his blindness. In the place of Ananias we would fear that it might not work out, and the consequences could be very serious. After all, why recover the sight of this wicked man?
So Ananias replied that he knew what Saul did, and the power that the chief priests had given him to arrest all Christians. The Lord then declared that Saul was a vessel chosen by Him especially to “bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” and “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."
Ananias then doubted no more: he did exactly what the Lord ordered. He was ready to go when and where the Lord instructed him, and to trust in the faithfulness of the Lord as to the result. In our Christian life, no matter how unimportant we consider our work for the Lord to be, we should learn from the example of Ananias to carry out our part obediently, trusting in His faithfulness to complete our task successfully.
The obedience of Ananias provides us with full evidence of his Christian love, his loyalty, and his humility and gentleness.
His Christian love was proved in his attitude towards Saul. When entering the room where the terrible persecutor was found, now blind and helpless, Ananias could take advantage first to recriminate him and to exalt the unmerited favour that he would provide. But surprisingly, especially for Saul, Ananias called him affectionately "brother" and even put his hands on him in a gesture of friendship, without a sign of resentment or bitterness.
His loyalty to his Lord was manifested when he said “the Lord Jesus … has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." So Ananias declared the lordship of the Lord Jesus to that bloodthirsty persecutor.
His humility and gentleness were also evident when he gave to the Lord all the credit for the visit he made so that Saul might regain his vision and receive the Holy Spirit. There was no promotion of himself, he does not even say a word to introduce himself and to say who or what he was, but contented himself with being an anonymous messenger of His Master, good disciple that he was.
Such was this faithful servant of God: ready, willing, faithful, loving, loyal, and even so humble and meek, who entered the annals of Acts and returned to obscurity, with no other mention whatsoever. As suggested in his name, he was one who illustrated the graciousness of God, in the important task of reconciling and giving sight to Saul, so he might be baptized and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Through his obedience we ourselves received the invaluable blessing to the church of Christ, through the centuries, in the form of Paul´s contribution to its foundation (Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 12:14).