Have you ever experienced an odd, improbable coincidence that felt like it had been orchestrated by God?
One evening, when I was in college, I was thinking of a friend from my high school days. I decided to call him. That in itself was unusual; I don’t like talking on the phone, and avoid it when I can. But for some reason, I felt prompted to call him. I was a fairly new Christian, and my friend was still seeking and asking questions about God. So I picked up the phone and put the receiver to my ear, ready to dial.
The line was strangely silent; there was no familiar buzz, no dial tone. Puzzled, I did what many of us would probably have done: I said “Hello?” Hearing nothing, I said it again.
Imagine my surprise when a voice suddenly answered back, “Hello?”
Imagine my even greater surprise when I discovered that the voice belonged to the friend I was about to call.
Apparently, we had both been thinking about each other. He dialed me, and I picked up the phone in the split second before it rang, thinking I was dialing him. After we got over our initial shock at the coincidence, we had a good conversation about the gospel. I don’t remember how the conversation went, or how it turned out.
But I do remember one thing: it felt like God had planned it.
In recent posts, we’ve been examining the miraculous, God-ordained conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The zealous Pharisee had traveled all the way to Damascus to arrest Christians who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem. His reputation as a persecutor of the church had preceded him. Apparently, so had the news of his coming.
But he was met on the road by the risen Jesus and struck blind by the Lord’s radiant glory. Saul had thought to boldly enter Damascus under the banner of the high priest’s authority. Instead, sightless and helpless, he had to fumble his way into the city. He spent the next three days ruminating and praying, presumably trying to make sense of the life-changing and utterly disorienting conversation he had just had with Jesus.
Then he had a vision from God. With inner sight, he saw a stranger, a man named Ananias, coming to him to lay hands on him and restore his sight.
And at that very moment, Jesus appeared to Ananias in a vision, to tell him that Saul was having a vision of Ananias.
Ananias was a follower of Jesus in Damascus, and the story we have in Acts 9 is all we know of him. Jesus tells him about Saul, and instructs him to go find him at the house of Judas on Straight Street.
At first, Ananias objects, and reasonably so. He’s heard reports of the havoc Saul has wreaked on the fledgling church in Jerusalem, and he already knows of Saul’s mission in Damascus.
But Jesus reassures Ananias that this is all part of the plan:
Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. (Acts 9:15-16)
Jesus’ words are indeed prophetic, for Saul would come to be known as the apostle Paul, who would bring the gospel to the Gentiles, preach to the Jews, and testify before kings. The one who brought suffering to Christians would now suffer for Christ, and do so gladly.
Jesus had chosen Saul to be his instrument. That was the plan. Saul had received his commission on the road into Damascus, and that commission would be further confirmed when the double vision was fulfilled.