by Roger McCay
15 Sept 2019
Sermon Passage: Acts 19:1-19
Link to Audio Version
Have you ever travelled the Road to Nowhere?
Back in the 1930s and 40s, Swain County, NC donated the majority of its private land to the Federal Government for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with Fontana Lake, a reservoir for Fontana Dam’s hydroelectric production. As a result of this flex of imminent domain, hundreds of people were forced to abandon their communities—their homes for generations. And, not only were their homes gone, but Highway 288, the road to those communities was gone, buried beneath the waters of Fontana Lake.
The Federal government promised to replace Highway 288 with a new road, which would curve along the north shore of the Lake, from Bryson City to Fontana—a 30-mile stretch. Important to the victims of the imminent domain, this would have provided access to the old family cemeteries where generations of ancestors lay at rest.
However, environmental issues halted the construction of the new road, which had been named Lakeview Drive, leaving the road ending at a tunnel, about six miles into the park. Construction never resumed, as the environmental issue was eventually deemed too expensive to overcome. Aptly, Swain County’s citizens call this unfinished Lakeview Drive “The Road To Nowhere.”
You know, it sure is a blessing to rest in the hope that, in following Jesus, rather than heading down “the road to nowhere,” we are travelling on the road to somewhere. And, along the way, there are designated places to do something, even lots of somethings, in his name. But, we would never go anywhere, much less somewhere, if we didn’t rise and go when the Lord calls us. Yet, rather than “rise and go” in obedience to the Lord, there is often a tendency to “sit and stay.”
In our passage today, we see two examples of the Lord telling his people to rise, go, and do—Saul and Ananias. Saul’s conversion is a major focus, repeated three times in Acts (the other two times in speeches given by Paul in Acts 22 and then Acts 26). And, it’s easy to just hone in on all the elements going on there. But it is interesting to note that Paul’s conversion, at this point, is given in far less detail than in the later accounts. More time and attention in this passage is given to Ananias—more words with a longer dialogue.
Perhaps the often, exclusive focus on Saul’s conversion, in studies of this passage, comes from his status as a superstar (called to be apostle to the Gentiles) who would even get a special name change like Abram to Abraham, and Simon to Peter, and to forever be known as the Apostle Paul.
But we don’t want to overlook Ananias here. Luke certainly doesn’t. And when we look closely at both accounts, it becomes apparent that there are definite similarities to each of their situations. In both accounts the Lord manifests his presence and speaks to the individual. In both cases the Lord displayed his grace. And, in both cases the Lord told them to rise, go, and do.
There are differences, of course. Saul was a murderous Pharisaic zealot on his way to Damascus with a mission to eliminate followers of the “Way” (Christians). Ananias was a Jew of good reputation, and a disciple of Christ, who lived in Damascus. Saul’s was a conversion experience; Ananias’ was a sanctifying experience. Saul started strong and proud, but ended broken and humbled, yet redeemed. Ananias started scared of Saul and questioning the Lord, but obeyed anyway, blessed to be the one to welcome Saul into the family of Christ and to baptize him. But, in each case, the Lord gave his typical call to his people to rise, go, and do.
I did a cursory search through the Scriptures just to see how often the Lord tells his people to rise, go, and either explicitly or implied, to “do.” You know what I found? This is a very regular way the Lord calls his people, both in their initial call and their various callings along the way as they follow him. We see this in the OT with Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah (numerous times), Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, and Micah. In the Gospels we see it with Joseph, then with Jesus speaking to the paralytic, the leper, to Peter, James, and John, and also to his disciples as a group. Just in Acts we see this terminology used with Philip (in the passage we looked at last week), then with Saul and Ananias, and later with Peter.