Reflecting on Acts 9 9-17

Here are a few questions we might want to think about, or to discuss in class, as we’re chewing on Acts 9:9-17 [some notes here] – our text for this week – and thinking about what it means for us:

Most of this text is a conversation between Ananias and “the Lord” that takes place by means of “a vision.” In other words – and this is something we might want to think about – the vision in the text is a medium of communication. So, in the same category as newspaper, telephone, internet …

If we think of it that way, what do we notice? What thoughts, feelings come up for us?

Any interest in reflecting on the pluses and minuses of “a vision” as a medium of communication? What’s it especially good at? Anything it’s especially bad at? Similarities and differences to other forms of communication?

Any interest in reflecting on how we ourselves might go about assessing the trustworthiness of a communication by vision? (Say, relative to the trustworthiness of communication by some other medium? Like email, for instance … )

[more personal] Any personal experience with this form of communication?

[Actually, this might be too personal. I read about a study once where “healthy people” – confederates – tried to get accepted for voluntary mental health commitment. They were 100% successful if they simply answered all the intake interview questions honestly, as themselves, but reported “Sometimes I hear voices.” Or, there’s the line from Harry Potter – “Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn’t a good sign.” Visions may be a degree beyond voices.]

The text contains no “emotion words” – with the possible exception of “suffering” in v16, which arguably has some emotion built in. Also, no “expression” words – that is, no description of “how” the speakers are speaking.

Do we notice this? [Because if we didn’t, right off, why do we suppose that is?]

Would we say there’s emotion implied or “taking place” in the story? What emotion or emotions? Who feels what emotion when? [We might want to make something like a table or list: Ananias, the Lord, Saul … ] Why do we think this? What does this show us about ourselves?

What other emotions might these characters be feeling? [That is … different ones than we thought of at first …] If we think about this, what do we notice about the text, and the situation, and about ourselves as readers of scripture?

In v17, Ananias follows the instructions he receives in the vision, and delivers a significant speech.

Would we call Ananias “obedient”? Why or why not?

Would we call Ananias “courageous”? Why or why not?

Would we call Ananias “loving”? Why or why not?

Would we call Ananias a “role model” or a “hero of the faith”? Why or why not?

Would we ourselves like to be more like Ananias? Why or why not?

In Acts 9:1-8, Jesus appears to Saul in a vision, speaks to Saul directly, and Saul loses his sight. In Acts 9:17-19, Ananias arrives at Jesus’s instructions to restore Saul’s sight.

Does anyone but me wonder why Jesus uses an agent to restore Saul’s sight, instead of just doing the job himself? That is – since Jesus is obviously capable of direct action, I gather there’s some benefit in working through an agent instead. So … do we know what the benefit is? What’s the benefit?

Assuming we have an answer to that question, what do we learn from that? Implications, for us? Any attitudes or behaviors we ourselves might want to work on?

three young girls sitting in a room reading a large book

Image: “Spannende Lektüre,” Walther Firle, 1929, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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