THE STRANGE CASE OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA
By Kenneth Carey
April 25, 2015
The place is Jerusalem. The time is shortly after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The day of Pentecost has arrived and the apostles and others have waited in Jerusalem. Waiting for the promise of power from on high, The Holy Spirit. Nothing would be the same after that day. Leading up to that day, the disciples had followed Jesus and witnessed many acts of healing and mercy and the forgiveness of sins. Peter had bragged that he would never deny the Lord. He said that even though all others denied him, he never would. He then lied three times that very night and denied that he even knew Jesus and a look from the Lord sent him off in tears. How frail we are. How fearful we can become under certain circumstances but how understanding and forgiving the Lord can be. And so He had said: “wait for power”.
On the day of Pentecost power was poured out. The apostles preached the good news of Jesus Christ and many came to listen day after day. Thousands believed and thousands had their sins washed away. Many had come from other places for the important Jewish day of remembrance and they did not want to leave. They wanted to stay where all the activity was happening. Collections were started to help those brothers and sisters from other places to be able to stay on in Jerusalem. The mood was brotherly love, sharing and joy. Some people were even selling some of their local possessions to help out. It was one of those times that you would always remember. Thousands were receiving the promise, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Everyone was praising God. What joy there was, forgiveness, healing and love among the believers. You can read about all this in Acts chapters 1-4.
Chapter five, however, begins “But”. Something different is about to happen. But what? “But a certain man named Ananias with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price. We are not told if they were disciples or not but they were seeking to become a part of the giving which was fine except they lied and said that the amount they were giving represented the full price of the land but actually it was less than what they had sold the land for. They were interested in being noticed and thought of as being more sacrificial than they were. A common human failing. How many times have we sought to look better than we actually are. Do we ever hide a sin from others because we are ashamed of it. In our battle with sin we sometimes fail and that’s when we run to Christ. Oh God shield me, be my Rock and let me hide in You my Redeemer and my Saviour. But what happens is sudden and surprising. Ananias is told that he is lying and not just to men but to the Holy Spirit and he immediately drops dead. Later the same thing happens with Sapphira, his wife. And great fear came upon the church and all who heard about these things.
Later in chapter 8 Simon the Sorcerer is converted and he sees the signs and when he finds out that the apostles can lay on hands and give the Holy Spirit, he asks Peter if he would sell him that gift for money. Wow! That blows me away. After Ananias and Sapphira I am just waiting for Simon to hit the ground fast. But instead Peter rebukes him and tells him to pray for forgiveness and he immediately asks Peter to pray for him. Wow, ok, there’s the forgiveness of Jesus, the one who said to forgive not just seven times in a day but seventy times seven. But this causes me to wonder why God was so rough on Ananias and Sapphira? I’m not sure I have the answers but I do notice a few things and not all these thoughts are original with me. I do a lot of reading and listening and I have been around a while so I don’t claim originality, just the hope that Jesus will continually guide me.
One thing I am sure of is that when there is free food or help to be found there are many people who will come around and try to get in on the “wealth”. It gets around if there are free lunches and places to stay. I used to work with the homeless and one reason towns do not want a homeless shelter or at least not one in their neighborhood is because they know, as the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” Another human failing. We want to show others that we care about the poor but we really don’t want it close by to us. There’s that desire to look better to others than we really are again. What if we all just dropped dead whenever that happened? That’s why Ananias and his wife give us pause and stand out in our minds. It is the smell of the fire of Sinai rather than the beauty of the New Jerusalem.
There is a statement in v.13 of Acts chapter 5 which gives a possible indication as to why Ananias and Sapphira died when they lied. The scripture says that the disciples were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest (non-disciples) no man dared join himself to them: but the people magnified them. I believe that God used Ananias and his wife as an example to put fear in anyone who might act out of greed and try to take advantage of the disciples’ good will. After Acts chapter five a person would really think a lot before daring to go among the disciples falsely just trying to get what he could get for free. So Ananias and Sapphira’s death had a purpose beyond their own personal punishment. I have also concluded from scripture that just because a person dies or is even struck dead by God for some reason, if that person is a child of God, his death does not mean he is also lost. 1Cor. 11:28-32. I do not know if Ananias and his wife were disciples or not but, if they were, then they were definitely taken off the stage for a purpose, but that does not necessarily mean that we shall never see them again. They may be a bit shame faced but then wouldn’t you be if your sins were recorded for all to read about? Thanks be to God we have Jesus to hide in and He will clothe us with robes of white.