Ananias and Sapphira
"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. Acts 4:32 - 5:11
The story of the quick demise of Ananias and Sapphira his wife is both well known and often quoted. I have heard it preached on several occasions, and always usually in the same way.
At the end of the story we are told - " And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things." And indeed, whenever I have heard it preached on, the general purpose of the sermon has also been to the same end, to make the listeners fearful, as in a warning - Remember Ananias and Sapphira!
At first glance the implications of the story seem clear. But hang on a minute, there is surely something wrong here. It must be me. I must be getting mixed up with the character's names in this little story.
According to the text of Acts it was Peter who was in control and in charge of this little scenario. Silly me, I thought that it was referring to "the" Peter. You know, the fisherman who was a disciple of Jesus. I don't know, my brain these days, it gets all muddled and confused. It can't have been "the" Peter the fisherman. It must have been another Peter, it must have been Peter the chariot wheel maker, or Peter the refuse collector, or Peter the something else. But, no, wait. Do you know I can't find mention of any other Peter. There was only the one Peter - the disciple of Jesus.
But this can't be right. Wasn't this the same Peter who several months before had lied and denied Jesus three times in order to ensure his own safety and security? Surely not, No, there must have been two Peters. But no, I can only find a record of their being one, so it must have been Him.
My, my, and thrice my. He didn't learn much from his own cheating, devious, lying and denial experience did he? I mean, after his own experience of his blatant lie, his betrayal and denial to ensure his own security and then being forgiven for it, because Jesus certainly didn't just throw him on the scrap heap, did He?. What did he learn? Did he learn about things like patience, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, grace, you know - all those good Christian virtues?
I mean, we didn't see Jesus going around controlling the scenario of people's destruction, did we? His wasn't a ministry of - "you lying git", followed by a lightening bolt from heaven as the afore mentioned lying git burns to a char grilled steak. On the contrary, his ministry was all forgiving, all compassion and all merciful was it not?
I often wonder what would have happened if when Peter started questioning Ananias, the man had replied - "what has it got to do with you what we did with our money you cheeky sod?"
Or when Sapphira entered and started being questioned she had replied - "who the hell do you think you are questioning us in that manner, you self-righteous prick? You, the very one, who, to save his own skin and ensure his own security lied through his teeth and denied Jesus not once but three times have the audacity to stand there bare faced and accuse my husband and I of lying and judge us for not doing right. Get the Hell out of here you numbnuts."
And when Peter said - "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out." What would have happened if she had replied -
"Gob off you self righteous pig. What do you think I am - stupid? You think that I don't know that I cannot hide anything from God who sees all? I am not hiding anything from Him, it is you lot that I am hiding it from. You all get together and have a communal pot, and by the sheer pressure of numbers and embarrassment encourage everybody to throw in. And my husband and I are not too sure about it and choose to keep some back in case it all goes wrong and you dare accuse us of tempting the Spirit of the Lord? You are way beyond yourself.
You are wrong my old spud, and what's more, if justice is to be done here this day it will not be I that they carry out but you, who for your sheer audacity and presumption in the name of the Lord to presume to judge anybody and condemn them."
And what then if Peter had then fallen off his perch?
And when Peter said to Ananias - "Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
What would have happened if Ananias had replied - "I haven't lied to God at all, you self-righteous tit-head. The land was my own. It was in my own power to do with it as I chose, and I did with it as I chose. I chose to give you some and keep the rest for myself and my wife. I have not lied to God at all. I may have lied to you lot out of embarrassment, but I have not lied to God as you suggest at all. I understand only to well that God sees and knows all. So don't sit there in the place of God accusing me of anything! For you have NO RIGHT to do so. So take what I have donated to the communal pot in good grace and keep your mouth shut regarding judging and accusing me, or else give it back to me and I will keep it all."
I have got a sneaky feeling that Christianity would prefer it to have happened the way that it did rather than my way.
Q. If The story is true and Ananias and Sapphira did drop down dead, what caused their sudden demise?
Are we not being told the whole story and actually somebody clubbed them to death from behind, and they all claimed it was God who did it to cover it up? I would say anything is possible, but this is extremely doubtful.
Was it some extraordinary power that God had endued upon Peter enabling him to take life by merely suggesting it? Possible, but is this truly the way that God works? This notion does not really gel with my idea of what God does or the way He works at all. Not the God that I worship, anyway.
Had Peter either wittingly or unwittingly learned the art of suggestion/hypnotism and had brought about their death by that means?
It is possible.
Was it all planned by Peter who was going to make a name for himself, and knowing that they had told a fib was going to make an example of them, and even though it isn't mentioned in the story they were both given a drink as they came in which had been poisoned?
Possibly. I would certainly
like a modern day forensic report on their bodies.
Again, it is possible
The truth of the matter is we will never know and the matter will always be one for speculation.
My speculation is - could the outcome have been changed if Ananias and Sapphira had opposed Peter and stood up to Him with any of the above responses?
Was it the Holy Spirit who did the deed?
Peter's words were - "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" which does sort of suggest that "the Spirit of the Lord" had something to do with it.
Which Spirit of which Lord? Lord Darth Vader perhaps, it sounds like something that he might have done. But the Lord God that I know, love and am taught by? No way, I mean no way! Not on your nellie! Not on your life!
My God and the Spirit of my God is love, compassion, mercy, and every benign and good attribute that you can think of. He does not go around zapping people for things like this. Jehovah in the Old Testament had quite a few of these sorts of things attributed to him, but we already know about him, don't we?
What does the story do for me? For me the whole story revolves around Peter, not the victims. The way it is worded places Peter in control and in charge of the situation. This being the case it does little else for me but lower Peter in my estimation. If he was indeed responsible then he was truly an arsehole of the first degree.
If Peter was in the business of instilling fear, then I reckon that he missed the whole point of Jesus' message entirely.
Maybe it is upon this basis that the early church in Rome was proud and happy to claim Peter to be the first pope and claim their descendancy from him. Maybe this is why throughout the centuries they have practised persecution, murder and torture against all who didn't agree with them.
Perhaps they tried it the "Peter" way first of all - "You heretics! You dare to question the word of the Holy Father? You have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and the Holy Mother Church. You shall all fall down and die this instant." And then, when the accused didn't fulfil their wishes and were still standing five minutes later, they thought that perhaps they had better give God a helping hand and kill the poor sods.
The general thinking that God
places in position a certain person as an overseer, a law giver, a ruler
over men with the power to kill and destroy those who oppose him goes
a long way back. It is deeply rooted in Jewish History. But there again,
we are back to that old Cannanite bull god Jehovah again.
|Click here to go back to the index page|