Acts 9:19-25 (NIV)
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
Saul’s transformation was instantaneous and complete. Not only did he become part of the community of believers that he had gone to Damascus to destroy, he began at once to powerfully preach that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and the very son of God, much to the amazement of not only those he was preaching to, but of those with whom he had gone to Damascus in the first place.
Some of the Jewish people in Damascus received Jesus on the basis of Saul’s preaching. But others, especially the Jewish leaders in the city, were incensed that they were losing power and authority to this upstart from Jerusalem. And instead of receiving the good news of the kingdom with joy like those who were more spiritually astute, they hardened their hearts against both Saul and his message. They refused to learn the lesson that he was trying to teach them, the lesson that he himself had learned with such great difficulty, that persecuting the people of the kingdom of God was taken by Jesus as persecution against Himself.
So, they plotted to kill Saul, in direct violation of the law that they professed to be defending from him. Saul couldn’t even leave the city to escape from their clutches, because he had become so well-known, and every gate was closely guarded all day long. That’s why he ultimately had to be lowered in a basket over the city wall at night, so that he could escape, and so that the pressure on the Christians in the city could calm down.
Father, the enthusiasm of new Christians can often seem over the top to established believers, even irritating at times. But that enthusiasm, engendered by a life-transforming encounter with Jesus, is a powerful tool for bringing other new people into the kingdom. Unfortunately, over time, those new believers are shamed into silence by established Christians, or simply cool off due to a lack of support. Thankfully, Saul’s fire never went out, never died down, and a huge part of Europe was impacted for the kingdom. Father, set our hearts on fire again with the renewal of our first love (Revelation 2:4-5). Fill us anew and to overflowing with your Holy Spirit, so that our every breath breathes out Your love, Your grace and Your power. Help us to leave behind our passive “assurance of salvation” that is content to sit by while others perish without You, and make us instead into powerful, passionate witnesses of Jesus every moment of every day, kingdom people who will never stop, never rest until everyone has heard about Jesus. Amen.
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