4/24/16 Run! Saul Is Coming For You!

first persecution map

The outrage doesn’t end with the death of Stephen.  The Sanhedrin members and many of the members of those two synagogues are still burning with fury.  The new church is in danger.  A few of the men from the community of believers, known generally as Followers of The Way, because Jesus taught that He is the only way to complete forgiveness of sin and assurance of eternal life in Heaven, were there when Stephen made his final speech, and witnessed the stoning that followed.  As soon as the shock of seeing their dear friend murdered before their eyes abated, they went to him and carried him away for burial, deeply mourning the loss of this wonderfully faithful and courageous man.  But though their thoughts center on Stephen, they can’t help overhearing bits of conversations around them.  “They are a threat to our very way of life!  They must be eradicated, now, before this lunacy spreads any further!”  “Arrest them all, and hand them over to the Romans to be crucified.  Every single one of them.”  “Have you heard there are even some of these Followers of the Way in other countries?  I can’t believe it’s spread so far so fast.”  “Whatever it takes, we must stop them.”  Chills run down the men’s spines at these words.  They glance at each other, apprehension written on their faces, and pick up their pace.  They need to bury Stephen quickly and rush back to warn the rest of the community.  Who knew how long they would have before trouble came to visit them with a vengeance?  Heartbroken, they lay Stephen’s body in a tomb, say a quick prayer, and hurry home.  As soon as they arrive, they find the apostles and request an immediate community meeting.  “The Sanhedrin is rallying people in the city to destroy us!  They will be here soon, and they are talking about imprisoning and killing us.  They want to hand us over to the Romans for crucifixion after they round us all up.  We must get everyone out before it’s too late,” the men tell the people.  Peter quickly stands and raises his hands, calling for the believers to be silent and hear him.  “No panicking, please.  That will do more harm than good.  We will pray, and then everyone should gather only what they can easily carry with them and will need on their journey.  Go in many separate directions, so that it will be harder for them to follow and capture you.  We twelve will remain in the city, and will be in constant prayer for you all.”  With that, he bows his head and launches into a fervent prayer for their safety, then dismisses the group to begin preparations for a mass exodus.  The people leave in small groups in the night, scattering in every direction.  Many go to other areas of Judea, Galilee, and even Samaria, and some go farther on towards Alexandria in Egypt and Damascus in Syria.  Meanwhile, Saul of Tarsus has formed a group of men to hunt them down.  Leading the group, he goes from house to house throughout the city, thoroughly searching each one and interrogating everyone as to the whereabouts of these Followers of the Way, especially the twelve apostles.  Whenever he even suspects that anyone may be a member of the group, or knows something about them, Saul arrests them and has them imprisoned.  He is ruthless in his zeal to rid the city, and then the world, of these people.

 

Acts 8:1-3, http://www.generationword.com/devotions/photos-diagrams/diagrams/april-digrams/7b-87_map_mediterranean_sea_antioch.jpg

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