4/28/16 Saul Joins The Believers In Jerusalem

As soon as the meal is finished, Saul gets up from the table and says, “Alright!  Now, show me the closest synagogue.”  Ananias eyes him warily.  Was the whole thing a trick?  Is he trying to get to the believers from the inside?  But no, Ananias heard from Jesus directly about Saul.  Judas already has his cloak on and is heading for the door, Saul right behind him.  Ananias hurries to join them, wanting to see for himself what Saul’s intentions are.  When they get to the synagogue, Saul strides purposefully towards the door, enters, and looks around.  Several people are gathered for prayer, but it seems that they have just finished.  Saul nods to them, walks to the front of the synagogue, and stand behind the bema.  “My friends, I must tell you some joyous news!”  A few of the people there know who he is, but most stare at him in confusion.  “Who are you?” someone in the back calls.  Saul laughs and says, “I am Saul of Tarsus, a student of the great Gamaliel of Jerusalem.  I am a Pharisee and I know the law better than many of the members of the Sanhedrin.  I was sent here by High Priest Caiaphas to capture anyone found in your city to be a follower of Jesus.”  Murmurs arise among the people.  Saul raises his voice a bit as he goes on, “But I can no longer perform that duty.  I have had a personal encounter with Jesus on my way here, and I am here to tell you all that He truly is the Son of God, our long-awaited Messiah!”  At that, the synagogue erupts with noise.  Saul does not stay to be confronted by these people, but walks out of the synagogue and says, “Where is the next synagogue?”  Judas and Ananias can only look at him in wonder.  This is the same man who made it his personal mission in life to hunt down and destroy all of their fellow believers?  Wow.  Saul continues going from synagogue to synagogue, proclaiming loudly that Jesus is the Son of God.  Soon, a huge crowd has grown, and they begin to challenge him.  Saul does not back down, but addresses every single one of their concerns, citing scriptures to prove every statement he makes about Jesus as their Messiah.    But most of the Jews there don’t want to hear proof.  They close their ears, hearts, and minds to his words and allow their anger and resentment to grow.  Now, the man who was their greatest ally in getting rid of the threat posed by this new group of believers has become the most outspoken member of the same group.  He must be stopped.  A plot to kill him quickly forms, and word of it reaches Saul.  He meets in private with his closest friends in the city and they decide that they only way to save him is to get him out of the city secretly.  That night, after the gates are locked and most of the city has gone to bed, a few men sneak through the city towards the wall.  Thankful for the clouds blocking the moon, they reach the wall without being seen.  Now comes the hardest part – climbing up unnoticed.  They make it to the top with a large basket and a long rope.  Saul climbs into the basket and the men lower him down to the other side.  Quietly, he runs for the road, heading back towards Jerusalem.  When he reaches the city, he goes immediately to the place where he knows that many of the believers have been living together.  He is excited to be there now, not as the man who is trying to destroy them but as a fellow believer.  But when they see him, they refuse to let him in.  They won’t even listen to his story.  Chagrined, he walks away, knowing that he brought this upon himself by his previous actions.  As he is walking, he meets Barnabas on the road.  “Barnabas, my old friend!” he calls.  Barnabas looks shocked.  Yes, the men were friends, but since Barnabas became a follower of Jesus, Saul has not wanted anything to do with him.  “Hello, Saul,” Barnabas answers, wondering what he is in for.  “I need your help,” Saul tells him.  Barnabas starts to shake his head, but Saul holds up a hand and says, “Please, hear me out.”  He tells Barnabas the whole story, from meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus all the way up to his escape from the city.  Barnabas’ eyes light up with hope.  He closes them for a moment, praying silently for Jesus to show him whether or not Saul is speaking the truth.  He feels in his heart that his old friend is not trying to trick him, and slowly nods, saying, “Alright, Saul, I will vouch for you.  Let’s go see the apostles.”  The two men go to the apostles and Barnabas explains the situation.  They agree to give Saul a chance, and soon Saul rewards their generosity with his bold preaching everywhere he goes.  But the Greek Jews, whom Saul had formerly represented as a leader in their synagogue, can’t abide this betrayal.  Again, a plot arises to kill Saul and the believers have to help him escape.  Some of the men go with Saul as far as Caesarea, then send him to Tarsus.

 

Acts 9:20-30

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