Yesterday we read how the Jews in Damascus were out to kill Saul because of his 180 regarding Jesus. He escaped with the aid of his disciples through a hole in the wall and a basket. Well, after he makes it out, he heads back to Jerusalem.
Personally, I would think going to Jerusalem would be a BAD idea. If the Jews at Damascus were angry over his conversion just think how angry those who sent him would be. But my thinking wasn’t Saul’s thinking, or God’s. Saul had some people to meet.
With the persecution of the church the people had disbursed throughout the region but the apostles had remained in Jerusalem. So this is where Saul heads back to. I’m wondering if he is planning to make a personal apology to the apostles for his earlier behavior.
Saul doesn’t go to the apostles but to the disciples first. He needed or wanted their approval first. Maybe the apostles were hidden by the church for their protection. They couldn’t be in total hiding because they were still teaching the people and bringing new believers into the church. Perhaps he thought that the apostles would run from him due to his previous actions against the church. I wonder what would have happened if he had tried the direct approach.
The disciples in Jerusalem didn’t welcome Saul. Their memories of his behavior had not dimmed. They were unconvinced by the accounts they had encountered about Saul’s transformation. Who knows, it could all have been a ploy by the religious leaders. But Barnabas knew the truth.
He trusted Saul enough to take him directly to the apostles. I’m curious if Barnabas had been in Damascus to witness Saul’s behavior or if he learned of it through the Spirit as Ananias did. Either way he was willing to put his life on the line for Saul.
The apostles recognized the same Spirit in Saul as they themselves shared. Saul gladly joined them in proclaiming the gospel. He was NOT shy about it. He did so with as much zeal as he had shown in Damascus. And, unfortunately, it resulted in the same plans from the Jews. It also resulted in Saul having to be snuck out of town again.
I stated earlier that I wouldn’t have thought it a good decision to go to Jerusalem after the events that happened in Damascus. The Jews wanting to kill Saul kind of supports my assumption. But God had other ideas. He called Saul as an apostle to the Gentiles. He required unity in His body so the two prongs of His outreach needed to be comfortable with one another. They had to be of one Spirit and under one authority. Saul could not have gone on to reach the Gentiles until after this unification had been established.
God protected Saul and the apostles while this relationship was established and grew. But God had no intentions of Saul remaining in Jerusalem with the apostles. He had another direction for him. He used the Jews to send Saul on his first missionary journey. Without the threat of death Saul might have continued on in Jerusalem.
With Saul now on the side of the church, full-fledged growth returned. The Jews didn’t send any more persecutors like Saul. I’m sure there were still adversities that they had to face but none like Saul had been. “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (verse 31).
Father God, I SO glad You don’t rely on us to make the decisions when it comes to how, when, where, and through whom for the spreading of Your word. I don’t have the perspective You do. You see the whole picture from first to last. I only see what is right around me. I see the past and the moments to come. Thank You for showing me this moment of 20/20 hindsight tonight. I hadn’t considered Your reasons before. I honestly hadn’t thought about Saul’s journey as anything but history before. Thank You for showing me it in a personal way. For letting me consider what I would have done in his place. I think that is one of the greatest things about taking this journey with You again through Your word. I get to see old things in new ways. I also get to discover stories that I didn’t even remember reading before. Thank You for making Your word real to me.