Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem (Acts 9:19b-31)

Welcome to a new week! I hope you all had an amazing weekend, I certainly did.

Last week we finished up with Saul’s conversion experience and baptism. Now that he’s a believer, let’s find out what happens for him next.

Acts 9:19-25 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 Messiah.

After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews 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.

What a turn of events. Can you imagine the reactions from the believers in the town? They would’ve heard about Saul coming with approval from the high priest to take them to prison, and yet now he’s turned up declaring that Jesus is the Son of God!

It’s such an amazing testimony, this guy, Saul, who was threatening our lives because of our beliefs has been converted and now he’s the one on our side. It’s the classic story of villain turned hero – oh wait, that rarely happens, generally it’s the hero defeating the villain, right? But once again Jesus has turned something (or in this case, someone) that was intended for evil into something that glorifies God.

But, the story continues and a conspiracy emerges among the Jews who decide that since Saul is no longer on their team, he must be killed. Then the most incredible thing happens, the Christians who were initially afraid of Saul who was threatening to kill them have now become his allies and they help him to escape. It just goes to prove what an amazing conversion experience Saul had on that road to Damascus if now, a gospel he was trying to kill for, he is now risking his own death for.

9:26-31 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Saul has ended up back in Jerusalem, and it’s only fair that the disciples were skeptical of his conversion. I always imagine their thoughts would’ve be something like this, “We all know the tale of the Trojan Horse they let into the city of Troy in Greece. It was disguised as a peace offering, and yet it was a cunning ploy that resulted in the destruction of the entire city, we’re not falling for this.” (Perhaps this story wasn’t as common knowledge to them as it is to us today, but either way I’m sure their trust in Saul’s conversion was low).

Thankfully Saul finds a defender in Barnabas, who helps the apostles understand Saul’s conversion experience. Then Saul becomes so accepted that he becomes a preacher and starts public debates in defence of Jesus. Once again however his life is threatened, and he’s sent off to Tarsus. That suffering for the gospel message that Ananias had prophesied about has only just begun.

As a result of this early ministry of Saul the good news was spreading and the church was growing.

To think about

If you’re a Christian, when you were converted, did you ever have a hard time convincing people it was true, that you really had encountered Jesus? Or, perhaps you’ve been the cynic and not believed someone else’s story about their encounter with Jesus.

It’s good to be discerning and to know who is using Jesus for their own glory or agenda, and who is genuine in their faith and conversion. Are you willing to be like Barnabas and defend someone who you know has encountered the real Jesus and yet others struggle to believe or accept their testimony?

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