23 “When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket” (Acts 9:23–25 (ESV)
Pastor Burk Parsons writes, “What does it mean to be a real man? According to the standards of our society, a real man is big and strong, bold and brave, confident and competitive. Through the voices of the moguls of media and the movies, young men are taught that a real man is a true stoic — someone who doesn’t show his emotions; he is apathetic about the cares of the world, apathetic to the problems of others, and, especially, apathetic to all things religious. Just about every popular television program, commercial, and cartoon portrays men as infantile, aloof, and ignorant, and if our Hollywood-inoculated culture is accurate in its assessment, then it is certainly appropriate to conclude that any man who would read an article such as this, or for that matter any man who would write an article such as this, is not a real man. Furthermore, if a man is a “man’s man,” he certainly isn’t the type of person who concerns himself with sappy, spiritual things, such as servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love.”
Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul, was indeed such a man of servanthood, humility, prayer, faith and love. However, these characteristics were not displayed in a cultural vacuum, but rather in the experiences of real life.
It was not long after his conversion that Saul, who had been the primary persecutor of Christians in the early church, became the object of the same persecution. The Jews in Damascus, incapable of refuting him, plotted to kill him. They consistently watched the city gates for the opportunity to seize Saul. Day and night the Jews waited for the moment when they could destroy the former destroyer.
Saul became aware of the plot and with the help of his own disciples, he escaped through an opening in the city wall by being lowered down in a basket suitable for hay, straw, or bales of wood. One scholar writes that, “Houses were sometimes built into city walls; Saul’s escape method had biblical precedent (Josh 2:15; 1 Sam 19:12). That he had gained disciples there indicates that he had worked like a Christian rabbi, or teacher, and that he had the requisite training to present himself as such (cf. 22:3).”
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul explained, “30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:30-33).
Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Paul related his humiliating escape from Damascus (cf. Acts 9:23–25) as the crowning example of the weakness and infirmity in which he boasted (2 Cor. 11:30). The Acts narrative names the hostile Jews as those who sought Paul’s life, whereas Paul here mentioned the governor under the Nabatean Arab king Aretas (9 B.C.–A.D. 40) as the one who sought him. Evidently the Jews stirred up the secular authorities against him, as they were later to do repeatedly in Acts (cf. Acts 13:50; 14:2; 17:13).”
What opportunities have you had to display strength, bravery, boldness and confidence for the sake of the Gospel? What about servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love? When have you displayed those characteristics while in midst of persecution: whether verbal, cultural, or even physical?
Jesus said to His disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Take heart, beloved. Be strengthened in your faith even in the midst of tribulation.
Soli deo Gloria!