God’s Word for You
Acts 9:23-25 In a basket
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 4, 2020
23 After a considerable time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but Saul learned about their plan. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his followers took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him down in a basket.
Paul adds to our understanding of this remarkable adventure in his letters: “In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:32-33). And again: “I went… into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem…” (Galatians 1:17-18).
Aretas was king of the Nabateans (the region that included the Arabian desert of these passages) until 40 AD. The governor mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:32 was probably a city official of some kind, placed there by King Aretas, but nothing like Roman governors such as Pontius Pilate, Felix or Festus. It was the Jews, confused by Paul’s remarkable enthusiasm and persuasive preaching, who wanted to be rid of him every bit as much as he had formerly wanted to get rid of the Christians of Jerusalem. For about three years Paul had been in the desert near the city. He had gained followers (literally “disciples” in the Greek text of verse 25). While the Jews kept watch on the city gates, one of Paul’s Christian friends offered a solution. Someone they knew (perhaps one of the disciples themselves) had a house or room with a window that looked out of the city wall. They placed him in a spyris, a large basket. This is the same word for the baskets of leftovers in Mark 8:8-9 to pick up the leftovers from the Feeding of the Four Thousand, much larger than the kophinos or small basket (lunch box) they used after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Secure in his basket, Paul was lowered down in the dark of night, and he slipped away. He headed for Jerusalem, but what would be his reception there? There was one element in Paul’s favor that is not mentioned in the text. King Aretas and King Herod Agrippa of Jerusalem were at war at this time (36 AD) a war that Agrippa lost. That means that Paul’s return to Jerusalem would have gone unreported by Aretas and his governor. As far as the secular (and Jewish) authorities were concerned, Paul was safe for the moment. But what about his reception from the Christians? Would they welcome him? Would they trust him?
In Damascus, his followers, his disciples, were so confident of Paul’s sincerity and his faith that they did everything they could to rescue him from the hands of the government. They were carrying out their obedience “to God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When a minister is supported by his listeners, it is a humbling experience. When they pitch in and do what they can when he doesn’t even know what to ask for, it shows that the gospel has been at work in their hearts and in their lives. I just asked about the Christians of Jerusalem: Would they welcome him? Would they trust him? The Christians of Damascus did.
Pastor Timothy Smith