The Great Escape

In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped from his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33)

The Great Escape

Paul’s defense to the Corinthians of his suffering as a disciple of Christ included one of the earlier trials he faced when he became a Christian. The early life of Paul was very different than what happened that day when he approached the city of Damascus. Paul’s early life was robust with training in Jewish law, learning from the esteemed teacher Gamaliel, and becoming one of the most powerful men in Jewish leadership. When the followers of Jesus banded together and began to increase in number, the leaders of Israel became alarmed. They arrested Peter and John and warned them not to teach in Jesus’ name. Then they arrested the twelve apostles and, after beating them, warned them again. When Stephen withstood the Jewish council (which included Saul of Tarsus), they took him out and stoned him. Saul consented to his death.

Following the death of Stephen, Saul launched a furious attack on those who were of the Way. He gained authority from the high priests in Jerusalem to arrest the disciples of Jesus in Damascus and bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he approached the city, a bright light shone around him from heaven. The Lord told Saul to go into Damascus and wait. Three days later, Ananias came to Saul and baptized him for the remission of his sins. Saul of Tarsus was now a Christian. His enemies had become his brethren, and his former brethren had become his enemies.

After Paul became a Christian, he remained in Damascus and immediately began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues. Everyone was amazed at the transformation that took place in the man from Tarsus. Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and no one could refute his proof that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. His preaching also brought a renewed source of enemies. His former Jewish brethren wanted Paul dead. Watching the gates day and night, the Jews plotted to kill Saul and solicited the governor’s help under Aretas, the king, to arrest him. Neither plan would succeed. Being told of the plot to kill Saul, the disciples of Christ lowered Paul down in a basket through a window in the wall. He escaped and made his way to Jerusalem, nearly 150 miles away.

Paul’s escape was an inglorious end to his trip to Damascus. He had arrived with the authority of the high priests and left in a basket, being let down in the dark of night. God’s providence overshadowed his escape, for there was much work for the new apostle to carry out for the kingdom of God. As Paul bumped along the Damascus wall, he must have reflected on the irony of his plight. A man with great authority and privilege in the world escaping for his life in a basket down the city wall. But he now served the King of Kings, and his escape would further the cause of Christ in years to come. God had a plan for the apostle, and he never let the persecutions and humiliations of life cause him to waver.

Suffering for Christ was a common thing for Paul. He had been beaten, locked in prisons, threatened, persecuted, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and in perils often. His best days were being let down in a basket to escape the watching eye of the guards seeking to arrest him. Paul knew how often God had blessed him with those baskets in life. The apostle took his suffering in the stride of an eternity-bound man. If Paul had anything to boast about, his boasting concerned his trials that made him stronger. The great escape. Down a wall in a basket. Incredible.

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