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Escape Basket

There was a man holding the coats while stones were killing Stephen. He was angry that God was showing Stephen honor when they, the religious leaders, had said Stephen was so bad that he needed to be killed. Stephen's honor was a face lighted up with joy and he looked into heaven and described what he saw. Saul was given a special position among the leaders of the nation because he helped with his lawyer skills in the trial of Stephen.

Saul of Tarsus went out killing all he could find in the new church started up by the followers of Jesus. (Acts 26: 9-11)

One trip he made was to the city of Damascus planning to kill all the Christians he could find. They traveled over the desolate wastelands and finally saw Damascus with its cool streams and surrounding mountains. While looking at the fair city suddenly a bright light shown from Heaven. it was bright as the sun. (Acts 26: 13) It was too bright to look at. Saul was blinded and fell to the ground.

Then Saul heard a voice in Aramaic asking why Saul was persecuting Him. Saul asked, "Who are you Lord?" Then the voice said, "I am Jesus."

Saul was very frightened and blinded by the light. The men with Saul heard the voice, but saw no man. In the darkness of his blindness, Saul began to understand that he had been totally wrong in killing these people who followed Jesus. He saw that he had not been doing God's work, but Satan's work. He remembered Stephen's sermon and realized the truth. Stephen was right.

Saul asked Jesus what he should do. Jesus told him to go into Damascus and wait for instruction.

For three days Saul was blind and did not want to eat or drink. He felt so bad for all the wonderful people that he had killed. He knew the Bible and suddenly he understood how Jesus had come but had been rejected and crucified on the cross by those He came to help.

As Saul gave himself completely to God, he recognized that his pride in his good works had kept him on Satan's side. Now he like a child felt helpless and asked forgiveness of God for all those he had killed. His conversion was a miracle. He was not immediately told that he would have a job as a missionary. He was told to wait for directions. Then God placed him with His church people. These were the very people that Saul had been planning to kill. Imagine their fear of him. Perhaps some wondered if he was playing a trick on them.

Saul began to preach for God. God changed his name to Paul. He had unusual ability in being an interesting speaker. All who listened were amazed. Some became angry and had the same hate that Paul had started out with. It became very dangerous for Paul to keep preaching because people were planning his death. He went to the Arabian desert to study the Bible for a few years. Then he came back to Damascus and there was so much hate that all who helped him were in danger of death. (Galatians 1: 17-18)

The gates of the city were guarded day and night to prevent him from escaping before they could find and kill him. The brothers in the church stayed up nights trying to figure out a way to help Paul.

Finally the plan was to let him over the tall city wall in a basket. It was a long way down to the ground. The ropes were held firmly as Paul climbed into the basket and the lid was put on. No one saw him but those who made the plan. Slowly and carefully they let the rope slide over the wall with Paul safely inside. The ropes were strong.

I wonder what Paul was thinking as he dangled over the wall knowing his life was in the hands of the men at the top. He had planned to kill them at one time. Had they really forgiven him? What if one of them was still sad over a child Paul had killed when his name was Saul? Was there any desire in their hearts for revenge? What if he had killed the parents of those men at the top? Now would be the perfect chance for them to kill him by just saying, "Oops, he is just too heavy." All they would have to do is let go and Paul would die when he hit the ground outside the Damascus city wall.

There was forgiveness in the hearts of the men holding the basket. They held no anger in their hearts. They had no bitterness or hard feelings. They were full of love. They helped save the life of a man who became a great missionary. Maybe you can help others by being forgiving. Who knows, you might see the very ones you helped become great workers for God. Do not give up hoping and praying for those who are cruel and hateful. Only God knows what He can make them become.