19Then he ate and felt much better.
Saul Preaches in Damascus
For several days Saul stayed with the Lord's followers in Damascus. 20Soon he went to the synagogues and started telling people that Jesus is the Son of God. 21Everyone who heard Saul was amazed and said, “Isn't this the man who caused so much trouble for those people in Jerusalem who worship in the name of Jesus? Didn't he come here to arrest them and take them to the chief priests?”
22Saul preached with such power that he completely confused the Jewish people in Damascus, as he tried to show them that Jesus is the Messiah.
23 Later some of them made plans to kill Saul, 24but he found out about it. He learned that they were guarding the gates of the city day and night in order to kill him. 25Then one night his followers let him down over the city wall in a large basket.
Saul in Jerusalem
26When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the followers. But they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe he was a true follower. 27Then Barnabas helped him by taking him to the apostles. He explained how Saul had seen the Lord and how the Lord had spoken to him. Barnabas also said when Saul was in Damascus, he had spoken bravely in the name of Jesus.
28Saul moved about freely with the followers in Jerusalem and told everyone about the Lord. 29He was always arguing with the Jews who spoke Greek, and so they tried to kill him. 30But the followers found out about this and took Saul to Caesarea. From there they sent him to the city of Tarsus.
31The church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria now had a time of peace and kept on worshiping the Lord. The church became stronger, as the Holy Spirit encouraged it and helped it grow.
Saul’s transformation from a man who persecuted Jesus’s followers to being counted one of them is blindingly swift. After the short period of several days with the Lord’s followers in Damascus, he is publicly preaching the same message he had sought to stop. Soon after, he does the same thing in Jerusalem, and he attempts to join the followers.
Everyone is amazed by his transformation. It is not just those who hate the Lord who are “completely confused.” Even the Lord’s followers are “all afraid.”
By the world’s logic, their confusion is understandable. Saul is not acting like himself. And that is because he is clearly no longer the same man.
Being born again is unnatural. It makes people contradict their established character. Later in life, Saul reflects upon his conversion experience: “I have died, but Christ lives in me. And I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Still, he must have felt rather lonely and even discouraged at this reception in Jerusalem. Even Christians can be reluctant to accept the changes brought by the Holy Spirit.
But God does not leave Saul alone.
Step forward Barnabas. Barnabas (“the son of encouragement”) helped him by introducing him to the leaders of the Jerusalem church. Hearing his testimony, they receive him as a brother.
But growing hostility makes it a short stay.
The apostles, knowing the details of his conversion, change the narrative. Saul no longer simply flees, he is sent out by the church as a missionary among the Gentiles to Tarsus, the most important city in Cilicia.
And Saul’s encouragement to promote the growth of the gospel is matched by the church. It became “stronger, as the Holy Spirit encouraged it and helped it grow.”
We thank you that you don’t simply praise us for everything,
And leave us as we are, weak and helpless in a hostile world,
But use affliction to correct us,
To make us more resolved and more faithful to you.
Encourage us to walk in your faithfulness today.