By WALTER ALBRITTON
Before he met Jesus, Saul was a brilliant pharisee living in Jerusalem. After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Saul believed the growing number of people who called themselves followers of Jesus were a threat to Judaism. So alarmed was Saul that he became, in his own words, a persecutor of Christians, and began arresting these dangerous Christians and putting them in jail. That was Saul’s mission when he met the risen Christ on his way to Damascus.
Stunned by a bright light “from heaven,” Saul was led, blind and helpless, into Damascus. There a disciple named Ananias prayed for him; his eyesight was restored and he was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Saul was baptized as he embraced the faith and his new mission – to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. Nurtured by the small band of believers in Damascus, he began preaching in the synagogues that the Christ was the Son of God. But he had no idea that his preaching would soon lead to humiliation.
The Jews became so angry with Saul’s preaching that they decided to kill him. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, explains it this way: “Now, after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.”
Suddenly, the proud scholar was a basket case! Knowing his former friends, the Jews, planned to kill him, he fears for his life. His new friends come up with a plan of escape; they will put Saul in a large basket and in the dead of night lower it with ropes over the wall. Imagine how Saul felt. Questions filled his mind. Are the ropes strong? And who is going to hold the rope and make sure he does not fall to his death? His future was dependent upon a few nameless disciples who would hold the rope that held that basket. How humiliating!
Fortunately for the Christian movement, Saul did escape and with a new life and a new name, he fulfilled the mission Christ gave him as the great Apostle Paul.
Paul’s basket is a symbol of what often happens to those who follow Christ. There are occasions when each of us is a basket case needing the help of Christian friends. At other times each of us is called upon to hold the rope for others.
This lesson is clear: if you belong to Christ, you belong also to the others who belong to Christ, and you will often have rope burns on your hands! If you never have rope burns, as a result of holding the rope for others, then you do not truly belong to that fellowship known as the Body of Christ.
I have been a basket case more than once. I know what it is like to be humiliated by circumstances beyond my control. And I know the unspeakable joy of having friends get rope burns on their hands holding the rope for me until I recovered. The love of such friends prompts me to be available when someone in trouble needs me.
Take a good look at your hands. If you do not find some fresh rope burns on your hands, it may not be too late to offer your help to some hurting friend. Believe me, you will never be ashamed to see rope burns on your hand because you went out of your way to help a friend. Surely the cry of every heart is the same: When I am in the basket, please don’t let go of the rope!