Acts 9:23-30

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Zach Boihem.

“After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.

So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.”  Acts 9:23-30

In this passage of Scripture, we see Saul just after his encounter with Jesus in a vision – the encounter where Jesus famously says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Earlier in this chapter, before the miraculous vision Saul has, he was threatening to seize and even murder the followers of Jesus.

Understandably, as Saul made his way to Jerusalem, the disciples were afraid of him because of all the terrible rumors they had heard about him. The disciples didn’t realize, however, that Saul was a changed man. Thankfully, one of the disciples named Barnabas was willing to look past the rumors and give Saul a chance.

I love how Barnabas saw something in Saul that the other disciples in Jerusalem didn’t see immediately. Despite the fact that Saul was formerly a fervent persecutor of the church and even a terrorist of sorts, Barnabas’ initial willingness to trust Saul is perhaps one of the main catapults that launched the great apostle to become one of the prominent figures of the early church.

In the book of 1 Samuel, we hear the Lord say to Samuel, “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). I would not be surprised if Barnabas was thinking about these words when he was willing to give Saul a chance.

How often do we make superficial judgments about others because of their race, gender, social status, or even their past? We all have a past, and we all have certain labels that are attributed to us through no fault of our own. Obviously, we do not choose the race, gender, or social class we are born into. And while we have certainly made some poor decisions in our past, hopefully we have repented and moved forward, just like Saul did.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may we show mercy to others as you have shown mercy to us, in spite of our sin and our shortcomings. Help us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Amen.

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