“In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Cor. 11:32-33).
How often great issues in the out-working of the divine plan have seemingly “hung by a thread.” Sometimes quite literally so. As, for example, the spies in Jericho (Josh. 2:15), or David, the king-designate (1 Sam. 19:12). Later still the prophet with the message of impending judgment (Jer. 38:13).
In the incident recorded by Paul in the above verses, he recalls how he was lowered from the city walls at Damascus, in a basket, that he might escape the hands of those who sought his hurt and the termination of his witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was the very embodiment of the purpose of God in the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and indeed “to the whole world.” He had been specially chosen for the task — he was equipped by all the gracious working of the divine Spirit that he might be “a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
On the human level the destruction of Paul would have meant the destruction of years of wonderful fruitful service in the preaching of the Gospel. Thousands who heard the Word from the lips of Paul, and the many who believed, would never have done so. These wonderful letters to the churches for their guidance and instruction which have been so carefully preserved by the power of God that they might remain throughout the Church’s history here as a source of illumination and help, would never have been written. Is it possible to conceive our New Testament without the epistles of Paul? Yet his slaughter at the hands of his enemies would have meant just that.
How important then that he should escape! How important that he should be placed beyond the ability of these men to carry out the evil designs of their master and so frustrate the greater purposes of God! No wonder Paul records this experience as being an important one — it was! And yet perhaps its importance to Paul lay mostly in the fact that it was carried through successfully in close fellowship with others. And only inas much as others were involved was it possible at all. He could not have escaped alone. Fellowship in the work of the Gospel was a very real thing with Paul and these disciples that night!
There was the basket. Who brought it? By its domesticated sound perhaps it was a sister that provided the basket! Whether or not it was does not matter overmuch. The basket was necessary and there was a disciple willing to provide one.
There was a rope. One of those disciples brought his rope. We can be assured it was a well-tried one, admirably suited to the purpose in hand. That disciple knew it was strong enough to hold the basket and Paul, and so to bring this venture to its successful conclusion.
There were willing hands to tie the rope and basket and to steady the load through the window and down over the wall to the ground. We can be assured that behind the hands there were hearts and minds likewise willing and united in the carrying out of this task. There would be no argument as to method . . . no one would oppose his fellow with a “different view,” no one would seek preference over his fellow; that night their hearts would beat as one in the urgency of the task and in their common loyalty to the Lord Jesus and His servant, whose escape they were conniving.
All that they did was done in a deep sense of responsibility to their Master and His cause as represented by Paul. They knew that Paul was helpless without them — and Paul knew it too — but together they pulled it off! Paul was set down safely to the ground and as he set off in the darkness it must have been with a song in his heart — that song that afterwards rang out in jubilant note in a Gentile prison (Acts 16:25) — and its echo must have remained with those disciples as they carefully went back to their homes. They would take leave of each other with a warm grip of the hand, each with the other. No “class distinction,” no comparing of “gift”; they were one in this task and they had seen it through.
Paul we know, and his reward is assured as he himself knew and testified (2 Tim. 4:8). What do we know of those disciples? Nothing but this simple story of their faithfulness in fellowship with Paul. We can be very sure that the Master has a full record of their exploit that night and that full reward will be given in a coming day (2 Cor. 5:10).
Our Duty Today
The Master’s commission stands yet; even after nineteen centuries and more it is still uncompleted. What has happened? Have there failed men to step into “the basket,” to go out into the night with the best of all services, to proclaim Christ among the heathen races of the earth? Or is it that there have not been sufficient loyal, loving hearts to “man the walls” and see God’s servants through, linked with them in their enterprise in the Gospel? Or is it that baskets and ropes (still needed in the form of a variety of equipment) have been wanting, and so God’s servants have lacked the means of getting away and out in the cause of Christ? Whatever it is that has been lacking, the stark fact stands out plain for all to see: more than one half of the world’s population still lies in the midnight of ignorance of God and His plan of redemption. For the generations that have gone we are not accounted responsible, neither for those that will be born tomorrow. But let us take this to heart that for the generation of men alive in the world today we are solemnly responsible before God. We have the message. We also have the commission to deliver it.
Where are the men? Where are the baskets and ropes? Where are those that willingly stay “on the wall,” but whose whole interests are with those that “go” and who give all that they are and have that their mission may be successful?