The Boy Who Saved Paul’s Life
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. James 4:17
What you say can get you into far more trouble than what you do! Have you discovered that? It's much like the advice that the mother whale gave her young: "It's when you are spouting that you always get into trouble!"
Paul would have believed that. This brilliant man, a type A personality if ever there was one, always nailed down his argument with the unvarnished facts, and like waving a red flag in front of a bull, what he said drew the anger of his listeners. After Paul had preached the Gospel throughout Asia Minor, he came to Jerusalem and there gave his testimony. His speech went just fine until he mentioned that God had sent him to the Gentiles, and that's when things exploded.
Things got so bad that the Roman commander of the guard feared Paul might actually be killed by his enemies. He intervened, taking him into protective custody. In the meanwhile 40 men took a vow that they would eat nothing until they had killed this alleged rebel who was so brazen as to believe that God loved even those who were not Jews.
But once Paul was under the protection of the Roman army, getting to him was a challenge for these who wanted to get the matter settled so they could start eating again. They convinced the high priest to lean on the Romans and ask them to return Paul to the Jewish council for more questioning. On the way to council, they would attack him.
But there was one big problem which they didn't know about. A youth—a lad who was probably in his teen years—heard about the plot. He just happened to be the son of Paul's sister who lived in Jerusalem where Paul was. This lad took it upon himself to let Paul know what was in the wind. He went to the garrison where Paul was being kept, and asked to talk to Uncle Paul--who upon hearing the bad news asked that the lad be given an audience with the commander of the garrison.
When the commander heard the news, he took the issue seriously and ordered an armed guard to assemble in the night and whisk Paul to safety in Caesarea. Luke never tells us whether those 40 men starved to death or went back on their vow to death. I suspect the former, but who knows?
Of one thing, though, we can be certain. This teenager saved the life of Paul. His moment in the spotlight is brief, but tremendously important. History doesn't tell us what happened to him, whether he became a missionary or a martyr, but we do know that it took courage to take the risk of exposing the plot. His courage saved the life of the man who wrote 13 letters in the New Testament and is the most admired man of the New Testament, apart from Jesus Christ.
Ernest Hemingway is credited with saying that courage is fear that has prayed. Perhaps he is right, but I do know one thing: when you know that something must be done and do it, your act of bravery may not only save a life but a generation.
Exposing corruption or dishonesty takes courage. Standing alone while others go along with the crowd often makes you an enemy, but when Paul stood alone, forsaken by his friends, Jesus Christ stood with him. "Take courage!" He said. "As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome," spoke our Lord.
The real heroes are those who have the courage to abide by their convictions and do what has to be done. As Golda Meir once put it, "If not I, who? If not now, when?" The question is still valid today.
Resource reading: Acts 23:12-24.