“How was your weekend?” Paul asked.
“It was good,” I said. “I had a remarkable time with Ezra, walking through his story. I think I’ll have to talk with him here sometime. I talked with some people about his passion: ‘Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.’ And I thought about you.”
Paul smiled. “That’s related to my autobiography to the people in Galatia.”
I couldn’t see the connection. I told him so.
“After I saw Jesus I knew there was no way I could go to Jerusalem. My switch from killing followers of the Way to being a follower made it dangerous back there. One group would try to kill me, the other would be terrified of me. More importantly, I was a law scholar. Having seen the error of my thinking, I had to wrestle it out with God, taught by the Spirit.”
“So that’s why you went to Arabia?”
“It may be. And to begin preaching where the focus would be on the message and not the messenger.”
“But you didn’t stay out of those situations for long,” I said. “You started preaching in Damascus again.”
“I was away for years rather than days,” Paul said. “Though I don’t blame Luke for how people read his stories, time is often condensed by readers. I followed Jesus in Damascus, left for a time of reflection and refocusing, and returned to Damascus.”
“And almost got killed,” I said. “But that you don’t mention in this letter. Your emphasis, if I understand, is that during that whole time you didn’t go to Jerusalem. The first years of your ministry on the Way were away from the apostles. So why did you finally go to Jerusalem?”
“If I said, ‘God arranged it’, would that satisfy your curiosity?” Paul smiled. “Or would it just raise more questions? Is it enough to say that it was finally time for me to visit with Peter for a couple weeks? Not for discipling, not for mentoring, not for approval. But we needed to meet face-to-face.”
I wanted to know more about whether it was God-arranged. But Paul seemed to be lost in thought about that meeting. So I went back to thinking about studying and obeying and teaching.
I am grateful for help from Douglas Moo’s commentary on Galatians: Galatians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament).