October 3, 2021
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
I. The Night the
Luke gets it over quickly, so matter-of-factly: “[Herod] killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2).
In the flow of the story this little phrase sets the stage for Peter’s dramatic prison rescue by the angel. So that’s what we remember.
Peter later wrote, “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Peter 2:9), it would seem he had to be focused on this moment.
But the night that James sat in prison the angel didn’t come.
I’m sure he prayed for an angel.
He knew God could send one if he wanted to.
An angel had already rescued him and the other disciples once before, in chapter 5.
But this night there was no bright light, no chains falling off, no sleeping guards.
Just desperate prayers and fitful dozing—if he slept at all.
In the morning James was still in jail when the dreaded voice of the captain of the guard shouted, “Bring out the prisoner!”
There was an anxiety-filled, prayerful walk to the place of execution.
There was a pronouncement of guilt.
Possibly there was an offer of pardon in exchange for recanting, followed by a refusal.
There was a raised sword.
There was a wince of fearful anticipation.
But no deliverance.
Or was there?
Jesus allowed the sword to fall on James as intentionally as he opened Peter’s prison door.
This question is relevant because at some point most of us will find ourselves facing death, pleading for deliverance, and not receiving what we think we are asking for.
It points to a difficult lesson that all of Jesus’ disciples must learn:
Jesus often has different priorities than we do.
What may feel desperately urgent to us may not be urgent to him,at least not in the same way.
Remember how Jesus slept in the boat during the storm (Mark 4:38)?
The disciples panicked at the fear of drowning and cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” .
He calmed the storm and then said to them, “Why are you so afraid?
Have you still no faith?”
Jesus’ lesson was clear: guys you’re afraid of the wrong thing.
When he was sending out the 12 he told them. “Don’t fear what or who can kill your body,” but fear and trust God because He rules over storms and death (Matthew 10:28).
Jesus knew that there were more dangerous “storms” ahead for the disciples, ones that would kill them.
They needed to know whom to fear.
And so do we. Unless Jesus returns first, every one of us will face a storm that will kill us.
And our initial response may be similar to the disciples’ in the boat: Jesus, don’t you care that I am perishing?
In that moment we need to remember that he cares deeply.
He wept beside Lazarus’ and understand the pain of death and grief.
And we need to remember that he knows what death is like and will be with us and help us say as he said to the Father, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
We also need to remember James, and others who were faith as we read in
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
There is the real key to understanding Acts 12:2: Maybe Jesus let James die because he had a better life to give him.
James was not being neglected by Jesus.
He was in fact the first of the Twelve to experience what Jesus prayed for.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me from the foundation of the world.”
Peter’s deliverance from prison was remarkable: But he lived to die another day.
James experienced the true deliverance:
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
There will come a time when Jesus’ prayer for us to be with him will overrule our prayer for prolonged earthly life.
And when it does, we will experience a life so far better, richer, fuller, purer, and more joyful
We will probably shake our heads in wonder that we were ever reluctant to leave here.
II. The Night
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
When faced with a crisis don’t freak out Pray!
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.
After putting Peter in prison, Herod Agrippa ordered him to be guarded with the maximum security arrangement at the time for a prisoner:
Four squads, each comprised of four soldiers, guarded Peter around the clock in shifts of three hours during the night and six hours during the day.
During each shift, two soldiers were inside the prison cell and actually chained to Peter, while two soldiers stood guard outside the prison cell.
You might ask why would Herod do that?
Peter had a habit of disappearing from prison
Acts 5 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
The Number of Challenges means little to an all powerful God.
At least ten roadblocks stood between Peter and freedom.
Two chains (Acts 12:6)
Two soldiers (Acts 12:6) at the other end of those chains,
The door (Acts 12:6) of his prison cell,
The two guards (Acts 12:6) on the other side of that door,
The first and the second guard posts (Acts 12:10)
And last of all “the iron gate” (Acts 12:10).
How confident was the “angel of the Lord” Very!!.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
We can Follow God with Boldness because he is leading with Boldness.
And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
III. The Night the Church forgot
Just because you pray doesn’t mean you believe……
When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
An all night prayer service.
This is one of those moments I would love to have a sneak peak at.
They are praying for Peter, probably something like:
Maybe they were loud and weeping and intense.
And during that moment, Rhoda hears knocking on the door it’s Peter, she interrupts the prayer meeting to say Peter is at the door, I heard his voice it’s him I’m sure of it.
And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
Meanwhile peter is knocking at the door.
But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
It seems they were praying but not really expecting anything to happen.
And would you say that happens to us sometimes?
We know how to pray.
We know how to quote scriptures in prayer for certain situations but when God answers your prayer your like, wow, deep inside is like I didn’t expect him to do so.
We’re surprised that God answered our prayer.
The whole time we’re been praying but not really expecting anything.
Just because you and I pray doesn’t mean we believe.
The Bible doesn’t instruct us just to pray, it instructs us to pray with faith.
God is not pleased because I pray, God is pleased when I pray believing in Him.
When you and I just pray for religiosity purposes or rituals but there is no faith, are we really praying at all.
Prayer that God desires is a prayer with faith.
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
It’s not just about praying, it’s about praying believing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord…