About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapters 12
12 is a transitional chapter in the book of Acts.
Peter begins to fade from the picture and Paul begins to be
prominent. This does not mean
that Peter's ministry was fading because it wasn't.
It simply means that the story line shifts from Peter to Paul.
This is due to the fact that Luke accompanied Paul on many of his
trips. Luke knew more about
Paul's ministry than Peter's ministry.
begins chapter 12 by saying, "it was about this timeÖ",
meaning, the time when Agabus gave his prophecy about the famine as seen
in the last part of the last chapter.
During this time, King Herod arrested many in the church.
Herod was in fact King over the
were a number of Herod's in the last century B C and the first century A D.
This particular Herod died in the middle of 44 A D.
He was named Herod Agrippa the first. There was Herod Agrippa
the second that we will see later on in the book os Acts.
2 tells us that Herod had James, the brother of John, not James the
brother of Jesus, killed. You
might remember in the gospel accounts that two of Jesus' disciples, James
and John, argued who should be the greatest among them.
James and John were brothers. It's
this James who Herod executed.
most likely wanted to persecute the church and kill Christians in order to
eliminate the growing problems between Jews and Christians.
Any problem in his province would not be looked on with much favour
in the eyes of the emperor. Some
of these provincial kings back then lost jobs over mismanagement of their
province, and Herod would not want that.
verse 3 Luke notes that when Herod saw that the execution of James pleased
the Jews, he had Peter arrested as well.
Arresting Peter, one of the main leaders in the church would really
impress the Sanhedrin. The
Jews had always been a potential source of problems for Herod and if Herod
could keep the Jews happy by imprisoning Christians, he would like that.
Christians were a new group on the scene, so they had not been a
traditional problem like the Jews. Herod didn't need another group in is
province to bother him. One
group was enough.
all happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was the second of
the seven Jewish feast mandated in the Law of Moses.
The plan was that Peter was to be put in prison, then after the
Passover, put on trial for all to see.
verse 4 Peter was guarded by four teams of four soldiers in each team.
These teams would take turns in guarding Peter.
Verse 5 says that while Peter was in prison "the church earnestly prayed for him". You will note that the early church was a group of people who did a lot of praying. Of course, they needed all the help they could get from the Lord. They were always under pressure. That was one reason why they were strong in the Lord. It is a bit humorous though that when we see that Peter was miraculously released from prison and appeared at the doorstep of those praying, they were very surprised. As a matter of fact, they were in unbelief.
verse 6 Luke says that the night before Peterís trial, he was in prison,
chained between two guards, with guards standing at the prison door.
He was well guarded, and well secured in prison.
I'm sure Luke mentions this to make it clear that Peter's escape
was indeed a miracle.
we view problems as being out of the will of God.
That's not always true. It
certainly wasn't true in this case. Problems
and trials can easily be God's will for us.
7 tells us that suddenly, in the middle of the night an angel appeared to
Peter and "struck him on his side and woke him up".
The angel told Peter to "get up".
At this point the chains fell off Peterís wrists.
This was clearly a miracle.
verses 8 through 12 this angel told Peter to get dressed.
Once Peter was ready, the angel led him out of the jail cell.
They walked by two sets of guards on their way to a large iron gate
that led to a street. This
iron gate opened for them and they left the premise and began walking down
the city street. This is yet
another miracle in the process of Peter's escape.
Shortly after this, the angel disappeared.
event tells us something about angels.
Angels aren't just spirit beings floating around in heaven.
When you see angels in Scripture, they're always doing something in
relation to the earth. As
the first chapter of Hebrews says, angels are ministering spirits, sent
from heaven to earth to perform some kind of task.
verse 9 we see that Peter was somewhat beside himself at the appearance of
this angel. Luke records that
he was not sure if he was seeing another vision, or this was the real
thing. Once finding himself
free and on the city streets, he realized that another miracle from God
had taken place in his life. This
was a real angel.
this realization came to Peter, as we see in verse 11, he said, "Now
I know that without a doubt that the Lord has sent His angel and rescued
me from Herodís clutches and everything the Jewish people were
anticipating". What were the Jews anticipating?
They were waiting for the trial and the execution of Peter.
12 tells us that once Peter understood what was happening to him, he went
to the house of one called Mary, the mother of John. The John spoken of
here is John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark.
We see him later in verse 25 as well as in other parts of Acts.
He spent time with Paul on part of Paul's first missionary trip.
It was this John Mark that Paul and Barnabas argued over.
Peter calls John Mark his son, as in spiritual son in 1 Peter 5:13.
Mark was also a cousin
of Barnabas. (see Colossians 4:10) Because
Peter calls Mark his son, Peter might well have led him to Jesus. Most
Bible teachers understand the gospel of Mark to be the gospel of Peter's
recollections to Mark. In one
sense of the word, the gospel of Mark is the gospel of Peter.
verse 13 we note that inside Maryís home were "many people"
who had gathered to pray. Peter
knocks on the door and a servant girl named Rhoda came to the door.
This tells us that most likely Mary was financially secure because
she had a servant. She was
most likely a widow, since the house was herís, and not her husbandís.
Some people suggest that the upper room in Acts 2 is the room in
which these people were praying in, but that's a bit speculative.
note hear that there are two doors to Mary's house.
As was the case back then, there was an outside door on the street
and then an inside door. The
outside door could well be a gate. Rhoda
left Peter out on the street where he could easily be seen by the Roman
verse 14 Rhoda was so excited when hearing Peterís voice that she
immediately ran back to tell the others inside the house and failed to
open the door for Peter.
verse 15 the people who had been praying for Peter's release told Rhoda
that she was out of her mind. She
kept on persisting that she had heard Peter's voice.
They said that what she heard must have been Peter's angel.
These people apparently thought that Peter was already dead and
"his angel" was standing outside.
Jewish, and some Christian, tradition holds to people having angels
watching over them. They're
often called "guardian angels".
Some see Jesus' comments in Matthew 18:10 as proof of guardian
angels. Jesus speaks of
"their angels" in this passage.
"Their angels" in this passage seems to be in reference
to the angels of children but many Bible teachers suggest that it is
really the angels of new believers Jesus is speaking about. All that being said, the term "Peter's
angel" might well be in reference to Peter's spirit sense these
people probably felt that Peter had already been executed.
verse 16 we see Peter keep knocking on the door. You might wonder what was
going through his mind as he was knocking.
Was he wondering if the guards would soon catch up to him and
capture him again? Was he
wondering why no one would let him in?
people finally came to the door, and as Luke put it, "were
astonished" to see Peter standing there.
This is typical humanity. We
pray for something and when our prayers get answered we're blown away.
verse 17 we see that it must have been quite a noisy affair because Peter
had to "motion with his hands" to tell them to be quiet.
Even Peter could not raise his voice sufficiently to speak over the
excitement of these people. He
then proceeded to "tell them how the Lord had brought him out of
specifically tells these people to relate this event to "James and
the brothers". Who is
"James and the other brothers"?
This James is understood to be the brother of Jesus.
The "other brothers" were probably the elders of the
Stephen was executed, you remember that most of the Christians fled
therefore appears that apostolic authority in the
thing to note hear is that the idea of a lead elder among elders is not
what Paul taught to the Gentile churches, but appears to be what was
happening in the Jewish church in
this point we can sum up the evolution of the church to date.
In Acts 2 we see the one hundred and twenty, with the twelve men in
charge. Some might suggest
that Peter is a leader among these twelve men since he was the one who
organized the replacement for Judas. The
church grows to three thousand on the day of Pentecost, and continues to
grow. In Acts 6 we have the
addition of the seven administrators, who some call deacons.
Then at some point, at least in the
this was truly a natural progression, we can then ask ourselves, is the
church still naturally evolving, or was there a certain time in New
Testament history when the church became what it was meant to be?
In other words, should we expect a natural progression of what
church looks like over the years and into the future?
Should church always be changing to reflect the day in which it
believe that church should change to meet the needs of the generation in
which it lives. On the other
hand, I also believe that there are New Testament concepts about church
structure that should not change. One
example of this is plurality of leadership.
thinking of the
verse 17 we see Peter "leaving for another place.
Where Peter went we donít know.
I believe Peter jus went somewhere to hide, and it might well have
been out of town.
verse 18 we see what had happened to the guards that were watching Peter
in prison. Roman law made
guards responsible and liable for their prisoners.
Thus, the NIV tells us that Herod killed these men. There
is some discrepancy in manuscripts here.
Some say that the guards were executed while other say they were
led away. The NIV might have
understood that the guards were executed even though the text may have
said "led away" because by Roman law and culture, these guards
were most likely killed.
these guards were killed, the death of these guards is interesting.
Because the Lord caused Peterís escape, men were killed.
You might conclude that innocent lives were lost because of a
miracle Jesus had performed. Why
would Jesus allow people to be killed because of something good He had
answer to this question might merely be speculation.
People often say, "If there is a good God, why are people
dying for no good reason"? You
could ask a similar question here. If
Jesus is so good, why would He do anything that would cause the death of
innocent men? There might be
something else to think about here. I
can't see Peter being in prison and not preaching the gospel to these
guards. They might well have
become Christian. If that was
the case, then their death is not a tragedy, at least in the eyes of God.
If they did not become Christian, but did in fact hear the gospel,
then they had a chance to get saved, but refused.
That would take away the question of a good God doing not so good
things. God would have given
them the chance to be saved.
records how King Herod passed away, most likely because of the nature of
his death, and also because he had just been talking about him.
When the text uses the word "King", we need to think king
in terms of a governor. He was governor of the Roman province
20 tells us that those in the cities of
verse 22 Luke records that the people who listened to Herod cried out,
"This man is the voice of a god, not a man".
Luke then goes on to say in verses 22 and 23 that an angel of the
Lord struck Herod dead, because he did not give glory to God in response
to the peopleís voices of praise for him.
non-Christian Jewish first century historian Josephus records this very
event in his writings.
He pointed out that Hared was wearing a silver laced robe on the
day when he settled the dispute.
The robe sparkled from the sun and as a result, the people viewed
him as a god, especially in light of the fact he had just negotiated
says that upon looking upward Hared saw an owl, who he understood to come
to judge him because of the adoration of the people that he didn't reject.
Hared felt his stomach become very sick and in five days he died.
event tells us that God does intervene in the affairs of men and nations.
We have seen the Lord involved miraculously in his people, but here
He was miraculously involved in the life of a sinner, and that a political
who are Deists believe that God created all things, then stepped back and
let all things carry on in their own power.
They donít believe that God interferes in the affairs of men and
He only got the ball rolling, so to speak, yet this event tells a
If you believe this story to be true, then you cannot be a Deist,
because God definitely stepped into the affairs of men and nations.
Christians aren't Deists.
does intervene in the affairs of men, leaders, and nations today.
That can be seen in
verses 21 through 23 we see that Luke and Josephus are on the same page
when it comes to history.
The only fact that Luke adds that Josephus doesn't mention is that
an angel of the Lord struck Hared down.
verse 24 Luke says, "But the Word of God continued to increase and
To me, Luke is saying that even though there is still great
pressure against the church, the message had not been constrained.
The gospel was still being spread more rapidly than ever.
And such is the case.
The gospel has always been most active and successful in times of
The persecution itself brings more attention to the good news,
resulting in people seeing that it must be worth something if people
believe it is worth dying for.
think the western church as gotten slack in these days because we haven't
experienced the pressure as Peter did here in this chapter.
This is changing and will continue to change.
Yet, because of the freedom we've had, and I'd say it is because of
the influence of the gospel on society, we have turned this freedom into a
license to be worldly.
We are now beginning to pay for this.
chapter closes with Luke telling us that Saul and Barnabas "completed
their mission", that is the delivery of funds to the impoverished
They returned to