Summary: This sermon examines the peace the Peter had while awaiting execution.
Do you remember praying as a child? Do you remember the words that you prayed? Let’s try it together: “Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.” But what if when you laid down to sleep you knew that would be the last time you ever laid down to sleep?
What if when you closed your eyes you knew it would be the last time you would ever close your eyes to sleep. What if you knew when you went to bed tonight that tomorrow night you would be history, that you would never again hold the ones you loved, that you would never again be held by the ones who loved you. That you would never see another sunset, never hear another bird sing, never live another day. How would you sleep?
I’ve read that they often put a suicide watch on prisoners in the United States who have been sentenced to death. Probably don’t want the prisoner to cheat the state out of all their fun. I mean do they really use an alcohol swab to sterilize the site for the lethal injection?
If you knew that tomorrow there was a pretty good chance that you would die, do you think you’d be able to sleep?
I’m not sure if I would be able to or if my mind would be racing with regrets and what if’s. Wondering if I had said good byes and thank-yous to all the right people. Asking myself if I had left a mark and whether or not I’d be remembered.
That was exactly the situation that Peter was in. King Herod had ordered execution of James who was the brother of John, maybe you remember him as one of the sons of Thunder, or Zebedee’s boy, or one of the original group that Jesus called to be his disciples. It really doesn’t matter but what does matter is that he was executed by King Herod. One line finishes the story of James, you’ll find it in Acts 12:2 He (Herod) had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. And that was all that was written. Herod had James killed.
Now perhaps you’re thinking “I remember King Herod he was the king who ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem killed when Jesus was born.” Well you’re partially right, that was King Herod but it wasn’t this King Herod. Then you’re thinking that it must have been the King Herod that had John the Baptist killed. Well again you are partially right, it was King Herod but not this King Herod. This is in fact King Herod Agrippa and after he saw how much his killing James had pleased the Jewish leaders he thought, “Great, all I have to do to become popular is kill Christians.”
Justin Trudeau and Stephen McNeil, they have to reduce taxes to be popular, but Herod he just had to kill preachers. And so he figured “If killing James made me popular think how popular I would be if I killed Peter”, and so he had Peter arrested and thrown into Jail.
Now it was the Jewish celebration of Passover, probably the 12th Passover since Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead, and Herod couldn’t very well execute Peter during the holidays so he decides that as soon as Passover is done, then he will separate Peter’s head from the rest of his body.
And so here Peter is, in prison, waiting to stand trial with execution being a very, very real possibility. As a matter of fact, it was virtually the only probable outcome of the trial.
It’s the night before the trial, the church has called a prayer meeting and they are up praying. I don’t know if they were praying for Peter’s release or if they were praying for Peter to have the courage and strength to face his imminent demise. We don’t know, but we do know that they were praying. And Peter, you’d think that Peter would either be wide awake worrying or wide awake praying.
But that wasn’t the case, instead of being wide awake for anything Peter was sound asleep.
Chained between two Roman soldiers this boy wasn’t just napping he was out like a light, dead to the world so to speak.
And suddenly a great light filled the prison cell and standing there was an angel, and Peter didn’t wake up. Boy you gotta hate that, this angel had this great entrance, poof, a great light fills the cell and there stands this great big strapping angel shinning in all his glory and Peter doesn’t wake up, at all. Having lost all of the impact of a dramatic entrance the angel pokes Peter and says, “Hey, come on wake up we’re out of here.” Or something like that.