Summary: No one, not a single person in this story expects Peter to be released. Not Herod, not the guards, not the people of the church, not even Peter himself. Still, God answers the prayer.
Note to reader: I have hot-links to various subjects in this sermon. The document with the active links can be found in PDF form at this web address: http://www.firstpresanchorage.org/Sermons.htm (The sermon is titled the same: "King Herod’s Early Release Program") The links are not active in this document on sermon central. May our Lord Jesus empower you as you write your sermon for your congregation. -Peter
Here in our Scripture this morning, we have a powerful example of answered prayer.
Peter is arrested, the church prays, dramatic results occur. It is fairly simple stuff isn’t it? Peter is arrested, the church prays, dramatic results occur. Insanely straight forward, completely uncomplicated, easily comprehensible: Problem, pray about it, solution.
It can’t get any clearer than that.
So, it seems clear that this is what we do: When bad things come our way, we get the church together to pray, and God will take care of things. That’s appears to be the example we see here in Acts 12.
Hold on. Let’s look again at our Scripture.
Verse 2, “He, (that’s Herod Agrippa) had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
The Apostle James was the number one guy in the church in Jerusalem. Without a doubt the church prayed for James’ freedom, without a doubt the word traveled across the country about James’ imprisonment, without a doubt thousands of prayers rose to the throne of God. James is a godly man, a good man, James is one of Jesus’ three closest disciples; The church needs James, James is much loved by all; James is a deeply spiritual man and James has committed no crime nor has he broken any laws.
All that said, James is not released from prison is he? Instead, he is dragged out of his cell and executed by the sword. He is given a death without honor, for execution by the sword was reserved for those who had led away many people worshiping false gods (Deut. 13:14-16). It was reserved for those the religious leaders wanted to dishonor. Execution by the sword was specifically ordered for James to shame him before the population of Jerusalem.
God intervenes for Peter, but fails to act for James. Further, God allow James, a very honorable man, to die with dishonor?
How did things come to this?
Certainly the Lord God protects the ones he loves.
Let’s see how life can quickly take a turn for the bad for us and how God can move us through difficult times by taking a closer look at our Scripture.
If you look at verse 3 you will see that Herod Agrippa has Peter arrested. Peter has not committed any crime, but that is of no consequence, Herod Agrippa can arrest anyone at will. He’s the king.
At first the Christian church was held great favor with the Jews, but over time the Christian church was literally decimating the population of the Jewish Synagogues by pulling synagogue members into the Christian church. Further, we saw last week that the church reached out to the Pagans and now the population of the church had more Christianized pagans than Christianized Jews. So many Jews, especially Jewish leaders would welcome persecution of the church.