Summary: In the 12th chapter of Acts we see the deliverance of Peter from the hand of Herod. It is an amazing deliverance. James is executed and Peter delivered. Both were ready to die. Shouldn't we be as well?
Acts 12:1-19 (As people look up this Scripture briefly explain the first phrase in the first verse ...)
The first verse says, “It was about this time …”
The events leading up to Chapter 12
Stephen is martyred
Great persecution breaks out
Believers are scattered throughout the empire
Saul persecutes - Saul is saved
Gentiles are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit
Peter is called to Jerusalem to explain
“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.”
Are you worried about what is going on in the USA?
It is almost as if the church has become a doormat for those who wish to wipe their feet on.
There are many reasons for this and much fault lies at the feet of Christians who call themselves Christians but do not know Christ or His Word. And, much fault lies at the feet of lukewarm Christians who try to live with one foot in the kingdom of God and the other foot in the world.
We as Christians in America certainly should live as responsible citizens of the USA, the Bible instructs us to be good citizens and living out the fruit of the Spirit will naturally make us good citizens whether we live in the USA or North Korea.
But in other areas of the world persecution is going on against Christ and His sons and daughters at a horrific rate in horrific ways.
“He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”
We tend to read this and just pass over it to the next verse. James was a leader in the Church of Jerusalem. This is just a simple statement. Herod simply wanted James put to death and he had James executed by being run through, or hacked to death or beheaded with a sword.
It’s not pretty. If he was run through with the sword it could take some time to bleed to death.
However it was done it was a simple fact. Herod wanted James dead and had him killed.
“When [Herod] saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.”
James’ death pleased religious people. Here in Acts 12 religious people are celebrating the death of James the brother of John!
Religion is cruel, sometime inhumanly cruel,
and religious people can be really mean.
Of course we see this very clearly in the Muslim world, where they are killing Christians - and each other.
There was a strange relationship between Herod and the Jews. Herod wanted to please the Jews because of their control over the masses which kept peace in the region and the Jews tolerated Herod because he tolerated them and he might not be as bad as whoever would replace him.
So, Herod wanting to please the Jews, has Peter arrested during one of their most important festivals but does not want to hold the trial until after the Passover so the Jews can have the pleasure of participating in the trial.
Herod wanted to make SURE that Peter stayed in prison. Now the Romans really knew how to build buildings; some of them are still standing after thousands of years and yet Herod assigns four squads of four soldiers to guard Peter and make sure he stays in prison.
That’s a little overkill, isn’t it? Really?
We see later in the account that two of them are actually shackled to Peter and two are standing guard. So, if Peter’s going to get away it’s going to take and act of God!
“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
If our District Superintendent was put into prison because he believes in Jesus and oversees churches who proclaim the Gospel we would be praying for him just like they were praying for Peter.
Things were very different back then. They couldn’t go find a defense lawyer who would go and argue the constitutionality of locking Kevin away for preaching.
Their constitutions consisted of whatever the current Caesar or whatever one of his appointed kings said it was.
They weren’t about to attempt a jailbreak!
They were helpless … except for prayer.
One quote I saw on the internet said:
“Prayer is what you do when there’s nothing else you can do.”
And you know, I really don’t like that saying. How’s this:
“When there is nothing else you can do you can still continue to pray!”