Summary: The Lord rescues and delivers those who put their trust in Him.
“And the Chains Fell Off”
Acts 12:1-17 …and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists (7).
Intro: This was the ultimate prison break. How does a person escape while chained to two guards, being watched by several more guards, and being locked behind doors and a secure gate? It was virtually impossible for Peter to get out of this one- yet he did.
-We might feel like we are locked in our problems and life situations. We don’t see any possible way out. However, the things that are too hard for man are doable with God! That is what I’d like to talk about today.
Prop: The Lord rescues and delivers those who put their trust in Him.
Interrogative: How is such a prison break possible in our lives?
TS: Let’s look at a few principles found in our text that show us how much God wants to bring about our freedom from anything that holds us in bondage.
I. Bound by Two Chains
-It appears that the king of this region, Herod Agrippa I, was doing all he could to stay on the good side of the influential Jews in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, many of these influential Jews wanted nothing more than to see all of the followers of Jesus wiped out. Herod’s grandmother was Jewish, so he exploited his ancestry, participating in temple worship, and appearing to observe the law of Moses. The Sanhedrin accepted him as one of their own, and he probably brought James to trial through the Sanhedrin.
-It is noteworthy that James was killed by the sword. By Jewish law, if someone enticed a Jew to participate in idolatry, then he was to be stoned to death. However, if someone caused a whole city to serve other gods, then he was to be killed with the sword (Deut. 13:6-18). James was likely executed as a representative of all the Messianic believers who had made a huge impact on Jerusalem. The Jews believed that the followers of Jesus had committed idolatry by equating Jesus with God, and their faith in Jesus had spread all over Jerusalem.
-So James was dead – one of the 3 disciples who had been closest to Jesus (Peter, James, and John). Now Peter, for all practical purposes, was on death row, awaiting his own trial and execution. What do you suppose he was feeling? Well, v.6 says he was bound by two chains. No doubt those were two physical chains used to restrain Peter from escape, but let’s look at 2 things that the chains could represent.
-The first chain might represent grief. Peter was no doubt grieving the loss of his fellow disciple and friend, James. In fact, he had probably spent some of his incarceration weeping and mourning the death of James. You’ll never find Jesus condemning the expression of grief. You will find Him bringing comfort and healing, but you’ll never find Him silencing the God-given emotions that arise when someone close to us dies. In fact, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” One of the chains that weighed down the arms of Peter was sorrow. Yet, it wasn’t the sorrow that those without God have when someone close to them dies. In John 16:20, Jesus told His disciples, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” Also, Paul writes, “We do not want you to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). If you know Jesus you have hope when you lose a loved one; but for a time, grief can be a heavy chain that holds you down.
-The 2nd chain might represent injustice or mistreatment. Peter had seen a lot of injustice from rulers in his time. He had witnessed the kangaroo court that was responsible for putting Jesus to death. He had been with Jesus when Herod’s uncle, Herod Antipas, had put John the Baptist to death on the whim of a lustful promise. Peter himself had already been put in prison at least twice, and flogged once, based on false accusations and injustice. His good friend Stephen had been stoned to death because of his faith. He had every reason to hate these crooked, selfish, power-hungry murderers who made up the Sanhedrin. Yet somehow he didn’t hate them. He remembered what Jesus had told him several years earlier: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).