Summary: Peter Excapes from jail and execution. Peter and the disciples are surprised, the guards are all surprised.
I hope that you are not tiring with our study of acts. It is a book that has all these little stories that have been put together to tell about the early days of the church. Last week we heard about Barnabas and his work @ Antioch. How he brought Saul into the picture.
The big idea is that the Gentiles are really accepting the Good news and are converting. We considered the importance of being called Christians and we connected that to the fact that people noticed that they are not Jews and the nick name or slur of Christian plastered on theses church members.
The point to consider was whither we are recognized as Christians by what we say and do.
Last weeks scripture ended with Barnabas and Saul taking the gift of Cash to Jerusalem to help with the coming famine.
So today’s reading picks up telling us that it is in the same time frame that this part of the story happened.
We have jumped back to what is happening in Jerusalem. There is still persecution. The Jewish officials are not the ones that we hear about doing the attacks. It is the Roman Governor, perhaps responding to request from the Jewish officials, That takes up the persecution. The soldiers do a sweep and pick up some believers. Among them is James, brother of John, one of the 12. In fact he is one of the top three, Peter, James and John….One of the inner circle leaders.
We have caught one of the big fish!
The best way to defeat an army is to kill the leader. James is beheaded. We don’t know if there was other torcher…I is very easy to assume so as this is a horrible culture to be involved with, especially if you are perceived to be against Herod….
Man that Herod has been around a long time hasn’t he. Started before Jesus birth…On wait, he died right, then the family came back to Israel.
It seems like when we look at these early scripture days we have more Heords than you can keep straight.
There are 4 “Herods” that we hear about in the NT.
The first one we read bout in the Gospel of Matthew, “Herod the Great” who was the ruler of Jerusalem when the Magi came calling for the “King of the Jews.” He was the one that ordered the killing of babies in Bethlehem in order to kill the competition.
Next was Herod Antipas. Luke and Mark tell us about him. He is the Herod that beheaded John the Baptist. And he is also the one that judged Jesus.
The third was Herod Agrippa (one I) I. He is the Herod in our story today that kills James and wants to kill Peter.
The forth that is Herod Agrippa II, Peter will be tried later in the book of Acts (25)
So Herod Agrippa I, holds an execution and is just tickled with the reviews for the show he puts on. The Jews loved it and you know how hard they are to please.
To improve his popularity ratings, he looks for the star of his next execution day and goes after Peter, the known head of the sect. If he can keep the Jews happy in Jerusalem he will look really good to the Roman management.
In their sweep he gets his hands on Peter, but it is during the feast of Un-Leavened bread, the beginning of the week of Passover. Not a good time to hold an execution. You see not all the Jews were as excited or happy about the attacks on theses Jews and so he needed a balance or at least show some sensitivity to the Jewish festival.
He puts Peter in Prison, but I think that he must know Peter’s history of getting out of locked jails. So he orders maximum security. Not just a lockup in a secure jail but this one prisoner has the added precaution of having 4 squads of 4 Soldiers to watch him 24 hours a day. Four shifts of 6 hours. Plus the normal jail security of outer and inner guards.
Peter is not going any were, even if someone storms the prison to take him out. When the pass over ends the next big show will be put on.
Peter safely locked away the story moves to what other believers in town are doing. They are gathered in one place praying. We don’t know if it was out loud, sitting in a chair, lying on the floor.
-Three ministers were talking about prayer in general and the appropriate and effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system in the background.
One minister shared that he felt the key was in the hands. He always held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of symbolic worship. The second suggested that real prayer was conducted on your knees. The third suggested that they both had it wrong--the only position worth its salt was to pray while stretched out flat on your face.