Summary: I preach through Acts 12:1-17 and highlight what I feel are its major application points.
Introduction/Background: This is a very powerful and funny passage in the Scriptures. Let’s work through the story and then I want to highlight what I feel are its major application points.
Vs. 1-4 Herod (whose grandfather tried to kill Jesus when he was a baby) arrested some Christians wanting to persecute them. He had James killed (probably be cutting off his head). He had Peter in prison intending to do the same. Because it was the Passover and because he was getting a lot of notoriety he wanted to wait until after this important event to kill him because of the number of people who would be there.
Vs. 5 Peter is in prison but the church is earnestly praying to God for him. That word earnestly means, “stretched out” or intense. Now we know from earlier accounts in Acts that the church has a membership of 5,000 men (not counting women & children). So we are looking at a church between 12-15,000 people who are praying for Peter.
Vs. 6 Now this blows me away. Peter is sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains (or handcuffs) and there were at least 16 guards guarding him. Yet, it says he is sleeping. Now, he is either exhausted or he has totally resigned the fact that God was in control.
Vs. 7-11 An angel (the answer given to the church) appears, wakes up Peter, the handcuffs fall of his hands. Leads Peter past all of the guards through the iron gate leading to the city and down one street. All the while not being noticed by any of the guards.
Vs. 12-17. Peter comes to his senses, realizes it wasn’t a dream and then goes to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. They are praying for him. Remember, the church has thousands of members. For the first 300 years they didn’t have church buildings. Where do you think they met? They met in homes. Peter goes to his small group! They are praying. Yet when he comes to the door they don’t believe it is him! So Peter knocks on the door until they do. He finally comes into the house and Peter has to quiet them down because they are so excited.
1). Life is full of unexpected events.
In Acts we see that the church is spreading. God is moving in a powerful way. Things are going well. But James, Peter and some others from the church are arrested. James is beheaded and Peter is awaiting the same fait. Now we Americans don’t know a lot about being persecuted. Others around the world do. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen to us. It may be sooner than later.
Although we don’t know a lot about persecution we do know a lot about unexpected events. We do know about crisis that come into our lives. We’ve all experienced those crisis. Things beyond our control. Many of you are probably going through a crisis right now. Maybe you are going through a crisis of belief where God is revealing himself to you. He is brought you to a place in your life where you need to decide what you will believe about Jesus.
These crisis come in many forms. And some of them will eventually roll your way. We are all candidates for them. We live in this world. It is imperfect. It is sinful. It has highs and lows. We’re all going to go through a crisis. Yet, in the midst of the unexpected event in Peter’s life what do we see?