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?
2). We see the church doing exactly what it is supposed to do.
News got to them that one of their leaders (James) had been killed. And Peter and some others were in prison waiting for the same fait. So what do they do? They get the word out. Keep in mind they met from house to house. They didn’t have email and they didn’t have fax machines.
ILLUSTRATION: Here is a bit of information that you should probably know. Police radios have an emergency button. So if we are out on a traffic stop or we are making a call and something goes wrong or the fight is on all we have to do is press the emergency button and the troops are a coming! The early church didn’t have an emergency button.
Word quickly spread throughout the city that they needed to pray. Word got out to 12-15,000 people in a matter of probably hours that they had a need on their hands that they had to pray for.
The church responds. It does exactly what it is supposed to do. There are some things we are physically able to do. Take a meal over to someone or give a person a ride. Or visit someone in the hospital. But you know there are some things that we can’t physically do to help someone. Some things are just beyond our control. And this was one of those times. They banded to pray. They came together to intercede on behalf of their brother Peter. What does intercede mean? It means you go before God on behalf of someone else.