The story of Peter takes place during the time of the early church. Persecution had scattered many believers out of Jerusalem and into the surrounding areas of Samaria and Judea. Stephen, the first Christian martyr had been stoned. Philip had taken part in the conversion of the Ethiopian, and Saul of Tarsus had become the Apostle Paul after his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
When our story opens, the disciple Peter has cleared up a misunderstanding of Jewish believers, who mistakenly thought that the message of salvation applied only to the Jews. Once the church in Jerusalem understood that it was God’s plan to incorporate both Jews and gentiles into the body of believers, they whole-heartedly support the evangelism of their non-Jewish neighbors. The gospel is thus carried to Antioch where a strong church is formed and believers are referred to for the first time as Christians.
Peter however, remains in Jerusalem where persecution continues under Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great.
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he 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. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. Acts 12:1-5, NIV
Peter now finds himself in prison under heavy guard. There are sentries posted at the entrance of the jail. There are two soldiers in the cell with him, and Peter is chained in between them. While most of us might find this situation rather frightening, Peter must have had some measure of peace, because with all of that going on around him, he still manages to fall asleep. It is the night before Herod is to bring him to trial, when a poke in the side brings Peter out of a dead sleep.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Acts 12:7-10, NIV
Peter is now standing alone, on the street in the middle of the night, wondering what has just happened.
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” Acts 12:11, NIV
Overjoyed with his release and anxious to tell his friends how their prayers have been answered, Peter goes to a house where he knows several of them are gathered. However, he has a little trouble getting someone to open the door.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. Acts 12:13-17, NIV
The miraculous rescue of Peter no doubt saved his life and allowed him to continue to preach the good news. The church grew and prospered and the message of salvation was heard by both Jews and gentiles alike, as the Apostle Paul would later pen in the book of Romans.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Romans 1:16
Peter’s story was one of imprisonment, but God’s provision was one of escape.
Join me tomorrow for a story involving a young king, a lost document, and a provision of remembrance!
If you’ve missed any part of this series, you can find all of the posts in the side bar category 31 Days of God’s Provision.
On the journey toward Home,