Sorrow and Joy
Loving Lord, Your holy Word and Your constant presence with me are great gifts for which I’m very, very thankful.
Read Acts 12:1-19
 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.  The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  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.  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.”  When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.  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.  In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.  After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
ReflectWhat was the first (strange) reaction to Peter’s escape?
Now there seems to be an interlude in the story of the growth of the church, but we learn much here about God’s mysterious workings. It would be easy to focus only on Peter’s amazing release, but the section begins with the violent death of James (1,2). Both were original disciples and significant leaders in the church. During persecution, war and natural disasters some Christians are miraculously saved while others perish. We rarely understand why, but it is a travesty to imply a link with a lack of faith or prayer. I suspect that James’ death focused the believers’ prayers on Peter in prison (3-5). After Peter was six days in prison, the anxiety levels of the disciples probably crept up significantly! Peter, however, was sufficiently at peace to sleep the night before his trial and possible execution (6). We then read of his miraculous deliverance (7-11) with its delightful attention to detail. When Peter finally wakes up to what’s going on, he realizes he must let the others know and then leave before he’s discovered. What overwhelming joy for the disciples (13-16)! How much greater was this joy after the shock and sorrow of James’ death.
Is there a situation in your life that you’re struggling with? Pray that you may know the peace Peter experienced.
Lord, when I’m worried or frightened, I pray to know Your peace and to trust in Your power to care for me.
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