When Iron Gates Yield
Loving Father, You have shown me faithfulness and mercy. I desire to show You my love now, also.
Read Acts 12:1-19
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Against the persecution of a tyrant, the godly have no remedy but prayer” (John Calvin 1509-1564). Yes, but what a remedy!
This passage is remarkable both for the graphic detail with which Luke tells the story, and because of the humor evident in a narrative that involves persecution and suffering. Most of the passage deals with Peter’s remarkable deliverance, but this cannot conceal the reality of the brutal execution of James whom Herod “put to death with the sword” (2). As Justo Gonzalez points out, the death of James does not imply that he had less faith than Peter, or that the church prayed less effectively for him than for Peter. It implies, rather, that while God clearly can deliver his servants from suffering and death, he is also glorified (as by Jesus himself) through their obedience unto death.
How does humor enter a story like this? The account of Peter’s deliverance depicts him sleep-walking out of the prison. He only realizes that it’s not a dream when the cold night air jerks him awake and enables him to “come to himself” (11,12). He finds himself on the street outside a friend’s house while believers inside debate whether the person at the gate (Peter) is human or angelic (13-16). Luke once again surely intends his readers to smile as they read this, perhaps recognizing their own inability to believe that their fervent prayers for God’s intervention might actually be answered!
However, the humor has another purpose. By the end of the story we return to the grim reality of political power. Herod has the guards (16 of them, according to v. 4) executed (19). The self-image of Rome and puppet rulers like Herod was one of splendor and glory. The claims of such dictators are laughable, and no one knows this better than those who follow the true Lord of history whose kingdom grows in secret, mysterious, yet genuinely powerful ways.
How do you feel about the fact that God saved Peter but not James? In the light of John 21:18-19, how might Peter respond to this question?
Lord, I pray for the release of my brothers and sisters in Christ imprisoned for their faith. Also, I pray that those who grieve the victims of violence will be comforted.
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