Mission Teens Drug Rehab Center in Norma, NJ -Evening Chapel Service on 3/2/2018
(edited September 2021)
Peter had preached the Gospel to the Cornelius, the gentile, and his family and friends back there in Acts chapter 11. They had received Christ and were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And so, the Church began to expand beyond just Israel and on into the entire world! Here in Acts chapter 12, we see Peter returning to Jerusalem with the exciting news that the Gospel was meant to be UNIVERSAL and for ALL PEOPLE! After some resistance, the Church at Jerusalem rejoiced in this amazing news.
Also at this time, the first missionaries were heading out from Ancient Israel to Cypress and Asia Minor (what we call the nation of Turkey, today). Well, God was sending these missionaries out with the Good News, but from their point of view they were running for their lives after the Martyr Stephen had been killed at Jerusalem because of His testimony for Christ. HOWEVER. . .
One of Stephen’s murderers, Saul of Tarsus, has found Christ for himself and begun preaching the Truth about Jesus in the synagogues of Judea and beyond.
In our study tonight in Acts 12 the Apostolic record turns back to Peter and the Jerusalem church:
Verses 1-2: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”
This is the same Herod who had mocked Christ before the crucifixion.
Verse 3: “And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)”
How evil was this ruler, Herod? I can’t judge him personally, but the Bible indicates that he was selfish and motivated by politics, his ego, and material gain.
Verses 4-6: “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.”
There was no justifiable reason for Herod to arrest Peter. But the Devil had a reason. Through Herod he was trying to break the heart and will of the young Church. And he is STILL trying to put the Church out of business in our day!
Verse 7: “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.”
It can be very hard to predict exactly when the Lord will “move in” and answer prayer. For instance, why would God allow Peter’s arrest at all, or the tragic death of the Apostle John’s brother, the Apostle James which was mentioned above? I can’t fully answer this, nor do I always have the patience I should have to pray and then leave my concerns in the Lord’s hands and wait for His response. The early Church was praying for Peter at this time, and God was definitely answering their prayers!
Verses 8-9: “And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.”
Does God still answer prayers today? I would say YES and AMEN! What would you say? Are you ever slow to catch on to what God is doing? We can see that Peter was a little slow in this case.
Verses 10-12: “When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.”
If the timing of prayers may seem “off” sometimes. That is not a poor reflection on the Lord, but is most likely a lack of understanding of the situation on our part. Sometimes, I know I have just not been ready accept God’s real answer to my needs.
Verses 13-16: “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.”
The Apostles weren’t quite ready either to grasp the extent to which the Lord had answered their prayers for Peter. Have you ever been slow on the “uptake” with God? I’ve already admitted that I am sometimes. But God is very patient with us. He considers not only our needs, but our capacity to cope with the realities of a given situation. Think about how difficult it must have been for the Apostle John to understand the martyrdom of his brother James. I wonder if John reflected, at any point, on this conversation he and James had once had with Jesus:
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
It must have been difficult for John. Now they actually were “drinking the same cup” as Christ.
Let’s get back now to Peter in Acts 12:
Verse 17: “But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.”
Peter would not rot in prison. God, simply, had other plans for him! He had goals for Peter that old Herod could not stop. And the Lord works this way today in the life of a believer. In the end, it is God’s Love for us that matters, not how men feel about us, no matter how powerful they may be or not be!
Verses 18-19: “Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.”
How violent, cruel, and unjust this Herod truly was. . .
Verses 20-22: “And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.”
Men may try to act god-like in their authority and actions, but there is only one God. And when He brings His Righteous Justice to a situation, no one can stop Him or answer Him back. Let’s take look at what happened here:
Verses 23-24: “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.”
The only question today is, do we want to see the Lord work in our lives? We must believe that He is able to deliver and lead us forward. But I’ve found that I have stopped Him from leading me sometimes because I haven’t been ready to follow. O, that God could lead me through all my trials in this life, and not have to drag me through them like some stubborn old mule! Pray for me, beloved.
Verses 25: “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.”
Saul (who has become known to us today as the Apostle Paul) is another man who, like Peter, will be greatly empowered by the Lord. But Paul was unique, very different from Peter or any of the Apostles. As a matter of fact, Paul was to become living proof that the Lord can empower and direct ANYONE who is willing to trust in Christ and to wait upon Him for direction and instruction.
In closing, let me say quickly that when I was trying to find my way spiritually, back in 1980, I was going to church and I knew the Gospel message, but I just could not believe that God could save a “wretch” like me. Then, one evening I attended a little church service where the preacher was speaking about Paul, the murderer who God chose to be an Apostle. The next morning, at home, I invited Jesus Christ into my heart! And I can say that the Lord HAS empowered me, he’s seen me through! But I haven’t always made it easy for Him. I have no doubt that He wants to empower each one of you, so that you can face the challenges of your life. And He can do it, he WANTS to do it, if you will let Him. Let’s pray.