Acts 12:1-2 “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 first time that the Roman appointed king takes an interest in the believers.
(Before this…..it was the Pharisees and religious leaders….which were angry against the believers of Christ.)
It is Passover time again….and crowds of people are in Jerusalem.
Herod Agrippa was an Edomite….not a Jew….but he converted to Judaism.
He was the grandson of Herod the Great, who ruled during Christ’s birth.
(Herod the great was the one who sent and killed all the children under three years old in Bethlehem, trying to kill Christ Jesus as a baby)
Herod Agrippa was a friend of Caesar….he had ruled land nearby….but then was given Judea by Caesar, as well.
He was a proud man, who ruled Judea for about five years…..always looking for a way to increase the people’s love of him….so….
…..he took and beheaded James, John’s brother.
James was one of the three of the inner circle to Jesus. He was called, along with John his brother, “sons of thunder”. Perhaps his powerful preaching had brought him to Herod’s attention.
(James along with John was also one to whom Christ had said, “…ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with:…” Matthew 20:23)
The beheading was done by a sword, to inflict the most pain….and get the most praise from the religious rulers and the people.
Acts 12:3-5 “And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
And when he had apprehended him, he put him 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.”
I want to mention here, that pride has been the undoing of many people.
Pride is the peacock within us……unfolding it’s tail feathers, for show.
Pride is the mirror….where we often look….to see the person we want to be considered.
And Herod Agrippa is a proud man.
So he takes Peter…..but waits till all the ceremonies of the Passover are done….then he will bring Peter out before all….and kill him.
That should make him very popular….loved, even….by the people.
(This is a picture, in miniature, of the Antichrist in the last days. He will rise up, and begin a steady persecution of the believing remnant.
That will make him exceedingly popular with the world….
Pride is his great sin….Daniel 8:23-25.
He shall exalt himself:
Daniel 11:36-37 “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished:…
Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers,….for he shall magnify himself above all.”)
But as the purpose of the Antichrist will seem to be fulfilled…..so Herod Agrippa thought his killing of Peter would be a big moment…
But God had another Purpose….deliverance.
This deliverance is in answer to prayer.
The church was meeting in Mary’s house. Mary’s brother was Barnabas who was Saul/Paul’s first missionary partner. Mary’s son was John Mark….the author of the book of Mark.
Many were gathered, some coming and going as they could….so that prayer for Peter was around the clock. This continued for all the days of the Passover feast….that Herod’s designs might be thwarted….and Peter released.
And God sent an angel…
Acts 12:6-8 “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers,….
….the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side,….saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals.”
Peter was perfectly at peace to die. He did not expect deliverance….especially after James death.
Gates and guards kept Peter in,….but could not keep God’s angel out.
With the angel….there was light….
….and a kick on the side to wake him up!
God made his handcuffs fall off….
Then the angel tells Peter to “gird thyself”…..the angel reminding Peter that the Lord Jesus told him…”when thou was young, you girded yourself,…..but when you shall be old, you will stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee…” (John 21:18). Peter would grow old….it was not time to die.
The angel tells Peter to “bind on thy sandals”…..prepare for a journey you are not expecting.
Acts 12:9. “And he went out, and followed him;….but thought he saw a vision.”
Peter thinks it is a vision, yet obeys and follows the angel….past the first guard post…..and the second guard post…..and then to the gate which separated the fort of the Roman soldiers, from the city….
….and it opened for him.
Acts 12:11-12 “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 when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary….where many were gathered together praying.”
Once Peter realizes that the Lord has delivered him….he seeks out a home where he knew a church met….
He knocks,….but the girl who came to the gate….only asked who was there. (A church could not be too careful for night visitors….)
And when she recognized Peter’s voice….she ran and told the people who were praying inside!
She was excited and happy…..
…..but they did not believe it!
(Isn’t this just like us….we pray for something….and yet, do not really believe that God is going to give it.
We prepare for the worse…..instead of His best.)
Finally she keeps insisting that it is Peter….so they go and see….
….and when Peter comes in…..they rejoice that he is delivered.
He quiets them…..and tells all that has happened….and instructs that they are to pass it on to the rest of the church there.
Then, as the angel said, it was time to move on….and “he went to another place”
(Jesus had told them: Matthew 10:23 “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another:..”)
But what of Herod’s purpose? God overruled and fulfilled His own purpose.
(God rules and overrules.
He often allows our enemies to seem to surround, and have the victory…..but then….He overrules their plans….and sees to us….not always in deliverance….but always bearing us up, in all the things we go through.)
The next day there was a lot of excitement to find Peter gone!
Acts 12:19 “And when Herod had sought for him (Peter), and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and there abode.”
Herod searched the city….but did not find him….then when his pride was wounded….
….he just had a fit about the deliverance of Peter.
If he had wanted to considered the matter, he might have seen God’s hand in it.
But he was so wrapped up in himself,……that he missed his opportunity to repent.
Peter, his prey, was gone….so he killed the guards….
….and ashamed of being robbed something that would make him look good in the peoples eyes….he leaves Jerusalem.
His puffed up pride is put down,….God has shamed him….
…..perhaps this is the reason his death….as it was….is written of.
In Caesarea, Herod has an argument with the countries of Tyre and Sidon…..so to get on his good side (for they needed the grain from Judea)….they came desiring peace.
On the day when he was going to speak before all the people at a celebration he had in honor of Caesar…..a multitude is gathered to hear his words.
Acts 12:21-23 “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.
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.”
History says,….he came out wearing a cape all of silver.
The timing was so….that when he came out on to the stage before the gathered multitude….his cape shown resplendent from the morning light.
They cried out that he was a god, and would henceforth consider him deity…
….when he did not deny it….he was struck with a pain in his stomach….”the angel of the Lord smote him,”……with worms, which caused his death….a few days later.
So ended the life of a man wholly taken up with himself. The world gave him honor…..but God shamed him…..gave him time to repent….and destroyed him because of his irreverence and pride.
Acts 12:24 “But the word of God grew and multiplied.”
Both the martyrship of James…..and the deliverance of Peter, increased the courage of those that were preaching…..and God blessed them, multiplying the Word spoken and the church.
(Now, for the exceptionally hard question…..Why did God allow Herod Agrippa to kill James…..but delivered Peter?
Some say it was timing…..Herod Agrippa arrested and killed James too quickly for God to work!
No! God can do anything.
James was a “son of thunder”….he was a fiery preacher. When he preached, people were effected by the Spirit….
…yet his ministry was short….
Peter lived for many years….helping to disciple John Mark (some say that Mark is actually Peter’s account of the gospel, which Mark wrote for him)….and going far to help his people, hear, and obey the gospel.
The answer to that question is that God rules and overrules in the lives of His own….and the death of a saint, is just as much God’s Will as the deliverance of another saint.
Hebrews 11:35 “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:”
Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
We picture death as an ending…..not so God.
For all that belong to Him….it is simply the means that lifts the soul and spirit into His Presence.
Death, whether it is painful, slow, or sudden….if that person is born again…he is escorted by an angel into a deliverance of all pain, and sadness….into the Presence of Christ.
We all have our journey, our walk, our race to finish….let us heed what the angel of the Lord said to Peter:
“Gird thyself” In other words, “Be prepared, be watchful….be instant in season and out of season.”
“Bind on thy sandals” We have places to go….school, work, family ties, and encounters with those we have not yet met……and the Lord calls us to keep going till the end of our ministries.
Hopefully the Lord will not have to send someone to kick us in the side,…..to wake us up to what He is calling us to do,…next.)
May the God of all grace deliver each of us to do the ministry and work that He has for us.