Signs and wonders continue to abound throughout the chapters as we read the book of Acts. So far, we’ve seen some amazing things and it reminds me that the Word says “they turned the world upside down”. Because surely they did!
Today, we take a look at the death of James and the imprisonment of Peter. But more than that, God proves He is still in control, even to their great astonishment.
If you’ve missed anything we’ve covered so far, just check out these links to see previous chapters.
- Getting Started: Chapter 1
- The Apostles: Chapter 2
- Rise Up & Walk: Chapter 3
- Peter & John: Chapter 4
- Apostle’s Persecution: Chapter 5
- Stephen & the Apostles: Chapter 6
- Stephen Recalls Moses & More: Chapter 7
- Philip & Simon: Chapter 8
- Saul of Tarsus: Chapter 9
- Cornelius & His Household: Chapter 10
- Gentiles Conversion: Chapter 11
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Choosing Popularity with the People
(Vs. 1) Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
(Vs. 2) And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
(Vs. 3) And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
(Vs. 4) 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.
King Herod, on the one hand, wanted to rid the world of the “menacing Christians” who were turning the world upside down. On the other hand, but still in line with the same thought process, he dearly loved the fact that the Jews were pleased with his decision.
In keeping up appearances, he decided to kill Peter too but had to put him away and hold him in reserve until after Easter.
Important Notes About Easter
As you can imagine, here was a man whose intent was to kill Christians. He had just murdered James and had every intention of killing Peter.
But it was Easter. No, not the Easter where we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ with fluffy bunnies and brightly colored eggs. (What’s that all about anyway?!) Even if “Easter” had been established that quickly, Herod would have been last in line for celebrating it. Furthermore, he would certainly not have put off murdering Peter until the “holiday” was over!
What Does Easter Mean?
The word translated to Easter, from the Greek, is Pascha (Strong’s G3957). There is some very good information on The Blue Letter Bible’s website that you can find HERE. It says, in part:
1. the paschal sacrifice (which was accustomed to be offered for the people’s deliverance of old from Egypt.
2. the paschal lamb, i.e. the lamb the Israelites were accustomed to slay and eat on the fourteethn day of the month of Nisan (the first month of their year) in memory of the day on which their fathers, preparing to depart from Egypt, were bidden by God to slay and eat a lamb, and to sprinkle their door posts with its blood, that the destroying angel, seeing the blood, might pass over their dwellings; Christ crucified is likened to the slain paschal lam
3. the paschal supper
4. the paschal feast, the feast of Passover, extending from the 14th to the 20th day of the month of Nisan
“G3957 – pascha – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 11 Jul, 2019. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3957&t=KJV
Of course, the religious and devout Jews could not allow the disturbance of their celebration days. And, in attempting to maintain his popularity with the Jews, Herod decided to hold off until the Jews could thoroughly enjoy Peter’s execution.
This had nothing to do with “Easter” as we know it today. When we go back and read with a knowledge of what it means to them (which wouldn’t have used the word “Easter” at all), then the whole thing takes on a new meaning.
In fact, it’s a little hard to understand why they translated this particular usage of Pascha to “Easter”. Of the other 28 times this word is used in the Greek, it is ALWAYS translated, “Passover”.
Praying for Peter’s Deliverance
(Vs. 5) Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
(Vs. 6) 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.
The situation was grim, at best. Everyone knew what was up, and the brethren prayed to God. Can’t you imagine what those prayers must have sounded like?
The prison officials guarded Peter heavily, with two soldiers on either side of him, bound in chains, with prison guards outside the doors of his cells as well. It’s almost like they thought Peter was a dangerous man!
Could it have been that, secretly, Herod or the prison guards (or both!) remembered the power already shown in his life? Could it have been that they were afraid that would break forth on them?
Peter Delivered by an Angel
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 8) 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.
(Vs. 9) 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.
(Vs. 10) 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.
First, the angel eliminated the darkness in which Peter had found himself. Then, the angel shook Peter from his situation. He went further by quickly and completely loosing Peter from the chains that bound him, helplessly, between his captors. And then there was instruction.
This is starting to sound familiar, isn’t it?
Was That Real?
(Vs. 11) 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.
It must have been one of those situations where it all happened so fast, Peter didn’t even have time to think! The angel shows up, frees him, tells him to hurry, get dressed, and follow him.
Even filled with the Holy Ghost, Peter has trouble believing it’s real. Of course, He knows Jesus is plenty capable of doing ANYTHING. He’s shown that time and again. Still, there’s something about the supernatural colliding with the flesh that leaves us a bit befuddled.
He figured it out, though. We’re used to hearing stories of angels delivering people out of the hands of their enemies in the Old Testament, but as we see here in this passage, it’s not something that has stopped! Even with the New Testament of the Blood of Jesus, we still see miraculous deliverances to this day! Hallelujah!
Going to the Brethren
(Vs. 12) 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.
It would be so refreshing these days, don’t you think, if we all gathered in the same way these early believers did? Not that we should forsake the gathering of ourselves together in Church! But going to one another’s homes and PRAYING would be, in my opinion, one of the most refreshing things ever.
Bible studies are great, fellowships are awesome. I can’t deny the power of a good “girl talk” over a cup of coffee or tea. But there is POWER when two are three are gathered together in His Name!
(Vs. 13) And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
(Vs. 14) 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.
Girl, You’re Crazy!
(Vs. 15) And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
There are a couple of things that stand out to me about this verse. The first is that the believers said to her, “Thou art mad”. The word for “mad” here is mainomai, (G3105 in Strong’s Concordance), and it means to speak in a way that makes it look like you’re out of your mind. It means to carry on, verbally, like a maniac.
In other words, “Girl, you’re crazy!”
When she kept insisting that it was, in fact, Peter, they had another idea. It must surely have been his angel! On the one hand, it’s pretty interesting to think that there are angels walking around out there that look like us. On the other hand, it’s kinda crazy to think these disciples would quicker have believed it was an angel than to believe God had answered their prayers!
Don’t raise your hand, but doesn’t that sound like us sometimes?
(Vs. 16) But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
(Vs. 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.
When I first read the word, “astonished” I imagined the believers with their mouth’s hanging open in awe. But the fact that Peter had to hush them up with his hand and tell them to hold their peace, well that makes me think something different.
They were excited, to be sure, but it was the testimony he was looking to push. He told them what happened, asked them to go and tell James and the brethren, and then we went on to someplace else. Undoubtedly, there were others he wanted to tell!
Herod is Not Impressed
(Vs. 18) Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
(Vs. 19) 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.
The soldiers were beside themselves because they knew what Herod was going to think about Peter’s disappearance. And sure enough, when he called for Peter and he wasn’t there, he killed those soldiers. That was the key to his next big spectacle that would be pleasing to the Jews, and suddenly it was gone. So he went on with other business.
Herod, Finally Brought Down
(Vs. 20) 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.
(Vs. 21) And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
(Vs. 22) And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of man.
Mistake? In the worst way!
(Vs. 23) 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.
It’s interesting to see a continuance of Old Testament angel smiting here as the early church is established. In my opinion (which may or may not be entirely correct) it seems like a morphing of one into another.
Jesus said He didn’t come to do AWAY with the law, but rather, to FULFIL it. As I thought about this analogy, I thought about how, when a woman gets ready to give birth, it could be said, “her time is fulfilled”.
The thing is, it’s not an immediate change. It’s moving from one to the other, with little changes made along the way. And that might be what we’re seeing here, as the angels continue to do God’s bidding. Until there is an established population of Spirit-filled believers, things have to keep moving along.
(Vs. 24) But the word of God grew and multiplied.
(Vs. 25) And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Please feel free to share your thoughts below! And thank you for reading!
Ever In His Service,
Here’s a great song about deliverance that seems fitting to place here. I hope you enjoy it!