Now the people who were scattered [Acts 8:4 ] by the persecution that started because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene who came to Antioch and began talking to the Hellenistic Jews too, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and so they sent Barnabas all the way to Antioch. When he arrived, he rejoiced to see what the grace of God had done, and with a hearty determination he continuously encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And so a large crowd was brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas left for Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him to Antioch, and for a whole year they were guests of the church and taught a large crowd. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
During this time [Acts 1:15; 6:1 ] some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.Acts 11:19-30
Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. [ Acts 2:41, 47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 6:7, 8:12, 9:31, 9:42] When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.Acts 12:20-25
As I have said before, the way Luke has unfolded this story is curious. There are repetitive patterns throughout the book as I have indicated above with the bold references. We also have the witness theme and the feature of the geographic spread of the Gospel based on Acts 1:8 – Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outer most parts of the earth. Each time witness is given, whether it is to a large crowd, an individual or a small family grouping the end result is a growth in the number of the believers. But not only that this growth is followed closely by opposition. Either that opposition is on the part of the authorities, or within the ranks of the believers themselves in terms of the different cultures or on the part of individuals who pretended to be part of the body of believers but were not. As the number of believers expands in large numbers the nature of the opposition becomes larger as well. This growing witness to the message of Christ and the Good News is met by ever increasing opposition.
About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.)Acts 12:1-3
The mere fact that the church is growing appears to be what sparks Herod’s response to persecute the church. But Herod is not in Antioch. There is a disconnect in the action in terms of there being no geographic link to what happened. It is like opposition breaks out in another place – not necessarily in the location where the increase in believers happened. Curious to say the least.
<< Peter’s Story >>
Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them. ()Acts 12:19-25
This happens again at the end of the Peter story. Herod is angry at what happened with Peter’s release and the fact they can’t find him. Suddenly his anger breaks out in yet another location. There does not have to be any direct causation or direct geographic link – the opposition breaks out in any and every way. Seemingly there is something happening at a global or cosmic level behind all of this. There is no direct cause and effect on the geographic or even human level. I am picking up the sense that satan is behind all of this. Blessing occurs in one place as the Gospel expands and suddenly opposition pops up in yet another place. Like satan is looking for human hearts that are open to opposing what is happening and he triggers yet another outbreak. It mirrors ISIS in some ways doesn’t it?
Just saying . . .
I have also drawn your attention to the fact that this may well be a parallel process. That Luke is going back again a number of times to pick up the another thread of his story. The story is unfolding in waves out from Jerusalem and each time we go back to pick up the Jerusalem thread. Either to make it clear to us that this expansion moves out from Jerusalem each time. But also the church in Jerusalem (the leaders and apostles) is involved each time to check the veracity (orthodoxy) of the events that are unfolding. It actual seems that the events described in Chapter 12 happened between the prophecy of Agabus and the departure of Barnabas and Saul to take the offering back to the church in Jerusalem. I am picking up a thread which is repeated of movement out from Jerusalem linked with a return to Jerusalem to check in, report or in this case provide assistance to those who started it all. Each time there is a movement outward which is what the Book of Acts is all about. But then there is movement both from Jerusalem to monitor and back to Jerusalem to check in.
Now into this mix of thought we will begin our investigation into the Peter Story of Acts 12 in the following Gems.
In the boxing ring of life, it’s not how hard you hit, but how many times you can get hit and keep moving forward.Sylvestor Stallone
If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.Carl Lewis
Keep your behaviour positive because your behaviour becomes your habits.Mahatma Gandhi
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.Einstein
If your plans don’t generate opposition, you may have set your sights too low.Anon
The opposite of courage is not cowardice; it’s conformity!Rick Godwin