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.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent His angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place. At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 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.Acts 12:1-19
Remember as we analyse this story that is sandwiched in front and back by the following:
During this time 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 11:27-30
< Peter’s Prison Story >
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 12:20-25
I suggest before I begin to break the story apart to help the process of analysing it, that you do the same. I have suggested this many times before as we have approached certain passages.
- Look carefully at the way Luke develops the story.
- Take note of how the segments relate to one another.
- Pay attention to how the story is started and concluded.
- For those of you familiar with finding the Sense Unit take some time to be mindful of what binds it together and how it relates to the passages around it.
- Pay attention to the details and how they relate together.
- What is the time frame of this story?
- Is it set in chronological order or are some segments out of sequence?
- Make sure you know the background to the people, places and practices mentioned.
- Are there any words that need to be analysed for deeper meaning?
- Ask questions for yourself which point you to aspects to study or where you should dig deeper.
Once again feel free to send me your questions to make sure I address your questions when I come to pulling this passage apart.
At the micro level – I give you the opening segment to consider with some highlighted pieces and some emboldened words to start you off.
- 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.)
Remember Luke is the writer who started his gospel with the words:
So my Dear God Lover, I have carefully studied all the events from their beginning, and I have written you an ordered account of what happened. Ian’s Focused Translation (IFT)
On the macro level – Note the first words – About that time are sequenced with the opening of the small pericope before the Peter story – During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch (vs 27) Notice how this story of Peter in prison goes with the beginning of 12:20, the portion which follows this story.
Time to get our hands dirty. I am in the same boat as you. I haven’t studied this passage at this level before and don’t know what I will find. I have to do my work as well.
The best teacher is one who inspires his listener with a desire to teach himself.Anon
Your worth lies not in what you do, or who you know, but in who you are and who you’re becoming.Ian Vail
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.Arthur Conan Doyle
Great teachers have the power to change the world.Anon
Making mistakes will teach you if you’re willing to learn!Ian Vail