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 12:6-19
This has touched the spot for a number of you and caused you to see lots of things in the text. Perhaps the best other point someone noticed were found in Kev’s questions: Is this Mary also a widow or how come it’s called Mary’s house and not John Mark’s father’s house? Good question Kev. I assume she was a widow but I guess I should check it out. Just one of the points I haven’t followed up on. Perhaps to my regret. But then again you can’t do everything can you? I have to leave something for my next time through on Acts.
The only other thing is why didn’t Rhoda just let Peter in? But I think we have covered that. If not I just assume that she doesn’t have the authority and that she is supposed to announce to the others when someone is at the door especially in the early hours of the morning.
Others have thought the strange thing was:
- how Peter could sleep through the night before his execution?
- how the prison door could open on its own?
- what happened to the guards who were chained to him? Were they even still there?
- how Peter did not realise it was real and not a dream or a vision? “I certainly would have been wide awake Ian”.
- Rhoda’s reaction.
- The reaction of the house church at Mary’s place.
But no, that was not the focus of the questions from a number of you. The focus was on Tell James and the other brothers what happened.
- That line tripped a number of you up. “Ian, how could Peter say, Tell James what happened when James was dead?”
- What are our alternatives to understanding this statement?
- Yes I admit it does seem incongruous. How could Peter say that when James was dead?
There are three ways to explain this incongruity that I can see. I know which one I naturally lean toward. In fact I didn’t really think about it until a few of you started asking.
It was James, the half brother of Jesus, Peter was talking about; not James, the brother of John – the sons of thunder.If it was the “dead James”, then Peter didn’t know that James had been beheaded. Which seems unlikely to me. Or Luke had brought James’ death into the story before he actually died. In other words the chronology of the story is out of sequence. Again that is unlikely because Luke attributes the arrest of Peter to the fact that Herod Agrippa I was encouraged by the reaction of the Jews to the beheading of James. So that only leaves us one likely alternative – Peter is telling them to go tell the other James.
If as I suspect, Peter was referring to James, the brother of John, then clearly he wasn’t a part of this house church in Mary’s house. This James was a recognised leader of the community of Christians and so as such he gets special mention for a particular reason. But why not also tell John? Remember Peter, James and John were the ones who were closest to Jesus. (The James mentioned in this list was the James who was beheaded). It is also possible that James, the brother of Jesus, was singled out because he bore the same name as the James who died, he could have been especially helpful in encouraging the believers when the news was broken over Peter’s escape, in the light of mounting grief over the dead James. But whatever the reason I am certain we are safe in concluding Peter was not suggesting they go and tell James, the son of Zebedee. A quirky thought that came to me with all your questions and references to the James who died, is perhaps Peter should have singled out John to be the one to go and tell, not James the “brother” of Jesus. For anything more on this you will have to wait until you have a chance to question those who were at Mary’s place that night.
The other thing I will address in this Gem is the matter of Peter’s angel. No it is not an angel who looks like Peter as one of you suggested. The idea of Peter’s Angel most likely comes from the popular belief among the Jews that every individual had their own guardian angel who might occasionally make a visible appearance resembling that person whom they guarded. (Perhaps an attempt to explain the phenomenon of dopplegangers). The idea in this case was likely that Peter’s angel had come to break the news to them that Peter was dead. But we don’t have to consider the ramifications of this notion at all because it was not Peter’s Angel at the door based on their popular Jewish beliefs but PETER HIMSELF, protected and released by God by sending an angel.
I would have loved to have heard Peter’s version of the events he had just experienced when “he motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison”. I am sure there would have been some very interesting perspectives Peter shared at this time. I would love to have been present to see his emotion and reaction to the experience. But alas I will never know this side of heaven.
“Then he went to another place.” I am not surprised. The guards were all out looking for him after dawn after they discovered him gone following the change of the guard. I am sure they would come looking at all the known places where Christians gathered. It is for sure Mary’s house was on that list. So he went to another place and the whereabouts of that place was not made clear to them or to you for fear you would disclose the location. Suffice to say it was another haven of refuge.
Lord, Let an ordinary life be as unappealing to me as a white jellybean.Ian Vail
Lord, allow me to live life to the full, but maybe not as full as Peter lived.Ian Vail
Being hurt is inevitable, being miserable and living in fear is an option.Louis Martin
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another!