299 - Persecution in Jerusalem
OCTOBER 26 - Nº 299 Acts 12:1-24
While the church was growing in Antioch, King Herod Antipas decided to persecute the Christians who lived in Jerusalem. He did this to win the favor of the Jewish leaders. So, he arrested the apostle James (the brother of John) and put him to death. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter and put him in prison. He planned to execute him too, but he wanted to turn the event into a huge spectacle by staging a public trial as soon as the Passover celebrations ended. Meanwhile, Herod did not want to take any chances that Peter might escape, so he assigned 16 soldiers to guard him. The believers gathered and earnestly prayed that God would rescue Peter. The night before the trial was to take place, Peter was sleeping between two of the guards with his hands in chains. Two more guards were posted at the door. Suddenly an angel appeared, and the prison cell was filled with light. “Wake up Peter and get dressed!” the angel instructed. The chains fell off Peter’s wrists. He put on his clothes and sandals and wrapped his cloak around himself. “Follow me,” the angel insisted. Peter followed the angel out of the prison, but he thought he was having a dream. They passed by the guards and came to the iron gate that led into the city. Peter watched as it opened by itself. They walked down the street together, then suddenly the angel disappeared. As he stood alone in the middle of the street, Peter realized he was not dreaming. God had sent an angel to rescue him! As soon as he realized this, he hurried to the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, where the believers had gathered to pray. He knocked on the outer door, and a servant girl named Rhoda answered. She was shocked and excited to hear Peter’s voice. Without opening the door, she ran back into the house and yelled, “Peter is outside. He is standing at the door!” At first no one would believe her. When she kept insisting it was true, they thought she must have seen an angel. But Peter kept knocking, and someone finally opened the door. Everyone was amazed and ecstatic to see him. He hushed them and explained how the angel had freed him. He asked them to share the good news with James (the brother of Jesus), then he left and went into hiding. In the morning, there was a huge commotion at the prison. Herod searched everywhere for Peter and could not find him. He cross-examined the guards. When they couldn’t give him any details, he had all 16 of them executed. Herod left Judea and went to his palace by the sea. He delivered a speech to a crowd of people. When he had finished, they shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not a man!” Instead of giving the glory to God, Herod accepted all the praise for himself. Because of his pride an angel killed him immediately. His body was eaten by worms!
God sent an angel to rescue Peter. But why didn’t He send an angel to rescue James? Did He not care as much about James? Or was it because He cared even more? Obviously, God had more work for Peter to do—and much more suffering for him to go through before he could experience the glory of heaven! So, Peter lived to die another day. Which man did God love more? Neither! He loved them both very much!