January 9th, 2007
Peter’s escape from prison wasn’t exactly the most organised and premeditated event. He didn’t plot and plan. He didn’t dig escape tunnels and forge identity documents. He didn’t even do anything in advance of the escape, and when he effected the actual escape he didn’t even realise that it was happening. The escape was entirely planned and executed by God. And sometimes — not very often, but sometimes — that is how it happens with God. When God is in the picture, there is hope even in the grimmest and most impossible situation.
The Acts of the Apostles — Chapter 12
12:1 About that time, King Herod started persecuting some members of the church. 12:2 He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. 12:3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter as well, during the days of unleavened bread. 12:4 When he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and arranged for four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, with the intention of bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 12:5 Peter was kept in the prison, but the assembly was earnestly praying to God on his behalf. 12:6 On the night before Herod was due to bring him out for trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Other guards were watching the prison door.
12:7 An angel of the Lord appeared near him, and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side to wake him up, saying, “Stand up quickly!” His chains fell off his hands. 12:8 The angel said, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” He did so. The angel said, “Put on your cloak, and follow me.” 12:9 And he went out, following him. He was unaware that what the angel was doing was real; he thought he was dreaming. 12:10 They passed the first and second guards, and came to the iron gate that leads into the city. The gate opened for them by itself. They went out, and continued down a street, when all at once the angel left him.
12:11 When Peter worked out what was going on, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from the hand of Herod, and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.” 12:12 After realising this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John surnamed Mark, where many people were gathered together praying. 12:13 When Peter knocked at the door, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 12:14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was too overwhelmed with joy to open the door, and she ran inside to report that Peter was standing at the front door.
12:15 They said to her, “You are crazy!” But she insisted that it was true. They said, “It is his angel.” 12:16 But Peter kept knocking. When they opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 12:17 He motioned with his hand for them to be silent, and told them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. He said, “Tell these things to James, and to the brothers.” Then he left, and went to another place.
12:18 As soon as day arrived, there was a major commotion amongst the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 12:19 When Herod searched for him without finding him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered them to be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there. 12:20 He had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, so they ingratiated themselves with Blastus, the king’s personal aide and then came together to meet him and ask for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 12:21 On an appointed day, Herod was dressed in royal clothing and sat on the throne, presenting a speech to them. 12:22 The people shouted, “The voice of a god, not a man!” 12:23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him, because he failed to give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.
12:24 But the message of God grew and multiplied. 12:25 Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem when they had completed their mission, taking with them John surnamed Mark.