The text for this lesson is Acts 12:4–17
- God sent an angel to help Peter. God’s angels also help me.
- Law: I am tempted to believe that God abandons me to the world and doesn’t care for me in my suffering.
- Gospel: God loves me so much that He sent His Son to save me. He is with me always and sends His angels to protect me and to care for me in times of need.
- The Herod mentioned in Acts 12:1 is Herod Agrippa I. He was a grandson of Herod the Great, the ruler at the time of Jesus’ birth, who was responsible for the slaughter of the innocents. Herod the Great was succeeded in Judea by his son Archelaus, who was deposed by the Romans in AD 6 for excessive cruelty. Agrippa became the first Herod to rule over Judea after Archelaus’s exile. During his reign, he initiated a persecution of the Church.
The first prominent victim of this persecution is the apostle James (son of Zebedee, brother of the apostle John). Peter is also arrested because of the popularity of James’s execution. Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, reports that Herod Agrippa made many of his decisions based on their relative popularity. After Peter’s miraculous escape, Herod executes the guards (v. 19) and is later struck down by God because he allows himself to be called a god (vv. 22–23).
- Peter’s imprisonment takes place during what was possibly the first persecution of the Church that was organized by the civil government. The Scriptures don’t tell us exactly why Agrippa began this persecution, but the Jewish Sanhedrin had organized an earlier persecution, which was led by Saul, and it may also be that the Christians were being blamed for the famine that had been prophesied by Agabus (11:28), a Christian prophet. What we know for sure is that Agrippa was an able politician, and he arrested Peter because James’s execution had been very popular.
As soon as Peter was arrested, “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (12:5). This is an important detail. God the Holy Spirit probably includes it to encourage us to pray when sufferings come.
Herod’s plan was to bring Peter out after the celebration of the Passover and to publicly execute him. He probably planned to time the execution in this way so that he would not disrupt the feast but also so that the lingering pilgrims would have an opportunity to see the execution.
On the very night that Peter was to be executed, God sent an angel to rescue him. In the biblical text, “the angel of the Lord” is usually a theophany, but “an angel of the Lord” (as in v. 7, emphasis added) is the appearance of a created angel.
The Scriptures teach that angels are invisible spiritual beings created by God. The good angels are many and powerful. They serve God and help humanity. Throughout the Scriptures, there are examples of angels waging war on God’s behalf, rescuing God’s people, and protecting them from harm. They also often serve as God’s messengers. Demons are fallen angels who rebelled against God and try to make man serve them (Genesis 3) instead of serving man (Mark 1:13). They seek to destroy everything that is good, especially faith in Christ.
After Peter’s escape, he goes to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark so that they know he is safe. John Mark becomes Peter’s companion during the apostle’s ministry in the city of Rome. Papias, one of the Early Church Fathers, tells us that Mark’s Gospel is a summary of Peter’s preaching. It is clear that God has more for Peter to do; he continues to preach and teach that Christ is the Savior sent from God.