Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison
The Early Church had enjoyed a time of peace since the time of Paul’s conversion. But now Herod Agrippa sought to destroy the Jesus movement not on religious grounds but for taking a political stand. Herod saw the reaction of the Jews, when he had ordered James to be executed and knew that he had found favor with the traditionalists. Peter was next and was put in prison awaiting trial and most probably execution.
he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover – Acts 12:3-4
During the same festival of Unleavened bread eleven years ago, Christ was on trial and hung on a cross. Peter would have surely been aware of the coincidence and remembered Jesus’ words that the disciples will drink from the same cup of sorrow. James death proved those words to be true. While waiting for his eminent death, an angel of the Lord visited Peter in Prison and helped Peter in escaping from the heavily guarded prison.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. …. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Acts 12:7-9
On realizing what had just happened, Peter was over the moon. Not because he had escaped from death but that he witnessed another one of Yahweh’s miracles. He immediately wanted to testify about his escape, offering hope to the Church who was praying earnestly. On his way he dropped by John Mark’s childhood home where many had gathered praying for Peter. Peter would have thought that his arrival at that prayer group will be a motivator for all who had been praying for him earnestly.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” – Acts 12:13-15
The servant girl Rhoda was filled with joy on hearing Peter’s voice, insomuch that she forgot to let Peter in. She wanted to tell everyone who had gathered there that their prayers had been answered and Peter is safe. But her excitement was not shared by everyone who had gathered there. They refused to believe her and gave explanations as to what she thought she had seen. Faith is believing the unseen, but these people, who had gathered for a prayer meeting, refused to even accept that their prayers could have been answered.
Truly, Christ was right when he said we all need faith like that of a child (Matthew 18). Only the little girl was praying with an open mind and the others had accepted that Peter will suffer the same fate as James. If that was the case, why were they gathered at that place, if they had no faith that God will answer their prayers.
This is not the only instance that happened only to the people gathered that night. Even today we sometimes pray for the sake of praying or perhaps to be part of a praying community. God sees only the heart and does not care about our outward gestures, posture or words we use to offer our prayers.
In fact Christ specifically told us to pray in secret. It does not mean that all our prayers need to be in private and that we should not go for community prayer meetings but gather with intentions of only prayer with faith and with the people who have the same mindset. If our intentions are not right then our prayer meeting will turn into a house party.
Towards the end of the chapter we see that Herod faces the wrath of God. Some might feel it was coming to him but he died not for killing James or the soldiers guarding Peter but for an isolated incident where he did not give glory to God. He accepted the praises that people were pouring on him, comparing him to God. God sometimes allows persecution. Paul even writes about persecution building up our hope in his letter to the Romans.
Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.. Romans 5:3-5
Let us pray that we may rejoice in our sufferings knowing that it builds up our perseverance, character and hope in Christ which will never disappoint us.