Vs 1-3 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
The King Herod we see here would have been Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of King Herod the Great. Herod the Great was the one who asked the wise men to come let him know where the Christ was, and being tricked by them he killed all the young boy toddlers (2 years old and under) in Israel. King Herod the Great dies at the end of Matthew Chapter 2.
Later in Jesus life we see a King Herod who was responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist. This was Herod Antipas, seventh son of Herod the Great. King Herod Antipas was Herod Agrippa’s uncle.
We see this sad family history of violence and unlawful execution of the Jewish people. This reminds us of the concept taught in scripture about the “sins of the father being visited on the children.”
“You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ~Deuteronomy 5:9-10
This isn’t saying that God punishes the later generations for the bad things their parents did. This is saying that sin in a family creates a history and habits that are often not broken without the intervention of God Himself. Here we see Herod the great demonstrate terrible violence upon the Jewish people. Herod Antipas watches and learns that behavior and executes John the Baptist to appease a woman. Herod Agrippa watches and learns that behavior and executes James and seeing “that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also.”
If my family or your family has a history of certain sinful behaviors, God can deliver us from that! It starts with salvation in Jesus. Going forward, God can create a new history of love, protection, and sacrifice in our family through us. He can break that cycle by using us and working in our lives. What a blessing!
I know lots of godly believers that God has used to break the chains in their family of alcoholism, abuse, crime, drug use, and so much more.
Vs 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
The days of Passover and Unleavened Bread were considered holy days and it would have been unwise for Herod to desecrate these days with an execution.
Vs 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
I love that the early church was praying for their pastor! They were probably also praying for all of their leaders, and they were doing it constantly. That is something we each need to be doing for our pastors and church leaders. Paul specifically asks for prayer for himself and for his team.
Brethren, pray for us. ~1 Thessalonians 5:25
Pray for your pastor!
Vs 6-8 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
Here we see God answering the prayers of the church in an incredible and miraculous way! Here Herod “was about to bring him out”, so it was maybe the night before his trial and/or execution. Peter is probably at this point being kept in the Antonia Fortress (Or Tower of Antonia) that would have been heavily guarded, not just a simple little jail. Remember, there were “four squads of soldiers” watching over him (from vs 4).
Vs 9-10 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
Peter follows the angels instructions. He puts on his cloak or belt, puts on and ties his sandals, he follows the angel past the guards, goes through the corridors and gates, and continues all the way to the city street. Yet all the while he thinks this is a vision! What an awesome God we serve.
I love seeing and hearing about miracles that happen even today. My mom was miraculously healed while in a hospital bed when I was about 10 years old. It’s important though that we study and learn God’s word well enough to be able to distinguish between a true miracle of God today versus something that can be a false teaching or through a false teacher. Later in Acts we see the believers searching the scriptures to make sure what they were seeing was Biblical in nature.
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. ~Acts 17:11
They are an example for us – we need to search the scriptures daily!
Vs 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
The “expectation of the Jewish people” was probably the hope by the Jews that they’ll see another execution occur. Human nature loves drama, blood, and violence. Look at the video games and movies of today. The Jews of Peter’s day were no different.
Vs 12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.
Following this chapter we see John Mark quite a bit. He has a real heart for this ministry, and we see him grow and serve Paul, Peter, and Barnabas. There is wide evidence that he wrote the Gospel of Mark.
Vs 13-15 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”
I’m sure that Rhoda was probably among those that had been in constant prayer for Peter. Now she opens the door to find him at the gate and she is beside herself with joy! She is eyewitness to an answered prayer and is overwhelmed. So much so that the others around her say “you are beside yourself!” When God answers our prayers in such a way that we can see, touch, and hear the miracle, it’s an awesome experience.
16-17 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.
Peter recounts for them the miraculous appearance of the angel and how The Lord rescued him. In finishing his story, he tells them to “tell these things to James and to the brethren”. This James is the brother of Jesus, not the brother of John who was killed back in verse 2. It’s important that when God delivers and provides for us that we give Him the glory. God wants us to tell others about His amazing provision for His people.
We are even instructed by His word to do so:
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:31
God even designed His creation to do give Him glorify:
To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
“Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea” glorify God!
Vs 19-25 Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there. Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.
So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God grew and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
We are instructed by God’s word to give Him all of the glory. He has done mighty works in our lives. Everything we see in creation, even the breath we breathe, is given to us by God. We are given an example in King Herod to not take glory for ourselves. Here he was set on a throne, dressed in royal clothes, giving a speech. All of these things were given him by God Almighty. But he took the glory for himself.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”