Acts 12: Miraculous Escape
Pastor David continues the Acts Series preaching on Acts 12 with a focus on the miraculous escape of Peter from prison. As David navigates us through some of the early persecution stories of the church involving key apostles, important discipleship lessons are outlined and apparent sensible topics are clarified.
Good morning everyone If you've got your Bibles there you can open them up to uh would like you to open up Acts 12 or your devices to Acts chapter 12 or if you've memorized the word you can just run through your mind through to Acts chapter 12. I'm the Thousand Year man who's been here for that period of time of course Bruce Ginter was my Sunday school teacher so just imagine how long he's been here and I think he was a thousand years old when I was in Sunday School I feel quite safe saying that well I'm up here in Bruce is down there but uh later on he will um he'll thump me like he used to do when I was a boy that's not true uh you know Sunday school teachers like those out there the mentors to us aren't they and we appreciate everyone on during communion Janice played a song and I'm not sure where the you're listening or sort of in the background there but it's um it's of course you choose to sing when we were kids it's it's actually a pre I'm not going to sing the pray that I've got too much respect for you to do that but I would like to pray let's pray thank you Lord for saving my soul thank you Lord for making me whole thank you Lord for giving to me your great salvation so rich and free as your children today we would Echo just now those words recorded that Samuel spoke so many thousand well a few thousand years ago they said Speak Lord your servants listening so we pray that as we open your word today that will one of you might be open to what I'm saying but more importantly that will have our ears open to what you might say to us today in the name of Jesus Amen being a man it's hard to do two things at once and I've got to speak and I've got to hold a microphone up and so trying to do two things that's not always easy for me so if this sort of drops away a bit just tell me or if I get too expressive and guy like that please forgive me we do have the Madonna headsets I think they're called or something like that on order our last one broke but uh they're on their way we've been working our way through acts under under this heading about disciples making disciples and we're looking at the whole of Acts chapter 12 and we don't have time in what's there for us tonight this morning to read it all but I'd just like to read the beginning of uh of Acts chapter 12 2 just to get something of this this picture there's about that time about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church intending to persecute them he had James the brother of John put to death with the sword when he saw that this pleased the Jews he proceeded to seize Peter also this happened during the Feast of unleavened bread after resting 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 so Peter was kept in prison but the church was earnestly praying to God for him the night before Herod was to bring him to trial Peter was sleeping Between Two Soldiers bound with two chains and Century stood a guard at the entrance suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light Shone in the Sill struck Peter on the side and woke him quick it up he said and the chains fell off Peter's wrists the angel said to him put on your clothes and sandals and Peter did say 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 they passed the first and second guards and came to the Iron Gate leading to the city it opened for them by itself and they went through it and when they had walked the length of one street suddenly the angel left him and Peter came to himself and said now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his Angel and rescued me from herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating when this adorned on him he went to the house of Mary the mother of John also called Mark where many people had gathered and were praying Peter knocked at the outer entrance and a servant girl 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 hey Peter's at the door they're out of your mind they had told her and when she kept insisting that it was so they said must be his angel but Peter kept on knocking when they opened the door and saw him they were astonished Peter masoned with his hand for them to be quiet and describe how the Lord had brought him out of prison tell James and the brothers about this he said and then he left for another place we know that God always blesses the reading of his word well there's a number of people involved in this story just by going through the the main characters in here it gives us some idea of something of the story so I actually want to work through just by way of introduction before we look at the story briefly is is just to go through a quick overview at the people involved in this story and so talking about them pretty well as as they appear in the story and you might realize if you read to the end of the chapter I've actually left down a name but that's that's by the by so very early in the story we read about King Herod and I'm not sure whether you're aware of this but there are a number of herits that are mentioned in the bible um Herod comes up again and again and it's not the same character all the time it's a dynasty it's this these group of herits there's family by the name of Herod and so we read about you might recall about when Jesus was born how Herod killed all the babies around at that time that Herod was Herod the Great and he was responsible so he's a Granddad of the Herod that we have just read about now but then following after hearing the great he had several Sons one of whom was here at Antipas and um and you might remember if you know your Bible the story about John the Baptist how John the Baptist stood Herod up this hair it up and said to him about the lifestyle he's living this country to God's way of living or whatever herod's wife at the time got upset about that and she you know the story you can read it for yourself she organized for John the Baptist to lose his head now that's Herod the Great's son Herod Antipas who who that Herod was and he actually had a few sons and the Herod that we are reading about today put him bold writing up there is Herod Agrippa the first now he is not the son of Herod antipast but rather he's a nephew of him so he's a grandson of Herod the Great and this guy that we're reading about this morning his name was his father's name was aristobulus not a Heritage he was a prince of another part and so I'm wondering whether you're picking up something this dynasty of this Herod family Herod the Great kills all the babies Heron Antipas kills John the Baptist and what do we read about here that Herod this Herod Agrippa the first it's the grandson of Herod the great nephew of Herod andipats what's he doing he's killed James so you're getting something of the picture of what this family is like later on we're going to read about another Herod later on about Herod Agrippa II and he's a Herod in the trial of Paul in caesarea later on we'll look at that so the Herod that we're looking at today is his Heritage gripper belonging to this family Dynasty who had no value for life it worries me about about people who lower the value of Life have no regard for the sanctity of life we have governments today who have no regard for the sanctity of Life abortion is okay euthanasius AK the sanctity of life is just is just not regarded at all and that's how it was with this Herod family this Herod Dynasty those that you cross us and we are going to deal with you by putting you to death so that's one person we're dealing with and we read just in those opening verses that Herod is heredogrippa that that he had James put to death now this is James he's a brother of John the son of Zebedee one of the disciples and Jesus referred to to James and John as sons of thunder is this James and John by the way who their mother set him up for this they came to Jesus and they said to Jesus mother mum's there as well Jesus when you come into your kingdom can one of us sit on your right hand and the other one sit on your left hand in the Kingdom and Jesus said can you really go through the baptism which I'm going to be baptized with and drink from the cup that I'm going to drink with the Bible says he's referring to the way that he was he was going to die and I said with that probably realizing what they were answering they said yeah we can do that no worries in Jesus Republic it's not really up to me anyway and so these disciples this uh this James character he said yep I can go through whatever you go through Jesus guess what Jesus is crucified a few years later James is put to death we sometimes need to be careful what we say to God because sometimes he'll take us at our word Peter we're going to be looking at mainly then there's the angel is prominent here too and I just put some figures up here just for your curiosity is that angels are mentioned 23 times in the book of Acts remember that acts is part two of what Luke wrote so Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and then part two excuse me part two is Acts so in Luke his angels are mentioned 25 times in Acts 23 times in the whole of the New Testament 184 times so Luke seems to be one character who really recognizes the ministry of angels then there's Mary house where this where the church was meeting mother of John Mark who's going to become more prominent in the story then we had this young slave girl called Rhoda and even when I read that I heard a bit of a Snicker through the through the congregation and rightly say slave girl that was her responsibility when somebody knocked at the gates there's a house in the front gate it's a slave girl's responsibility to go and somebody answered or knocked at the door at the gate to go and answer it to let him in she goes out she hears Peter talking and forgetting to unlock the guy she just runs backside Peter's here Peter who's been in prison and I said oh can't be pit yes it is Peter Well it must be his angel or something like that and then we read that when Peter is there and speaking with them when they do let him in by the way we get to heaven might we make all snigger a bit when we meet Rhoda up there you're the one who forgot to open the gates with Pete all right or something like that um but Peter says Peter says tell everybody that especially till James is what's happened now remember we just read about James who's been put to death back in the beginning so obviously this is a different James that's he's talking about here we don't really know which James it was two possibilities one of course there was the mother disciple the two disciples named James there is one who is uh James the son of Zebedee and there's also James the son of alpheus so it might have been that James he's referring to or as Galatians tells us Paul refers to another James who is a brother of Jesus who became a leader in the church and so either one of them and we don't really know so there are some key people that that we are taking notice of in this book and even as I've explained some of that helps us to understand something of what's going on here and then just to help us to have an overview of this chapter I've called this chapter in elephant sandwich the reason why I've called an elephant sandwich is that we have some funny sayings in our English language we talk about things being sandwiched together right we talk about something that's here and something that's there and something in between we talk about the sandwich generation we've been that for a while is that we we were sort of in the middle we're looking after elderly parents and looking after kids or grandkids so we're part of that sandwich generation and so there's this sandwich idea here and and the sandwich that I'm talking about here is the is that there are two key things for us to note about Acts chapter 12. it begins with this idea about Herod cruelly attacked the church in verse one but it ends with what God's message flourished and multiplied that's the two bookends there's another way of saying it this chapter is that Herod cruelly attacked the church but the outcome of all of this chapter is God's message flourished and multiplied but in the middle there's this elephant in the room that's saying by the way a few hundred years ago some guy some character don't ask him his name but he wrote this story about somebody who went to a museum or somewhere and notice all the details of All the Small Things in this Museum and didn't see the elephant and recounted about all the small things that he saw but nobody but he never talked about the elephant that was there and several years later like 100 so years later somebody picked that up and talked about it in a literary way about the elephant in the room that the elephant in the room and we use that phrase we talk about the elephant in the room about this there's this topic that's in front of us that's um that's huge and big but we don't want to talk about it either because it's controversy we don't know the answer or whatever and the elephant in the room here is that we need to just name it right in here and I just want to name it and and if you haven't asked this question in this chapter my guess is I'm pretty sure you've asked it in other contexts but the elephant in the room in this thing in this chapter is this why did God allow James to be killed but miraculously rescued Peter um does that does that stop you in your tracks and you think why on Earth why on Earth did God save Peter that allowed James to be killed why did he last Stephen to be Martin and you want to know my answer to that I don't know and anybody who says to you that they do know well listen to them and that might be a theory but ultimately we don't know but I just do want to talk about it a bit further as we go but to something to wrestle with is that is to understand or to to come to this point and say there are elephants in the room there are things that we just do not understand about God let's get on with this story then and talk about Peter you might recall as you looked at the um at the gospels that Jesus as he is doing with people he dealt with the crowds and then he dealt with um he sent out 17 people as though they were a group that he was discipling or something within that group there was a group of 12 which we know it's the 12 disciples and within that group of 12 there were three there who seem to have this special connection there's Jesus in a circle they were Peter James and John and so there are these three key disciples in Jesus thinking Peter James and John and when we get to this chapter in Acts chapter 12 we see what's happening with the inner circle with Jesus in a circle we discovered this James is dead and Peter is waiting to be executed um just think about that the early church three key leaders Peter James and John one dead one waiting to be executed leaving just one and and so so we we just need to be thinking about the significance of that and what that really meant for the early church and no wonder that the church was was really actively praying by the way remember that Peter is imprisoned for the second time remember going back a while in Acts chapter 5 that he was put in prison and when he was imprisoned Angels Came and rescued miraculously released him from prison they went to get them the next day and hey the jail cells are empty and so now Peter is in prison again and this goes a long way to explain to us why Herod went to Such Great Lengths to keep Peter in prison 16 Gods placed them one chained on he's one wrist chain to one guard another wrist other risk change to another and and so Herod has set 16 guards 16 soldiers to guard Peter recognizing that this man had escaped in the past and uh and miraculously miraculously escaped and I guess Herod was thinking just try to get away from me this time so Herod sets 16 soldiers to guard Peter but what do we find the church do the church in Acts chapter 12 and verse 12 they were earnestly praying for him now we're in church and so I know what your answer to this this question is going to be but if you want to put up our human strategies against God's strategies which one are you going to back you're going to back gods well I agree with you we are but why is it so often in our own lives that we just default to our own thinking our own action and prayer rather than being a first Resort is often a last resort why why is that why haven't we learned that lesson after a couple of thousand years but but this is what's happening there is that 16 soldiers there but the church is praying for him and um and what do we find 16 guards about him but Peter is sound asleep what keeps you awake at night serious question what is it that keeps you awake at night Peter is on his apparently in his own thinking he's on the last night before he's about to die remember when Peter's in the boat with Jesus and a storm came up it was Jesus who was sleeping and Peter was panicking Jesus don't you care if we all die that now Peter is facing death and what do we find Peter Dean he sound asleep and and just says something about this man that he was able to put into practice what he wrote later on in 1 Peter 5 7 he says cast all your cares on him because why because he cares for you and it seems to me that even though it was several years later when Peter wrote those words it was something that sitting at the feet of Jesus getting out of the boat in the storm and and all of those experiences that he had that he'd got to this point where he was able to not only to say but to put into practice cast all your cares on him why because he cares for you and so Peter I'm not sure in reality whether I would have been in that same place of where Peter was at I've got to admit that I hope I would be but to be able to say cast all the cares even if I die tomorrow I can cast all those cares on God because he cares for me and I can have a good night's sleep there's a challenge for you and for me in um when we're facing these difficult things and maybe when we're going through a sleepless night the outcome is we've read is that Peter was released in a miraculous fashion chain to these uh these Disciples of these soldiers rather and um do you see all the the human things in here angel appears but he says Peter stand up why didn't Angel just stand Peter get dressed why didn't the angel just say oh you dressed get dressed so there are some things which the which Pete had to do for himself but what he couldn't do for himself that that uh that the angel in the name of God made sure that it happened in fact don't just sit back and wait for God to do everything we need to do whatever we can and God will do what he can do and so that's Peter in this story but then we also get to Herod as well his attitude to the church was this um I've put some of the different translations up here to try to get something of the reality of what's going on here um just by the way I was just sitting down there in the worship before looking around and just thinking how many people we have in our congregation where English is their second language and I say good on your folk for for persisting and being here and being a part of worship having to sing and listen and read in um in your second or maybe your third language it's just we we honor you for that and we're so glad that you're hearing that you're a part of our family that's by the by but but it helps us to sometimes read in different language in different versions so herod's attitude the church nrvc's persecuting him English Standard Version said that he laid violent hands on them the new King James version harassed the church Holman Christian Standard Bible he attacked the church contemporary English version he caused terrible suffering you get the picture this is what Herod is doing to the church so that's his attitude to the church his action towards James that he killed him his action towards Peter he arrested jailed and planned to kill him in verses three and four action towards 16 soldiers who allowed Peter to escape well how do you know much Choice did that the angel there but what did he do we surprised at this remember this is the Herod family you let me down guys sorry no no sorry about it you let me down you allowed this this character to escape and the Bible tells us that all of them were killed in his command just no respect for life we read towards the end the attitude toward himself I said well killed all soldiers Peter's Escape but let's celebrate go on a holiday went down to another place called everybody together gave a speech everybody was excited they said oh listen to this voice of Herod he sounds this is a voice of a God and he just relished in that and he took it on himself yeah that's me all right and God said don't take my glory from me resulted in judgment and that was the end of Herod that he died folk our theme as we're going through acts as this is we're talking about disciples making disciples and I wonder what discipleship listens there are in this passage for us I've listed nine so what I've identified my guess is that you'll probably come up with a few more but let me talk about these let's realize this lesson number one is this God is God and I'm not aren't you glad about that um but we sometimes set ourselves up as God sometimes we instead of saying we're creating image of God we try to create God in our image but we let's recognize God is God and I'm not that he is the Supreme Being and he's uh omnipresent omniscient or on omnipotent all of those things and I'm none of those things secondly his ways are not my ways Deuteronomy 29 29 talks about the secret things that belong only to God that's telling me that I'm not going to understand everything and that's my discipleship lesson number three is that there are many things that I or things that we don't understand that's the elephant in the room fake the the sorts of things that it's all right to say to people and people question us say where did God come from I don't know well people talk about this or that or something else it's okay to say I don't know folk if I could answer all the questions about God I wonder what sort of a god he'd be and to be able to say I don't know that's that's just an issue that's Way Beyond me is okay just putting those two things together that God's ways are not my ways that there are many things that I don't understand and talking about this original elephant in the room why did God allow James to be killed but Peter be rescued let me just put in a personal anecdote here those of you who know the story you've know this section of my life but I love school I joined the army got right away from Jesus living a life which was just just so different from any of the lives that you or that I live today talk about wine women in song it wasn't as as sophisticated as that it was um it was booze broads and Sport as it was for me and then when I'm in the midst of all of that my older brother was killed in a motorcycle accident and I remember saying calling out to God at that time saying God why Bob why did you allow Bob to be killed like he'd been being a minister why did you lay a bob to be killed and God spoke to me in such with such clarity though I know it was God I didn't hear a voice but the impression was so clear that I knew it was God speaking to me and this is this is what God said to me that Bob had done all that God had wanted him to live to do they went on to say to me but David the way that you were living you're not allowing me to fulfill all my plans and purposes in you that was the beginning of the Journey Back you know that those words are just stuck with me for these last thousand years or whatever that you know I don't know the answer to everything but I know that there's a God who sees everything from above and while I don't understand and I don't need to understand I know that he is God and I am not his ways are not my ways and that I live in the reality and in the limitations of that the church went to prayer we need to understand this is that prayer is important but it's not the quality nor the quantity of prayer that is important but rather to whom we pray is the important thing years ago I was sitting with a young person who was just going through such a difficult time wanting to put things right with God now at the end of our conversation I said would you like to pray talk to God about this this young person said to me will you pray rather than me and I said why is that this young person said because my prayers don't seem to be working lately um you see it's it's not a technique prayer is not a technique and it's not a matter of how much or all of those things but to whom we pray and when we pray for we are talking to the god of the universe who just listens to our conversation in whatever way we talk just like parents listening listening to their babies or grandparents their kids they can just mutter away maybe one of our granddaughters and she was just a little taller couldn't hardly speak we'd get on the phone because she lived about eyes at that time we get on the phone and she'd talk to she'd go blah blah blah blah back to her and we had this conversation probably for a minute or two it seemed to forever to her and I heard her mum in the background our daughter said okay that's enough time to hand over the phone to someone else at that point she said in the clearest voice I love you PA she could have asked me for anything at that stage and she could have had it even if it's gobbledygook God loves to hear you talk to him understand that and never ever ever give up even if it seems like All Is Lost that the James is being killed and the Peter is in prison keep praying and it's not your Technique and it's not whatever else but it's to whom you're praying you're talking to God expressing your concern and desires and wishes to him and leave the results over to him number five suffering goes with the journey with Jesus don't be surprised if we suffer as Disciples of Jesus after all he suffered we're reading about suffering today and throughout the world Christians suffer number six miracles do occur and they still occur today God's not limited and why it is we often when we're talking about miracles we're talking about health issues which is okay but miracles do occur in other areas as well number seven do your best be your best and allow God to do the rest and just don't sit back and think God's going to do everything you've got to be something you've got to do something and so God so there are things you've got to do but when we get to the end of what we can do God says hey there's so much more that I can do number eight always give God the glory it didn't work for Herod for him to to take the glory Isaiah 42 verse 8 imparts is God speaking my glory I will not give to another let those words sink in my glory I will not give to another whatever we do if it's good let's give the glory and the praise to God number nine is this God always wins in the end verse 24 says that but the word of God continued to increase and spread James is killed peas is imprisoned released herod's killed by God the outcome of all of this but the word of God continued to increase and spread in fact there are nine discipleship lessons there is too many for you to take away but I just want you to sit quietly and reflect and just even allow God to impress on you one or two or three of the nine that you want to take away and to live out or to meditate on or to challenge yourself in or to whatever As A discipleship lesson that you want to take away this week so I just want to have like a minute or so whatever of quietness if you want to close your eyes you feel free to do that and to pray God which one of these nine lessons do you want us to want me to focus on in the immediate future or if you're not sure and you want to just keep your eyes open keep reading that list you feel free to do that too discipleship listens this story is not there just for our entertainment or edification it's there because God wants you as his disciple to learn something today Speak Lord your servant your disciple is listening.