Scripture: Acts chapter 12
Commentary: The fourth persecution began through Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. He killed James, the brother of John with a sword. The Rabbis considered death by the sword disgraceful, and therefore, they were rather pleased at the death of James. The murderer of the Apostle was a relative of the Herod that killed John the Baptist. James was the first Apostle to be martyred. He was beheaded before the Jews.
Herod saw that the murder of James pleased the Jews. Herod had carried out one murder and was planning another, which was Peter’s murder. Peter’s arrest occurred during the time of “unleavened bread.” Herod was careful to avoid disturbing the Jews and shedding blood during the feast. Peter was then imprisoned in the town of Antonia where Paul was later imprisoned. Four quaternions of soldiers (being chained to two guards, with two shifts for each), which guarded him until after Easter (Passover) when they planned his death. Herod was careful to respect the Holy Days. Paul had been arrested twice before and once he had escaped.
The Angel of the Lord delivers Peter for the second time. He is sleeping chained to two guards when the Angel of the Lord awoke him and a light shined upon him. The Angel of the Lord smites Peter on the side (wake up). The Angel lifted Peter up and the chains had fallen off. Peter was told to gird up his self, bind on his sandals, cast his garment about, and follow him. Peter thought he was having a “vision.” The Angel led him through the first and second ward, the Iron Gate that lead to the city opened of its own accord before them, they came into the street of the city and the Angel had left Peter.
It would seem the Angels are doing the Father’s business, and when it’s completed, they just disappear. Peter seemed to have been in a state of stupor and not being fully aware of what was happening. The Scripture tells us some things, that Peter assured to himself that the Lord sent His Angel to deliver him from the hand of Herod, and from the expectation of the people of the Jews – to which, he means the anticipation of the Jews to see Peter killed as James.
Peter heads to John Mark’s house (the Church had met in homes, for there wasn’t a church building). They met in Mary’s home, who was the mother of Mark. They may have been travail, “desperate prayer” for Peter and the Church. Peter hurried over and knocked on the door. Rhoda came, and she often had heard Peter preach, so she recognized his voice, and ran to the others in joy that he had come. There was a lack of belief, but prayer continued. They thought she was “mad crazy” and said it must be an angel for they believed in guardian angels.
Peter still knocks. They were astonished at the sight of seeing Peter, and he beckons them with his hand and signals them to have peace. It seemed that he was quite hurried to get inside and explain the situation to them. Peter leaves them for a destination that he didn’t mention, and wanted to talk to them for a moment before he left. A brief conversation ensued, where he told them how the Lord delivered him out of prison. He wanted them to know it was the Lord and not some tall tale that the keepers of the prison would concoct. He admonished them to tell these things to James, the Lord’s brother, and to the rest of the brethren and he departed.
Herod’s wrath was vehement toward the jailers, for it was a matter of life and death to the soldiers when a prisoner was left in their charge. Herod then ordered an extensive search and finally the few guards were drilled and executed to save face for Herod. Herod then left Jerusalem and went to Caesarea where he stayed; the persecution seemed to subside for a season.
Usually, when a leader is over a team, whatever happened to the team or if they get in trouble, people then point to the leader for full responsibility. Herod had them executed so they didn’t try to put responsibility upon him for the escape. The Word of God “grew and multiplied.” Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem having fulfilled their mission. They had taken famine relief to the saints in Judea. John Mark joined them in this journey. Saul and Barnabas took Mark on their first missionary journey, but he got homesick and left the team. Saul and Barnabas separated over Mark at the beginning of the second missionary journey. Mark was a convert of Peter, and was then restored to Paul later.
The program began to gradually turn toward the Gentiles. It wasn’t that the Gospel had changed, but just began to move through the Gentiles because the Jews were quick to reject Christ. The Gospel Message began to “purge” out the demands of the Law of Moses. Quickly, Gentile Ministers came on the scene and Gentile Churches were formed. The Apostle’s council came to agreement for the program of the Gentile Church.