This is amazing!
After all the other crazy stuff that happens in the early church in the book of Acts, this act of God just blows my mind!!
This is after Saul (originally a hater and persecutor of all Christians) is converted to Christianity by Jesus Himself and begins to tell the nations about the Good News that Jesus had come to free them from their sin, including the Gentiles (or anyone who had previously been excluded from being told about Jesus because they were not Jews). And after Peter had also begun to share this Good News with the Gentiles as well as with the Jews. Because of all this King Herod, of the reigning Roman Empire at the time, was not happy that this Jesus was still getting all of the attention even after he had sentenced Him to death. So naturally he began to lay “violent hands on some who belonged to the church” and ended up killing one of them. Seeing that this pleased the Jews, who made up the majority of the people and who had the power to riot and cause all sorts of trouble for him, “he proceeded to arrest Peter [one of Jesus’ disciples and the leader of the Christian movement at the time] also.”
So that’s the background, but this is where it gets crazy!
Take a look: Acts 12:6-11
Now when Herod was about to bring [Peter] out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’” (Emphasis added)
A couple things I want to point out:
1. It says that “a light shone in the cell.” This wasn’t just any old light, this was the light of the presence of God.This was an angel of the Lord coming in the authority of the Lord as a messenger to carry out the will of the Lord. Peter didn’t need to see anything in this situation so there is no other explanation of this light than it coming from this angel who is constantly in the presence of the Lord and therefore, just like Jesus’ face did on the mount of transfiguration (See Matthew 17:1-13), shone with the light of the glory of the Lord.
2. Have you ever shined a light in a dark place where someone is sleeping? They tend to wake up, or at least come out of sleep a little bit. We don’t know whether the guards were asleep or not, but either way it seems as though they would have noticed a glorious light shining in the cell. Nope! The guards and sentries never noticed a thing!
3. This passage also says, “the chains fell off his hands.” They just fell off. Heavy medal chains in a Roman prison, which I’m sure were not dinky, just fell off his arms. Oops! Guess they weren’t on tight enough? Or maybe the guards forgot to lock them? No! These guards didn’t make mistakes like this unless they had a death wish. This was a work of the Lord.
4. So after the chains just fell off, Peter and the angel just walk on out. The passage even says that they walked passed both the guards and nothing happened! Maybe time had stopped in some weird, sci-fi movie way? Or the guards had been put to sleep? Who knows! But this part of the passage, if the previous parts haven’t already, shows that something miraculous was happening here. God was literally bending the very rules of physics and all of the natural laws in order to rescue Peter from the hands of Herod. But wait there’s more!
5. When they make it out of the prison by God’s hand and guiding, they come to the iron gate of the city, and “it opened for them of its own accord.” It just opened right on up! Just like the chains just fell off. This was the middle of the night, the gate was locked probably and no one was going to open it to two strange men who were just walking around. Also it was an iron gate, this ain’t no white picket fence, it did not just fall open. Again we see God interfering with everything that is logical and of this world.
Are you having trouble wrapping your mind around this? Don’t worry, so was Peter who was in the midst of all the action. The passage mentions that he thought he was having a vision and that he didn’t actually believe this had happened until he found himself standing on the street inside the city gates.
This was no dream, no crazy story cooked up by some crazy man. This happened. And for the truth of it all, Luke, a most famous historian of the day and the writer of the book of Acts, appeals to the judgment of several people who are subsequently named as having seen Peter and heard his story of being rescued. He also appeals to the judgment of the flabbergasted guards and sentries who found out the next morning that Peter was gone and were subsequently killed when Herod found out (See Acts 12:12-19).
This is amazing,
Because it shows the immense power of the Lord, God over all the Universe.
Because it shows the lengths God is willing to go to, even to interfere with the general laws of science, which He created, to accomplish His will in our lives.
We may rest assured that if the Lord has it in His will, it will come to pass. No obstacle, even the strongest Empire of its day, can stop Him!