Story 48 – Peter in Prison
Based on Acts chapter 12
Sometimes terrible things happen and we don’t know why, we just have to trust God that He knows, the situation isn’t out of His control and we can trust Him no matter how bad things get. And things were pretty bad.
You see, for some reason, King Herod Agrippa, the grandson of that awful King Herod the Great who’d wanted to kill the infant Jesus when he’d heard the ‘King of the Jews’ had been born in Bethlehem, got it into his head to follow his evil grandfather’s ways. He began to persecute the church, arresting some of the believers and causing them harm.
What we found particularly hard was what he did to James, John’s brother. Herod Agrippa had James killed with a sword, cutting off his head. It was one of those times when we just had to say to the Lord, ‘We don’t understand, but we do trust You’, as we mourned his death. But our enemies, the Jewish leaders, and many of the Jewish people who’d refused to accept that Jesus is the Messiah, were delighted when they heard that Herod had killed one of the apostles; one of those who’d lived with Jesus, walked and talked with Him and seen all the amazing things He’d done and heard all the wonderful words He’d spoken. A man, no less, who’d met the risen Lord Jesus and was a witness to His resurrection.
And, when Herod realised the Jews were happy that he’d had James killed, and because he needed the Jews to like him because of some political trouble he was having with Rome, he decided to do more terrible things to the church, to fight against it, just like Saul had done. So, he had me, Peter, arrested. He didn’t plan to give me a fair trial or allow me to put my own case forward. No, what he planned was a nice little show trial before I was to be publicly executed, no doubt to the delight of the Jews - because pleasing the Jews meant Rome was happy.
You’d have thought I’d have been terrified by the prospect of death as I lay chained to, not one, but two soldiers who slept in the cell with me - while more soldiers stayed on guard outside my cell. In fact, Herod had ordered four sets of four soldiers to guard me, to make sure no one could rescue me and that I couldn’t escape. But I had no plans to try and escape; in fact, I wasn’t terrified at all. You see Jesus Himself had told me that I would die a death that was anything but natural and maybe this was it? So, I had no need to worry, He was in control. And what made me even more certain was that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the church was praying for me, praying that the Lord would do … well, whatever the Lord felt was right. (PAUSE)
One of the things about being able to trust the Lord no matter how bad the situation is that you don’t have much problem going to sleep. So, the night before I was to be paraded before my enemies and put to death, I fell asleep knowing that, whatever happened, God was in control. There I was, sound asleep and chained between two guards, when I felt a sharp prod on my side. I opened my eyes to see what was happening. There was a really bright light in the cell and standing beside me was an angel from the Lord. Now, I ought to make it clear that I’d been so fast asleep, that I didn’t think I’d woken up properly! I thought it wasn’t real and must be some kind of vision from the Lord. Anyway, then the angel said to me, ‘Quick, get up!’ So I started to sit up, feeling extremely dopey. And, as I sat up, the chains that were holding me to my captors just fell off while they stayed sound asleep! And then the angel, with great patience, started to organise me. ‘Now get dressed,’ he said, and I got dressed. ‘Put your sandals on,’ he said, and I put my sandals on. ‘Now put your coat on.’ he continued. So I picked up my coat and put it on, and then he said, ‘Follow me.’ So I started to follow him, still not sure if I was dreaming!
Well, we walked straight out of the