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1Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church 2And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread (my note: Passover). 4And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Passover (my note: Easter) to bring him forth to the people. 5Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. 6And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 7And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9And he went out, and followed him; and knew not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. 10When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. 11And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. 12And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. 13And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. 14And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.15And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. 16But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. 17But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go show these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place. 18Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter 19And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.
This reminds us that the same power that brought Jesus out of the grave is the same power that we have available to us through Jesus Christ for the empowering of our lives.
The 12th Chapter of Acts illustrates how God’s power works on behalf of His people. It’s a picture of the conflict within the early church and it shows us how God goes to work for His people.
This power is still available to us today. When there is an impossible situation, then God’s resurrection power is readily available.
The story of Peter’s imprisonment and his miraculous release is the story of an impossibility to which God took control. Remember, Peter was in prison. Peter had been in prison before. He had two familiar records, one for getting into prison and the record for getting out of prison.
Over in the 5th Chapter of Acts, we read that the apostles had been preaching, Peter being a part of this group. They had been put into prison by the Scribes and the Pharisees. The next day they were released, and they were back on the same corner, preaching, where they had been arrested before.
Because Peter was empowered by the power of God, it was difficult to keep him in prison. I’m sure that when he was arrested by Herod’s people and put into prison, his past record was well known by the people of that day, and they were determined that this time Peter would not escape. Herod had determined to stamp out Christianity, so, he picked out some of the main leaders, trying to discourage the followers so that they would disband, and the message would be stopped.
Herod’s plan was to kill certain men. In Verses 2 and 3 he had already killed James, the brother of John and the Scripture says that because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter also. It was the time of unleavened bread, the time that proceeds the Passover. Herod would have already killed Peter, but it was the feast, so Herod didn’t want to upset the people during one of the Holy Seasons, so they put Peter into prison until after the feast.
While in prison, we are told that Peter was protected. His protection was from four squads of soldiers assigned to Peter to guard him, probably during the four watches of the night, trading off, after each four had taken their turn guarding. All of these men were responsible for their own lives if Peter escaped.
Also, the Scripture tells us that he was bound in chains between two soldiers. Later, as we follow Peter out of prison, he goes through three iron gates before he is ultimately free.
Sixteen soldiers, two chains, three iron gates! They expected Peter to stay where he was. The people who loved Peter looked at his circumstances as an impossibility, but that’s where God comes in for his people.
I love this song…
“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible.
He’ll do for you what no other friend can do.”
If you go back through the Bible, you’ll see the words of this song illustrated over and over. Remember Elijah? In prayer he called down the power of God from on high. He wanted to prove who was the true God so he poured twelve barrels of water over the sacrifice, so that when God’s power was displayed, no one would confuse it for anything else. It would be recognized as the power of God.
Remember Gideon gathered thirty thousand soldiers together to do battle against the Midianites, but it wasn’t ready for God yet, because in order for God to be involved, they had to dismiss all but three hundred of those soldiers, so when the victory came, the enemy would know that God was at work.
God delights to work in the impossible situations. When we think we have a problem that’s impossible, we’ve just become a candidate for God’s power. God’s power is dependent on the interceding saints.
Two verses in the text remind us that while Peter was in prison something else was happening some distance from the prison walls and it had a dynamic effect on what was about to happen to the apostle. Verse 5, Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. Verse 12, And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
If we attempt the impossible for God and if we have expected great things from God, the next thing we must understand is attempting isn’t enough. It must be coupled with our fervent prayer that God would work on our behalf.
If we have much prayer, we will see much of God’s working. If we have little prayer, we will see little of our request answered because God has ordained to work in this universe by means of prayer. There are certain answers to prayer that cannot come to pass unless we pray and if we do not pray and commit ourselves to prayer, then we will be confused, fatigued and we will fail to receive the answers from God.
The interesting thing about Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison that seemed an impossibility, was that it was fueled by a group of about thirteen people who gathered in the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother, to pray that God would release Peter.
Look at Verse 5 of Acts 12, above. Their prayers were unceasing. Do you remember when we used to have all night prayer meetings? You know that if we do not pray, we short circuit what God wants to do.
No doubt if there had been no people praying in Mary’s home there would have been no angel in Peter’s cell. Not only was their prayer unceasing, but it was urgent.
Prayer was urgent because in Verse 6, it says “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.”
The execution of Peter was to take place the next morning. The prayer meeting was going on that night, before the execution the next morning.
Our prayers always get urgent when the deadline is near. The closer the deadline draws near our intensity in praying begins to increase. The closer the deadline, and the greater challenge, the more interest and fervent our prayer ministry will be.
These people were gathered together in Mary’s house praying around the clock and they were praying with great urgency that God would work on their behalf, that He would overcome this impossible situation.
Had there been no praying there would have been no victory. God’s Word tells us that we will have opposition. Satan trembles when he sees anyone on their knees. He isn’t afraid of our organization. He isn’t afraid of our big plans, our goals or our dreams, but when he sees God’s people praying, Satan begins to fear because that’s the power that turns God loose to do the impossible.
God’s resurrection power was dependent upon interceding saints. James was killed but Peter lived. God was not through with him yet.
Our days are numbered.