Oct 20, 2021, 2:51 PM
We have different destinies to fulfil in our earthly journey. Someone once said that just as our fingers are not equal we should not expect common destinies. We each have a route to follow as laid down by God, our Maker.
In first century Israel, the Christian movement was gaining momentum to the distaste of the Jewish leaders who were uncomfortable with their unbridled enthusiasm over Jesus whom they had crucified, but who resurrected and ascended into heaven. The Jewish leaders had hit their feet against a stone and there was no letting up. They were even delighted to have King Herod as their ally who was dancing to their tune.
The apostles on the other hand had a mission to accomplish; share the good news of Jesus Christ’s conquest of the world. Before He ascended to heaven, He had commanded them to go and make disciples of every nation, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)
“It was about the time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.” (Acts 12:1) King Herod had killed James, the brother of John – both disciples of Jesus. Now he had arrested Peter, the head of the disciples, with the intention to kill him also after the Feast of the Unleavened Bread that usually preceded the Passover celebrations.
King Herod’s popularity rating with the people was soaring for persecuting Christians – the followers of Jesus Christ. Because the Christians did not protest vehemently over the murder of James, King Herod felt he could continue in that vein. He laid hands on Peter and the Christian community rallied to stop him in his tracks.
The church’s sole response was to plead for God’s help. So they organised a prayer vigil in John Mark’s house one night. They knew something: God answers prayers, in particular corporate prayer. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) What either Herod or the church ignored was that Jesus had prophesied over Peter “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Peter was a high-profile prisoner held in a maximum security prison surrounded by four squads of four soldiers. A total of sixteen security men were deployed to prevent his escape. As if that was not enough his wrists were chained to two of the guards. In spite of these circumstances, Peter could sleep soundly between the two guards. He knew in whom he had believed and was the least bothered.
“Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.” (Acts 12:7)
“So Peter was kept in prison but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (Acts 12:5) Today, in church circles, such an occurrence would call for the convening of a meeting of the elders or a church body to analyse the trend of taking hostages or to debate the line of action to take. They would strategise on which doors to knock on or envisage it will be appropriate to write a letter to the President with a copy to the Human Rights Council. They will go to the extent of requesting the church’s legal adviser on what steps to take in a bid to seek redress. The last thing that they would think about would be to pray and intercede for the release of their member. This first century church believed in prayer that would turn the situation around.
As they prayed, God went to work. He sent an angel. The angel asked Peter to put on his clothes and sandals then wrap himself with his cloak and follow him. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city, which opened automatically and they were outside of the prison. It did not dawn on Peter that this wasn’t a vision until after the angel left him.
Having left the prison in spite of the heavy security, Peter headed for John Mark’s house to meet with the brethren who had gathered there to pray. He knocked on the door and the maid servant named Rhoda came to the door peeked through the keyhole and noticed it was Peter who was at the door. She was so excited to break the news to the group that she forgot to open the door for Peter to come in.
She broke the news: ‘Peter is at the door.’ ‘You are out of your mind,’ they snapped. When the servant insisted they replied: ‘It must be his angel.’ They only opened the door upon Peter’s insistence.
Three things I want to leave with you. It is not over until God had spoken. King Herod had gotten away with murdering James and thought he could get away with it. But like a Krio proverb states, there is a marked difference in the head of a goat and a sheep. It is not because King Herod got away the first time that he could get away with it a second time. ‘First fool na fool.’ You have to be a real fool to be duped twice over the same matter.
The second observation is that Peter himself did not believe what had happened to him. He made the comment; “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.” (Acts 12:11) Had he forgotten Jesus’ prophecy over his life?
The greatest shock is that the people who were praying did not believe in answered prayer to have remarked after they were told that Peter was at the door that it was Peter’s angel.
Prayer is the only tool the Christian has as a medium to reaching his God. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
Our “...God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we may hope or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) We only need to believe in His word for the desired results. Let nothing move you, God is in control even when you do not think so or it does not seem apparent. Our contract is to believe in the things that are not seen for they are everlasting; the things we see are temporal. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)