Struck by the Power of God
Struck by the Power of God
One of my favorite parts of being a parent is when your kid starts to learn to walk. I loved it because they want you nearby. They need you to help them and hold their hand. And there are times where they start getting the muscles to move but they don’t have the coordination to do it themselves. As long as they have your hand in theirs they are good to go. But you take your hand away and all of the sudden that little go cart of a kid comes to a complete stop. They look at you and reach for your hand. You can tell that when they have your hand in theirs they are full of faith, but as soon as you take away your hand the doubt hits them.
Faith is what propels the Christian life, but there are times that doubt can creep in and make you stationary. We begin to doubt God’s sufficiency and power to act and we become frozen.
In today’s passage the church continues to experience persecution and also deliverance. It shows us:
Prop: God is able to act, and so we live for his glory, and are not dismayed when he does not act immediately.
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 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. 8 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.” 9 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. 10 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. 11 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.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. 18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there. 20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. 24 But the word of God increased and multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark. (Acts 12:1-25 ESV)
- Don’t doubt God’s Power to Act.
Old song: Jim Croce
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don’t mess around with Jim
This passage starts with Herod laying violent hands, evil hands, doing badly, mistreating the church. James is killed. Peter is in custody and next in line. The James that is killed is the brother of John. They were who Jesus called “Sons of Thunder.” He was one of the 12 disciples. After hearing amazing story after amazing story, beginning with the thousands converted at Pentecost, the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, then the conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius, the conversion of the church’s greatest opponent in Saul, and the birth of the church in Antioch, we come to a setback. James is killed by the sword, and Peter is in line for it.
Herod is a problem: there are a couple Herods mentioned in the Bible. This is the grandson of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was the king who at the time of the birth of Jesus, slaughtered all the babies two years old and under in attempts to keep the Messiah from coming. That is his line. This Herod ruled part of Palestine. This Herod’s father was Aristobulus, who had been murdered by his own father (his grandfather). This Herod was a playboy politician and at 23 fled Palestine to escape his creditors. Herod hit rock bottom until his friend Caligula came to power, freed Herod and appointed him ruler over some Palestinian provinces. He was Jewish by race and not by conviction. He would do anything to maintain his popularity with the Jewish population.
Herod is a threat. He is killing the church. But God is able to put an end to those who oppose him.
The early historian Josephus tells us a bit more about the death of Herod. Herod came out in a royal robe made entirely of silver that was remarkable in texture. The silver was lit up by the early morning sun. The people said, “Hitherto we have reverenced you as a man; now we acknowledge you as more than mortal nature.” The king did not rebuke them. He then said he saw an angel above him, and realized it was a bringer of bad news. He fell down with severe pains. Five days later he passed away at the age of 54. Eusebius, History of the Church, p45.
He is eaten by worms. Great in power. Great in his fall.
This is not unlike his grandfather, Herod the Great.
“Was consumed by a slow fire that consumed him. He had an overpowering desire for food that could not be satisfied. Ulcerations of the intestines with agonizing pains in the bowels and a calumny transparent humor covering the feet. The abdomen was in the same miserable state, and in the genitals mortification set in, breeding worms. Breathing was constricted and only possible when sitting upright, and it was most offensive because of the heavy stench and feverish respiration. Those who practiced divination and had the gift of foretelling such things declared that God was exacting a penalty for the king’s continual wickedness.” Eusebius, 24.
Don’t play games with God. He always wins. Even when he delays his judgement, it is only a delay.
You can resist God and get away with it for a time. But God calls all people to account.
In the end of this passage Herod is dead, Peter is freed, and the word of God is spreading.
God is able to provide for his people and his church. Don’t doubt his power to act.
Why the delay? If God punished every act of wickedness now there would be no need for future judgement. But if God didn’t openly act on occasion we would assume he was indifferent to suffering.
- Don’t doubt the power of prayer.
James has been killed. Peter is next in line. But the church is praying!
So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church. (Act 12:5 CSB)
-The church is praying. This seems to be the catalyst. They are not out protesting. They are praying. They are not complaining on social media. Maybe those things did happen, but their primary action that we are told of is to pray. That is humbling.
The church is praying fervently. prayer: strictly in an extended way; hence eagerly, fervently, earnestly. When you really want something to happen, you take it to God. In this day of protest, cancel, we ought to be in prayer more than we read facebook, we ought to be in prayer more than we comment and critique, we ought to be in prayer for our cause and also for the well being of those we disagree with. God is able to move.
-when you have no other recourse but to pray.
Herod is about to offer up, to sacrifice him to the people. Killing Peter is a means to Herod maintaining control. He pacified the majority and kept the minority groups in check. That was his goal. Peter has caused a stir for sometime now. Calling out the Jews and Roman officials in the crucifixion of Jesus and encouraging people to follow Jesus above the officials.
Peter is in lockdown. Well protected. Guarded by four squads (tetradiaoi, four squads of four). He is chained to not one but two soldiers. There are sentries at the door.
Persecution is happening. They are being spread and killed. The church is together and they are praying. Many are there. A considerable number.
Peter is struck (), with a heavy blow by an angel. Herod was struck and destroyed. Peter is struck and awakened to new life. The angel takes him out, the doors open automatically (automaton).
The unthinkable happens. Peter is delivered. Church didn’t know what to do.
- v14 from joy she did not open.
- tell her she is crazy: ompletely irrational manner – ‘to not be in one’s right mind, to be insane, to be mad, to be out of one’s mind, insanity, madness.’ μαίνομαι: ὁ δὲ Παῦλος,
- it must be his angel. Far more possible an angel is outside than it is Peter. V15
- They were excited. Ecstatic.
Thabity anabwlie, big church in grand cayman island and he went to plant a church in a rough part of DC. Said I could cruise in Grand Cayman and I don’t believe God created us to cruise through life. We need to take risks and do hard things. It has taught me to depend on him in more ways.
Don’t doubt the power of God. Don’t fear having prayer as your only recourse.
Are you willing to rest in the power of prayer?
All of this going on, and there is a support network of prayer, community, and love. This should strengthen you.
- Don’t Doubt the Grace/Love of God
We are a results driven society. Did you meet your number in the office? If not then you are expendable. Got a great bonus then you must have done something right. Did you get a bad grade, then you must not have worked hard.
We take that to our circumstances and relationship with God and it is not accurate.
Peter experiences a miraculous delivery. James does not. Does that mean God loved Peter more than James, God cared more for Peter than for James, Peter had a more significant role than James. Peter was better than James.
Did the people pray for Peter but not James.
There is a performance orientation ingrained in people today. I can’t tell you how many pastors doubt their calling as soon as it gets hard. Didn’t you know this would happen? It happened to the Apostles. Peter is in jail. It’s like we only notice the miraculous deliverances and not the difficulty before the miracle. Everybody wants a miracle. Nobody wants to be in the position to need it.
Herod failed to give glory to God and suffered for it. Both Peter and James gave glory to God and were rewarded for it.
Everyone wants to succeed with God. Few are willing to suffer for him.
Thomas a Kempis.
Sometimes God takes a person home and he allows another to live. Sometimes he gives one person a husband and not another. Sometimes a couple has kids and another does not. Sometimes a business flourishes and another does not. God is still God. He is in control. He is able to save. He promises this life will end but there is more to come. Everyone taste death at some point, but he is able to repay.
End of John, Peter sees John walking and keeps asking what about him. What will become of him. Jesus response is
“As for you, follow Me.” (Joh 21:22 CSB)
It is about following Jesus. He has a different path for each of us. Don’t let doubt set in because it’s not what you thought. Knowing he has power over all things. Knowing that he can deliver us from all things. Locked up in jail- he can deliver you. Addiction- he can deliver you. Loss of a spouse or friend- he can deliver you.
Even if he doesn’t deliver you, you can trust him with that. Even if he doesn’t come the way you want he can still deliver you. Trust in Jesus. He got Peter out of jail. We saw at the martyrdom of Stephen that Jesus was welcoming him into his kingdom. Jesus is able to deliver. He is with you. Don’t doubt it.
- Don’t Doubt the Eternality of the Work of God.
If you think something is a failure you are not going to invest in it. When the king is having your people killed good reason to think this is a lost cause.
V25? The word of God flourishes after Herod’s death. Herod certainly had an affect. But the word of God grows. James is gone. But the word is not dependent on any person.
Does this mean they won the battle for culture and everyone came to think like them? No, certainly not. That was never the goal. But it does mean the church saw growth. People heard the word. Trusted in it.
In the beginning Herod is doing whatever he wants. James is dead, Peter in jail, and the movement is threatened. In the end Herod is dead and the word of God grows.
God’s word and purposes are eternal. Through Christ we are connected to that.
Fear will attempt to paralyze you in living for God. Ask yourself how you are doing in being a disciple. How are you doing in following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus. Where has doubt set in. Where do you need to repent and begin to walk in faith? That toddler is scared to walk he holds up his hands. Humility allows him to grow. Too many Christians are stagnant in the walk and too proud to ask for help. We need to pray that God would strike us with his power, open our eyes, so we don’t waste our lives.