Before we dive into today’s reading I want to say I’m sorry for not posting the last three nights. I have had grandchildren sleeping over and was hanging out with them.
Today is the conclusion of Peter’ prison story we visited the last time. James had been killed by Herod and since the crowd was so pleased with that outcome, Herod decided to do an encore. He was planning on killing Peter right after the holy days passed.
This plan sounded a lot like the original plans for Jesus by the Jews. I’m sure the similarities were not lost on Peter. Peter had been an eyewitness to the schemes of man and how God can alter their directions to meet His plans.
I don’t know if Peter knew the day Herod was waiting for but Peter appeared to be at peace in spite of it all. We are told that “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers” (verse 6). We don’t know how long Peter was held or if he knew that the next day was supposed to be his last. I think he was seized after James was killed but I’m not sure. If not, I think the guards would have been more than happy to tell him James’ fate. They were cruel and sadistic men and reveled in causing pain, be it physical or emotional.
So how could Peter possibly sleep at a time like that? Because he KNEW what lay beyond death. Peter knew that his death would result in his stepping into the arms of Jesus once again. He also KNEW that if God had other plans for him that there was nothing Herod could do to stop them. So instead of staying awake and worrying about his situation, he put it in God’s hands and went to sleep.
When the angel came to Peter to rescue him, the angle had to hit Peter to get him to wake up. Peter didn’t even realize that he was awake. He thought he was having some kind of vision. I can understand his confusion. First thing that happens is that his chains fall off. That doesn’t happen in everyday life. Chains usually take a key to open them. The guards were also not noticing the bright light and the angel in the room. I wonder if they were asleep too.
I wonder what Peter thought about the angel telling him to get dressed. This is not usual “vision” behavior. Visions didn’t usually deal with someone’s state of dress. Peter didn’t question it though. He simply did as instructed. He probably thought he would get an explanation when the time was right.
Next, Peter and the angel walk right out the door and past the soldiers guarding it. I’m pretty sure these guards were on duty and awake when this happened but they didn’t see a thing. I’m wondering if the door opened up as the gate did a few moments later. None of these events were noticed by the guards. Peter’s assumption that this was a vision would seem very well founded. But it wasn’t. This was REALLY happening to Peter.
Once safely away from prison, the angel left Peter. He didn’t see Peter all the way to his destination or even tell him what to do next. He was there one moment and gone the next. When Peter finally realized he wasn’t dreaming, he headed right for the believers he knew would have been praying for him.
Peter needed to let someone know that he was free. He didn’t head for the place where the apostles were staying. It probably would have been the first place Herod would look and if he was caught there all those in attendance would feel Herod’s wrath. When Peter got to Mary’s home he did what he normally did; he knocked on the door.
The group inside the house were “earnestly praying” for Peter. I wonder what they were asking for in their prayer. Were they asking that God miraculously free Peter? Were they asking that Herod change his mind? Were they asking that Peter would be strong for whatever came? What were they praying?
I find their response to Rhoda telling them that Peter was knocking very disheartening. All this time they had been praying, but it appears they had no faith in those prayers. They kept telling her she was mistaken or that it was Peter’s ghost she was seeing. If they believed their prayers would be answered they would have received her news with gladness, not skepticism. “Of course Peter is here. Where else should he go after God set him free?”
They were very fortunate that Peter didn’t give up on getting to speak with them. He had to let someone know what had happened so the news could be spread while he himself left the area. There was sure to be a search in the morning. The last think Peter wanted to do was put himself right back into Herod’s hands.
That morning was VERY eventful. Peter had shared with that group of believers in detail about his escape before leaving the city. The prison guards were searching like crazy for the man who should NEVER have been able to get free. They knew they would be held personally responsible for Herod not receiving his prisoner. And they knew what this failure meant for them. Someone was going to die that morning. If not the prisoner then the guards for letting him get away. I doubt they would have been believed if they had actually witnessed how Peter walked out.
I wonder what Peter thought of his next “second chance.” He had so many “second chances” with Jesus; the most memorable one being his denial and restoration afterwards. Now he had a second chance at life. Did it change how he lived each day? Did he work harder to reach even more people for the Lord? Did his rescue change his ministry? How did he deal with the fact that James wasn’t rescued and he was? God wasn’t finished with Peter yet. He still had work to do.
Father God, I’m SO glad that we can know for certain that NOTHING man can do can interfere with Your plans. You set the stars in the heavens. You told the see how far it could go. And You told us of what is to come. Just as certainly as You saved Peter from Herod’s hands, You will save those who love You too. We won’t all “walk through walls” to freedom but we will be held in the palm of Your hand. I don’t have to wait until I’m in dire straits to receive Your help. You have plans for my day to day life too. You care as much about my small issues as You do about the ones I find earth shattering. You are always faithful. You never let go or look away. And even when they don’t turn out how I though they should, I can trust that they turned out just like You planned. Even if that means the end comes where I’m standing before You in Heaven. That too is part of Your plan.