Opening Prayer

Whatever I may see in the world around me, Father, thank you that you will use everything to fulfill your purposes and bring yourself glory.

Read ACTS 12:1–19a

Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison

12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 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.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”

12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Herod’s Death

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.

Read full chapter

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Read this text in relation to situations where Christians face the threat of violence.

Think Further

This story exposes the brutality and folly of autocratic rulers who use power in corrupt and oppressive ways. It contrasts their actions with the spiritual resources of humble people whose trust is in God and whose prayers result in outcomes which exceed anything they could imagine. The portrayal of Herod Agrippa, like that of his grandfather Herod the Great in Luke’s gospel, is chilling in its depiction of the casual use of violence, both in the murder of James (v. 2) and in the execution of the guards at the end of the story (v. 19). This is the world within which the gospel is preached, and it has parallels with Luke’s account of the passion of Jesus. Peter is arrested and faces trial and death at the time of Passover, as did his Master and Lord.

What interrupts the expected course of events and confounds the exercise of imperial power, is the fact that ‘the church was earnestly praying to God’ for Peter (v. 5). There are real mysteries here: why was Peter miraculously delivered, but James beheaded? Clearly prayer does not always result in the same outcomes – and in any case the church had not anticipated the spectacular result of its intercessions! Despite the desperate seriousness of this story, it contains more evidence of Luke’s sense of humor: Peter’s incomprehension at what happens in the middle of the night (v. 9) and the fact that an escaped prisoner is left standing outside a locked door by the servant girl Rhoda (v. 14) bring realism to the account and allow us to smile. However, the theological significance of this passage could not be more serious: ‘Acts, far from being a humble appeal to Caesar for a little recognition … is a revolutionary manifesto addressed to a church determined to show Caesar that God, not nations, rules the world.’1


Ask yourself how that final statement applies to Christianity in our time and age.

Closing prayer

Omnipotent God, there is nothing beyond your control. Whatever challenges I face, help me to look to you, to trust you, and know that you will always have your way.

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by kingstar

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *