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PETER – DEAD MAN WALKING? Acts 12v1-6

26/07/2020

PETER – DEAD MAN WALKING?

 

 

Morning Service at Ballymacashon

Lord’s Day,  26th July 2020

 Opening Prayer.

Praise,    Psalm  142 (Tune Myfanwy)

I cry for mercy to the LORD; To him I lift my voice in prayer.
2 Before the LORD I bring my plea; To him my trouble I declare.
3 Each time my spirit faints in me, You are the one who knows my way; 
For in the path on which I walk A hidden snare for me they lay.

4 Look to my right hand and take note: There is not one concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares For me in my adversity.
5 I cry aloud to you, O LORD: “You are my hiding place in strife. 
You are the one sustaining me; You keep me in the land of life.”

6 LORD, listen to my cry for help, For I am in extremity.
Save me from those who seek my life, Because they are too strong for me.
7 So that I may give thanks to you, From prison’s darkness set me free. 
The righteous then will gather round, Because you’ve shown your love to me.)

 Prayer.

Acts 12:1-6

There are two main characters in chapter twelve, someone called ‘Herod the King’ and the Apostle Peter. 

colosseum-2635343_1920

Rome

To understand what’s going on, we need to do just a little historical research…   

Listen to this service as a PODCAST

1 Herod – Virtue Signalling Politician. 

Let’s meet a good example of a virtue signalling politician…

  • Introducing HEROD the KING. There are several people of that name in the New Testament – all of them related and all of the members of the same privileged family.  The Herod we meet at the time of the birth of Christ was Herod the Great, the vassal king of Judea, who ruled as a governor under the Romans.  He murdered his son Aristobulus, who was the father of Herod Agrippa, the Herod who we meet in Acts 12.
  • Herod Agrippa was born around 28BC as Marcus Julius Agrippa, and after his father’s assassination he was sent to Rome to be educated.  He grew up there, living a privileged lifestyle; entrenched within the Imperial Court and became friends with Caligula and Claudius.  His playboy lifestyle was his downfall, he ran up huge debts and eventually fled to Palestine, contemplating suicide. But things changed when Caligula became the Imperial Ruler of Rome, (Caesar), – and Herod was appointed a minor governorship in Palestine.  Caligula’s reign was short lived and full of cruelty, and when Claudius became Caesar, Herod Agrippa was promoted to the governorship of Judea and Samaria. 
  • Herod the Politician.  King Herod, as he now liked to be styled, was the consummate politician.  When he was in Rome, he lived the Roman lifestyle, and did what the Romans did, but when he was in Judea, Herod was a Jew, and kept favour with the Jews by pretending to be a righteous Jew. It was all about politics. It was the supreme act of virtue signalling.  So Herod played politics, with murderous intent.  Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 
  • Herod the Jew.  To show how ‘woke’ he was to the Jews – he arrested James, the brother of John and had him tried in a mock trial and executed. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. The Jews were thrilled!  He had performed the execution with a sword, and that’s significant.  By executing James with a sword, Herod is sending a clear signal to the Jews that this man, and the group he represents – are apostates – AND THE JEWS LOVED IT!   Herod’s piece of murderous political drama was so effective that he decided to go further still.  He arrested Peter!  And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 

But there’s a twist in the plot now, for although Peter has been arrested and imprisoned, he can’t be executed… at least not just yet!  It’s Passover time the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’ and during these days no-one can be executed, according to Jewish law.  Herod wants to get Peter up before a kangaroo court, get him accused and tried for apostasy and get him to the place of execution as soon as possible, but if he does he breaks the Jewish Law, – So he waits, while the feast progresses and he secures Peter in the gaol.  And look at the security in V4 & 6.  16 soldiers on duty, in groups of four with two chained to Peter, two guarding the door, on 14 hour rotations, assigned to guard just one single prisoner.  The text is very descriptive. Peter is a DEAD MAN WALKING, and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop it. 

Now let’s try some applications…

2 Peter – Untroubled Prisoner. 

The circumstances in which Peter is imprisoned are humanly impossible, for in the face of overwhelming political and state might, the unarmed, peaceful, God fearing Christians are totally powerless, – sitting ducks, waiting to be picked off one by one at the whim of a tyrannical, unreasonable despot, just to gain political kudos.  That’s prompts us to ask the question:- 

  • What can the church do in impossible situations? Look at our text. v5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.  The tiny Jerusalem church should be paralysed with fear.  What can they do? Our first response to ANY life situation is PRAYER. – It’s the most effective resources that the church has, a resource we should never despise or neglect…
    • The prayer was corporate.  Peter was not left to pray alone – for himself.  The church prayed! There is a clear biblical teaching that we are to share our temptations, our burdens and our problems with one another so that we can seek prayerful support.  James 5:16.  
    • The prayer was not passive.  Prayer was made!  Prayer has to be MADE.  Just ‘thinking about you’ won’t do – Come before the Lord and MAKE prayer!
    • The prayer was intense.  The KJV says, ‘without ceasing.’  
    • The prayer was correctly directed.  Their prayer was made to God.  1 John 5:14  
  • Peter’s unflappable trust. We’ve jumped forward a day or two now.  The feast is over.  Peter’s time on earth is over.  As the modern generation might say, in anticipation of some awaited event, ‘just one more sleep’ before his execution date.  It’s Peter’s final night upon this earth.  What’s he doing? READ Verse 6 Peter was asleep!  Don’t underestimate the significance of this.  He’s physically and psychologically uncomfortable, – but Peter slept.  I don’t think for one moment that Peter was apathetic about his life, or that he desired death like someone with a martyrdom complex.  I think rather that Peter was quietly resting in God’s promises, trusting confidently in Christ, regardless of life’s circumstances – even when those circumstances are dire.  To his people, through Isaiah the prophet, in times of distress, Isaiah 30:15  

What about us? We bring every situation to the Lord in prayer, to ask the church to bear us up before the Lord, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to humbly repent of our sins, and cast ourselves on God’s mercy – while quietly and confidently trusting him, knowing that whatever befalls us, our heavenly Father is in charge, and he always knows what’s best for us.  Job 13:15,  

So, the scene is set.  Peter’s fate is sealed, humanly speaking.  He is to be sacrificed to appease the rabble, to keep an unscrupulous politician in power at all and any costs.  His situation is totally hopeless, humanly speaking.  But the church is on its knees, and God is on his throne, and with that combination, anything is possible, as we shall see in our next study!

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