Acts 11 ends on a fairly high note. Barnabas and Paul were rocking it in Antioch and seeing God do amazing things in the lives of people. Acts 12:1–2 shares a different story. Herod began a vigorous persecution and James the brother of John was killed. One of the brothers Jesus renamed “Sons of Thunder” was gone (Mark 3:17). In this comparison of Antioch and Jerusalem we see that Israel has truly rejected the Messiah.
Herod was emboldened and arrested Peter. God saved Peter from the jail in such a miraculous way, verse 9 says he through it was a vision. Peter comes to his senses in verse 12 and went to the house of Mary, mother of the gospel writer, Mark. In a, you-can’t-make-this-up, kind of scene, Peter knocks on the door and has to wait because the servant-girl got so excited she never let him in. Hilariously, nobody believed the poor girl and Peter had to keep banging on the door for somebody to come let him in.
Our passage ends with the death of Herod. After what must have been a rousing speech, the crowd chanted “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Stealing worship is a capital offense. An angel struck Herod dead for not giving God the glory.
This passage as much as any other illustrates the reality of the people involved. It’s easy to read Acts and elevate the early church leaders to a different plane. Although God moved in special ways during this time, that same power is alive and active. God wants to do amazing things for and through us too. Before we take this to mean that God will “knock off every chain holding us back” or some other bologna, consider that James really died at the beginning of this passage.
Can God knock off chains? Yes! We just read that he can and did. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this passage is descriptive, telling us what happened. It is not prescriptive telling us how to live. With that said, let’s consider some lessons from this passage.
First, God may not spare his people from pain or death. Second, God might spare his people from pain or death. We see both examples all the time, all over the world. God is at work and we cannot doubt that fact. We cannot understand His purposes specifically, but we can understand them sufficiently. What I mean is that I may not know what God is doing all the time in every situation (specifically), but I do know (sufficiently) that He is working a plan of restoration and renewal that exceeds my comprehension.
Third, we see the Christian response to a brother or sister in trouble. We have every reason to believe that Mary’s house was the site of an early church. When Peter was in trouble, the church was praying. In what ways has God not moved because you’ve not prayed for it? Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the sovereignty of God as much as the next guy and that God’s plans can’t be thwarted. However, God says pray. Jesus taught us how to pray. The early church gave us examples of prayer. And we go from the bed, to work, watch TV, back to bed and wonder why we’re not seeing God at work.
Lastly, we see the cost of stealing glory. Idolatry can be simply defined as “misplaced worship.” Herod, well acquainted with Jewish customs, should have known better. Whether we long for recognition or whether we are worshipping the wrong thing, there are consequences. Only God deserves our worship.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate