Peter Delivered: Part 1 of 7

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

June 17, 2014

Acts of the Apostles



Scripture (Acts 12:3-17; KJV)

3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
14 And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.



Commentary

3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)

And because he saw it pleased the Jews
The Jews were pleased to see that the government in Palestine, Herod Agrippa being the current ruler, was taking action against the followers of this new religion, for they saw Christianity as a threat to their way of life and to the Jewish religion. Most of the converts, to this point, were Jews, therefore the Jewish leaders pressed Agrippa to do something to check the growth of Christianity. King Agrippa saw in this situation an opportunity to gain popularity with the Jewish community. This was the principle on which he acted. It was not from a sense of doing what is right; it was not in order to do justice, and to protect the innocent; it was not to discharge the appropriate duties of a magistrate and a king, but it was to promote his own popularity. Agrippa would probably have acted in this way regardless of the circumstances, for he was ambitious, vain, and fawning. He wanted to be popular, and to obtain that end, like many others, he was willing to sacrifice truth and justice. But in his case, there was another reason which may have had even greater influence over his actions. He held his appointment under the Roman emperor. This foreign rule was always unpopular among the Jews. In order, therefore, to secure a peaceful reign, and to prevent insurrection and tumult, it was necessary for him to court their favor; to indulge their wishes, and to go along with their prejudices. Regrettably, there have been many monarchs and rulers who have been governed by no better principle, and whose sole aim has been to secure popularity, even at the expense of law, truth, and justice. Josephus points out that this was the character of Herod: “This king (Herod Agrippa) was by nature very beneficent, and liberal in his gifts, and very ambitious to please the people with such large donations; and he made himself very illustrious by the many expensive presents he made them. He took delight in giving, and rejoiced in living with good reputation.”

He proceeded further to take Peter also
Peter was one of the most conspicuous and prominent men in the church. The Jews saw him as particularly obnoxious, due to his severe and forceful sermons, and by his success in winning people to Christ. It was natural, therefore, that he would be the next object of attack. The Jews, no doubt, had a particular dislike for Peter, and would have been glad to have been rid of him; Herod was aware of this, and therefore to please them, he ordered for Peter to be taken (arrested and jailed).

(Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
“The days of unleavened bread” is another designation for the Passover, or the seven days immediately succeeding the Passover, during which the Jews were required to eat bread without leaven: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even” (Exodus 12:15-18). It was some time during this period that Herod chose to apprehend Peter. Why this time was selected is not known. It was, however, a period of religious observance, and since Herod was eager to show his affection for the religious rites of the nation, it is probable that he chose this period to impress upon them his desire to maintain the existing traditions and customs of the nation. The crowds of Hellenistic and other Jews who were gathered to keep the feast at Jerusalem naturally made this a favorable opportunity for courting the goodwill of the people. A tradition recorded by St. Jerome states that St. James was beheaded on the 15th of Nisan, i.e., on the same day as that of the Crucifixion. Peter was arrested probably at the same time; but his trial and execution were deferred till the seven days of the feast were over.

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