Peter Delivered: Part 4 of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
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.
And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals.
When lying down to sleep the Apostle had naturally laid aside his “cloak (outer garment),” loosened the girdle that bound his tunic (inner garment), and taken off his sandals.
But now that the angel has woke him up, he “said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals.” “Gird” means to bind with a flexible band (as a belt). The command given is for Peter to ‘get dressed;’ which required him to tighten his girdle (belt) around his tunic—a long flowing undergarment which was fastened up by day, so as not to impede the person’s movements, since they were not fit to go about any business until they had gird their garments to them. Jeremiah was commanded to get a girdle (belt) about him—“This is what the LORD said to me: "Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist. . .” (Jer. 13.1)—when he was to be sent on God’s errand.
The rest of the instruction was, “and bind on thy sandals.”The sandals he wore were a sort of shoes that covered only the soles of the feet, and were bound or fastened to the leg, with strings or thongs. Peter still observed his master’s rule to be shod with sandals: “But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats” (Mark 6:9). “Sandals” with wooden soles were the shoes of the poor as distinguished from those of the richer classes, which were more decorative and comfortable.
And so he did.
He did not ask any questions, or the reason for these orders; he did not argue the matter, but obeyed at once.
And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee,
“Cast thy garment about thee” refers to the outer garment that was thrown loosely around the shoulders. It was almost square, and was laid aside when they slept, or worked, or ran. The instruction was for Peter to dress himself in his usual apparel. His taking the time to put back on all that he had taken off is an indication that everything had been done in a leisurely manner. There was no evidence of any urgency; nor of any intention to elude justice, or even to avoid meeting his accusers in any legal way. It appears that the two soldiers were overwhelmed by a deep sleep, which God caused to fall upon them.
And follow me.
“Follow me,” said the angel, which may have reminded Peter of that day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He had followed the Lord then, and though he had occasionally failed Him, Jesus had used him mightily in the building of His church. He was Jesus’ man now, and would never deny Him again, and he followed the angel out of the prison, as the following verses tell us.
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.
And he went out, and followed him;
He left the prison, guided by the angel, and they met with no opposition along the way.
And wist not that it was true which was done by the angel;
“And wist not”—Knew not—that what appeared to him to have happened was real.
“That it was true”—That it was real.
The greatness and suddenness of his deliverance amazed him, and it seemed incredible to him. It was not that he questioned God’s power or godliness; but knowing that he was to suffer for Christ’s name’s sake, he might not have been looking for deliverance at all, and when it came, it may have seemed like a dream, as in Psalm 126:1: “When the LORD brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!” God may bring his people to such formidable circumstances, in order that His salvation might be even more astonishing. It may be noted that his experience of the trance and vision narrated in Acts 10 would tend to suggest the impression that he was passing through phenomena of a similar kind.
But thought he saw a vision.
It was so astonishing, so unexpected, and so wonderful, that he could not believe that it was true; but thought he saw a vision; envisioned he was in a dream or a trance, and that these things were not really happening. The whole episode was so amazing and astonishing.Compare the following passage:
• “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.” (Acts 10:11-12).
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.
When they were past the first and the second ward,
The word which has been translated here as “ward” may mean either “a prison, or place of confinement,” “the place where the guard was posted,” “the guard himself,” or “the act of guarding.” Here it probably refers to the guards who are posted at the inner and outer gates of the prison. They might have been some of the quaternions (v. 4) who took custody of Peter when he first arrived there and since then have stood guard over him, around the clock. Two of them were always with him, and one or more were posted at these two wards for further security. The soldiers took great care to ensure that Peter would not escape, but that makes his deliverance even more remarkable. How could it happen or how can it be explained without attributing his deliverance to the miraculous? I doubt that the guards posted at the two gates could have fallen asleep at the same time. Besides that, the penalty for falling asleep while on duty was death, and that is a great incentive to stay awake. These guards were probably put into a deep sleep by the angel in order to facilitate the escape of Peter. “The iron gate that leadeth unto the city,” mentioned in the next clause, was probably located at one of the wards. We can only speculate about these things, since we don’t know the layout of the prison; but it would seem from what we do know that Peter had been placed in the innermost dungeon.
They came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city;
They (Peter and the angel) came to the iron gate that opened into the city. This was not one of the gates built into the wall that surrounded the city, which would indicate that the prison was outside the city. Rather, it was the strong gate of the prison, which for security reasons was made of iron, as the doors of prisons are now, and this gate led directly into the city of Jerusalem. The precise location of the prison is unknown. It is supposed by some that the prison was built between two walls of the city, and that the entrance to the prison was located in the inner wall, so that the gate opened directly into the city. But a little further along in the verse we read that they “passed on through”the gate and into “one street” of the city. This additional detail would make it probable that the prison in which Peter was kept was in the midst of the city.
which opened to them of his own accord:
“Of his own accord” means that it opened spontaneously, without the application of any force or using a key, which was conclusive evidence that Peter was delivered by a miracle of Divine origin. Peter knew that he had not applied any pressure to the gate, neither did he see the angel touch it; it was opened by Divine power, no human had a hand in it, so it is said to have opened on its own accord.
and they went out,
Peter was out of prison, though he was not yet “out of the woods.” There was still the matter of Herod’s desire to execute him in order to pacify the Jews. Peter would not stop preaching the Gospel even if it meant prison or death. In fact, he was more determined than ever to do it, because God had rescued him from prison, and out of Herod’s clutches.
And passed on through one street;
Once out of the prison, the angel conducted Peter to a particular street, probably the one described in verse 12, “where the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark,and where many were gathered together praying.” There is no way to determine the name of this street for there were many streets in Jerusalem. But the clause seems to suggest that it was not one of those wide thoroughfares which ran from one end of the city to the other, but rather, one of those narrow lanes or streets where most people lived.
And forthwith the angel departed from him
It wasn’t until Peter was entirely safe from any danger of pursuit that the angel left him, for by this time Peter was able to take care of himself. God had brought about his complete rescue, and now left him to his own good sense, as usual. “He disappoints the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise” (Job 5:12). Herod was one of those crafty men. He had made plans to execute Peter, but those plans were frustrated by a single angel, while at any time he could have sent ten thousand angels to break through the walls, kill his guards and bring him out of the prison. But he did it quietly and peacefully while the guards slept.