Times of public distress and danger should be especially praying times for the church. However God’s people are surrounded, there is always a way open heavenward, nor can the strongest bars intercept His power. God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
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.
18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.
20 ¶ And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country.
21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
24 ¶ But the word of God grew and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Acts 12:1-3 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 12:4-10 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 12:11-16 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 12:17-19 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 12:20-25 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 12:1-12 – Loosened Bonds
This Herod was the grandson of Herod the Great. He courted the goodwill of the Jews, though he was dissolute, cruel, and unscrupulous. How wonderful that God can spare from His work men like James, whom it has taken him so long to train!—but doubtless other and higher service awaits them.
A quaternion numbered four: the total number of soldiers that guarded Peter, therefore, would be sixteen, exclusive of prison officials. But a praying household is stronger than the strongest precautions of human might.
God often delays His answers till the eve of our extremity; but Peter’s sleep is typical of the quiet faith that can trust God absolutely, whether to live or die. When God bids us arise and obey, we must do so without considering the obstructions that confront us. It is our part to arise and gird ourselves; it is for Him to cause the chains to fall off and the iron gates to open. What are iron gates to Him who cleft a path through the Red Sea! The angel guides us super-naturally, only so long as we are dazed and unable to form a judgment for ourselves. As soon as we are able to consider a matter, he leaves us to make use of our God-given faculties. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 12:10—The Iron Gate.
There are iron gates before most of us. We are not specially anxious about the first or second ward, but ah, that iron gate! The iron gate of supreme difficulty; of a parent’s prohibition against entering the mission-field; of some obstinate circumstance which seems to forbid the execution of our plans; of some barred and locked prohibition; of death at the end of all. It may be that in his strange bewilderment, between waking and sleeping, Peter anticipated this iron gate with a good deal of dread. That at least would bar his progress; but lo, it opened of its own accord! So shall it be with many of the evils that we anticipate.
Not before we come to them, but at the moment of reaching them; when heart and flesh threaten to fail—in the dim light we shall find them standing open, set back for us to pass. The tram-line is not cleared from end to end before the tram starts. Were the driver to wait for this, he would never start at all. But as he comes to each van, or drag, or carriage, it moves, and allows him a free course; or, if it seems dilatory, his whistle hastens it. Thus, when we arise to follow the angel of God’s purpose, who has suddenly entered the dark cell of our life, we shall discover that apparently insuperable difficulties, which we have long dreaded, shall open to us, and allow us to pass; when we come to the object we have dreaded most, we shall find it gone.
Let there be plenty of prayer, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Let there be prompt obedience to the angel’s touch and summons; the willingness to gird the relaxed loins, and follow; and as you go through life, you will find yourself escorted by an invisible Companion, who holds the key to all doors. —Our Daily Homily
Acts 12:13-25 – Beyond Their Faith
Mark’s mother was evidently a woman of property, as her house was large enough to receive the many who felt that prayer was the key to open Peter’s prison. Rhoda is Rose. Her portrait has charmed every generation. It is so lifelike and natural. How good for every servant-maid to love the devotional meeting, and to be welcomed to it! Christianity had introduced a new spirit into the world. How often our deliverances seem too good to be true! These praying friends of Peter would not believe the maid, though she told them that their prayers were answered. This proves that while their faith was very imperfect, their request was granted. When we believe not, God remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself, II Timothy 2:13. The James mentioned in Acts 12:17 was the brother of our Lord, and afterward head of the church in Jerusalem, Acts 15:13. See James 1:1.
What a contrast between Peter’s deliverance and Herod’s death! Be not afraid of the reproach of men, for “the moth shall eat them up like a garment,” Isaiah 51:8. During these happenings Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem, and in after years their minds must often have reverted to them. Probably Paul’s remembrance of this incident inspired his constant request for prayer in his own behalf, Ephesians 6:18-20. —Through the Bible Day by Day