1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword,
3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.
In politics if it pleases the people once, do it again. I remember as a kid growing up that every two years, the intersections in our city would be repaved. As I got older I noticed that it always happened right before a mayoral election. Hmmmm.
The night before his "trial" Peter is sound asleep between two soldiers, chained up, with two more guards standing outside his cell. (Maybe the King had heard the stories about his previous prison breakouts)
7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. 18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
An angel pokes Peter in the side and tells him to get up. (Now that's an alarm clock!) As Peter gets up, his chains fall off. He gets dressed and follows the angel out of the prison. The description we have here tells us that Peter was incarcerated in the innermost part of this prison. No matter how deep you are in trouble - Jesus can get you out!
Peter really doesn't understand what is happening here. Is he having a dream, is this a vision? But after the angel leads him out of the prison and down a street (where he disappears) Peter snaps out of it. He now knows that God has delivered him from the King and the expectations of the Jewish leadership (execution).
He goes to the house of Mary, whose son was Mark (yes the one who wrote the Gospel). Mark was a convert of Peters therefore, he would have trusted this home. He knocks at the gate that leads to the house and a servant named Rhoda answers. On hearing his voice, she got to excited she ran back to the prayer meeting that was going on and announced that he was there. She forgot to open the gate. You know that Peter had to be having one of those moments when you just have to laugh.
The group is having a hard time grasping the concept that Peter is at the gate. In fact, they told her that she was crazy. In fact, they thought it might be his guardian angel. This was a concept that Jews believed, but there is no scriptural teaching to back it up. Why were they praying for his deliverance if they thought he was dead? It's because they assumed to much. First of all, they were not praying for a jail break - they were praying for his deliverance. Now is a jail break a deliverance in this situation? Of course it is, but this prayer group doesn't make the connection. Instead they assume the worst. Peter is dead and his angel is there to make the announcements.
Something followers of Jesus are guilty of is making assumptions as to how He is going to answer their prayers. Don't be surprise how Jesus does what He does - just be thankful that He does it.
Finally they let him in and they start rejoicing, which he quickly tells them to stop doing. He doesn't want to alarm the neighbors as to what is going on. He knows that at daybreak, it's going to get ugly out there. He tells him his story and then instructs them to tell James (the brother of Jesus) and the other disciples. James will get the word out as to what has happened.
Peter now disappears. He doesn't tell anyone where he is going so that no one has to be guilty of lying to any investigating authorities. But at daybreak, there was a whole lot of explaining going on. Peter is gone. Search parties cannot find him. King Herod is ticked. He interrogates the soldiers that were watching him. They really didn't have much to say. "Um, King! He was there and then he wasn't." Not much of a defense. And as it was the rule of the day. A prison guard who loses a prisoner was to suffer the same punishment due to that prisoner. Off with their heads.
20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king's country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. 24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
So one day, Herod puts on his royal robes and addresses the people on this matter. It so happens that we have the historical record of this from a man named Josephus. His outer robe is made of silver. Josephus notes that it reflected in the sun light. As he is speaking, these greek speaking citizens (who would have been idol worshippers) being shouting, "A god's voice, not a man's!" Flattery will get you no where in this matter. Herod makes to effort to correct them. Even though he practiced Judaism faithfully, he easily accepts what these people have to say.
Immediately an angel strikes him down, he is consumed by worms and he dies. Josephus bears witness to the fact that he did in fact collapse in the middle of his speech, that he had intense pain in his stomach and that he died 5 days later.
Don't think that God didn't notice take note of what he did to James and the other believers.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
English Standard Version (ESV