About the Journey 12 - from Kerry

About the Journey - Act 12:1-17 - from Kerry Flemington

About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”
When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”
Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.
Acts 12:1-17

Peter has been arrested and he is being heavily guarded.  Not only is he chained to two guards, he has four squads of 4 guards surrounding him.  Remember, he is not under arrest by the Romans but by the Jewish leaders.  I imagine they are very aware of who they are up against.  This isn’t just about Peter, it’s about that blasphemous traitor Jesus and his voodoo tricks.  They are not going to be outwitted by any of it and so 16 armed guards should do the job well.
And then an angel shows up.  This is where the miraculous and the messy meet so beautifully.  Rather than just transpose Peter out of the prison, much like Philip did after the eunuch meet-up, the angel and Peter do a daring escape.  Yes, the chains come off him miraculously but there is still urgency…and there is still the need to get dressed, put on your shoes, and grab your coat.  Why?  Then they still have to make it past the guard posts and the city gate.  Peter, all the while participates but thinks it’s just all a dream.  But when he finds himself on a dark street in the middle of the night, it hits him!  God has set him free.
He gets his bearings and finds his way to Mary’s house.  This is where the Jesus people have been gathered ostensibly to pray for Peter.  Rhoda, the servant, answers the door and recognizes Peter’s voice. In her excitement, she forgets to let Peter in and runs to tell the folks gathered that Peter’s at the door.  Rather than recognizing that their prayers have been answered, they tell her she’s nuts!  Peter, left fending for himself outside and probably greatly aware that he is not out of the woods yet, keeps knocking! Finally, he’s let in and everyone is overjoyed.  But lest Peter get everyone else into trouble, he relays the story and then moves on into hiding.
Here we all are again.  Getting our coats and doubting God.  It’s so very much us.  We trust God, we understand his character, but when the rubber meets the road, we’re so full of doubt.  Could God really be setting me free? During the process, I don’t recognize him.  It’s only on the other side, standing in an empty street, no chains binding me or guards holding me back, do I see that it was him all along.  But not only am I free, but I have shoes on my feet for walking, clothes on my back to cover my nakedness, and a coat to keep me warm.  Nothing is missed in God’s miracles.  He is in every single detail.
How about answered prayer?  “You’re nuts, Rhoda!”  Why do we have such a hard time accepting that he always does answer?  Do we think, because we expected the miracle to look like something else, that he’s not really listening?  Do we think we’re so undeserving that how could he possibly bother with me?  We are undeserving, it’s true.  But then, what’s the point of grace?  He is constantly interacting with us not because of who we are but because of who he is.  Peter listened to that angel and followed, even though he thought he was imagining it all.  The followers finally let Peter in even though they thought Rhoda was crazy.  In spite of their shortcomings and shortsightedness, they kept showing up, fumbling all the way.  In spite of their inability to recognize God, even as he was breaking chains and knocking on doors, God kept showing up, even as they’re fumbling.  We will never get it right on this side of eternity.  It will be full of doubt, full of stops and starts, full of not recognizing God and that he is with us and involved in every detail, every single step of the way.  But that’s the whole point of Grace and the very essence of God’s character and his love for us.  So in humility, keep coming before God, recognizing our patterns of brokenness.  Right in that place of miracles and messiness, we will find ourselves always in God’s presence.

you can connect directly with Kerry at kerry@arnuthill.com

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