Evening Bible Study
On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit
filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began
By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution.
Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. With the persecution, the
church began to scatter, and the message of the gospel actually increased as
more people heard about Jesus.
One of the main men behind the persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus to pursue the
Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light and he met
Jesus. We will see Saul in a few weeks using a new name, Paul.
Recently we’ve seen a new chapter in the history
of the church – God saving Gentiles.
We’ve even see the gospel go as far north as the
city of Antioch, where a growing number of Gentiles are coming to follow Jesus.
Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch teaching these new Christians. We
ended last week with Barnabas and Paul being sent with
a financial gift to Jerusalem to help with the coming famine. While they are
there, some interesting things happen.
12:1-4 Herod trouble
:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched
out his hand to harass some from the church.
:1 Herod the king
This is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great
the one who remodeled the Temple
and who killed the babies at the time of Jesus’ birth.
:1 to harass – kakoo – to
This is the verb form of the word for “evil”. This is to do “evil” to
Peter will be included in this harassing. About twenty years later, Peter
would use this word and write,
(1 Pe 3:13–17 NKJV) —13 And who is
he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even
if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And
do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But
sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give
a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with
meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers,
those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it
is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for
Pay attention to what Peter says.
He’s lived what he teaches.
:2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
:2 James the brother of John
There are two men named “James” who were important to the early church.
One was the half-brother of Jesus, who would eventually be recognized as
the head of the church in Jerusalem and would write the book of “James”. That’s not this guy.
This James was one of the twelve disciples and one of the three disciples
closest to Jesus.
He was a fisherman, along with his brother John (author of the Gospel of
John). They were sons of a man named Zebedee. (Mt. 4:21)
Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the
son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their
father, mending their nets. He called them,
When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter, he was one of
the guys who saw it.
(Lk 8:51 NKJV) When He
came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and
John, and the father and mother of the girl.
Along with his brother, he was one of the “sons of thunder”, probably because
of their temper, like when he wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans (Lk. 9:54)
Along with John, he had once petitioned Jesus to be made one of the top
guys in the kingdom… (Mk. 10:35)
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him,
saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
Gayle Erwin likes to joke about why Jesus kept Peter, James, and John so
close to Him all the time – much like how a teacher will keep the troublemakers
close to them on a field trip. I sometimes think Gayle is on to something.
Along with Peter and John, he saw Jesus’ transfiguration…
(Mk 9:2 NKJV) Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James,
and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was
transfigured before them.
In the Garden of Gethsemane …
(Mk 14:33 NKJV) And He took Peter, James, and John with Him,
and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.
And now Herod has put James to death.
Can you imagine how devastating this was for the early church, one of the chief
apostles is dead.
James is the first of the apostles to die for his faith. He won’t be the
last. All of them will die for their faith except for John who somehow survived
into old age.
Tradition (Eusebius, Clement) tells us that James was beheaded with a
sword. When James’ accuser saw his courage as
he was about to be executed, the accuser repented, and joined James in being
:3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to
seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
:3 it pleased the Jews
Herod is simply trying to score political points with the Jews.
:3 the Days of Unleavened Bread
It’s the time of the Passover.
Unleavened Bread and Passover are two feasts that go together. The Passover
is the first day, then Unleavened Bread is the whole next week.
The year is approximately 43 AD.
It’s been 10 years since Jesus died … on the Passover.
:4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him
to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the
people after Passover.
:4 squads – tetradion – a guard consisting of four soldiers.
Two soldiers were confined with the prisoner and two kept
Four quaternions of soldiers would be used to guard one all night, one for
each of the four night watches.
This is a total of sixteen soldiers in four groups of four.
They are being extra careful to guard Peter.
The last time Peter was arrested (a couple of years earlier)…
(Ac 5:19 NKJV) But at night an angel of the Lord opened the
prison doors and brought them out…
This time they’re taking no chances.
12:5-19 Peter is freed
:5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to
God for him by the church.
:5 constant – ektenes – stretched out; intent, earnestly, without
Sometimes prayer can change things quickly and dramatically, but sometimes
prayer changes things slowly and almost invisibly. But either way, prayer is
We’ve seen in the early church how much prayer was a part of what was
The Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost after a season of …
1:14 NKJV) These all continued with one
accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus,
and with His brothers.
When Peter healed the lame man at the Temple, it happened at the hour of …
prayer. (Acts 3:1)
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the
hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
When the apostles asked the church to set up deacons to help them with the
work of the ministry it was because they began to realize that they were
beginning to neglect the important ministry of … prayer.
6:4 NKJV) but we will give ourselves
continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
When the door for the gospel was opened to the Gentiles, it happened to a
Gentile man who had been … praying.
10:4 NKJV) And when he observed him, he was
afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a
memorial before God.
We will see here that the implication is that Peter’s deliverance was
directly related to the prayers of the church.
Don’t neglect prayer. Your prayers are effective.
(Jas 5:16 NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another,
and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer
of a righteous man avails much.
:6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was
sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the
door were keeping the prison.
:7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone
in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying,
“Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.
:7 struck – patasso
– to strike gently – wake up sleepy!
:8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and
so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
Apparently Peter was sleeping in a bit of an undressed state. The angel
tells him to put some clothes on.
:9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by
the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
:9 thought he was seeing a vision
It seemed very unreal to Peter
:10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to
the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord;
and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed
:10 which opened to them of its own accord
of its own accord – automatos – The first “automatic door”!
I imagine this was part of what seemed so unreal to Peter. He had never seen a door open by itself. It probably was a little like an Amish man
seeing an elevator for the first time…
:11 And when Peter had come to himself, he
said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has
delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the
:11 delivered – exaireo – to pluck out, draw out, to rescue
God had “plucked” Peter out of harm’s way.
Note: God didn’t
Faith doesn’t eliminate all problems
Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that if we just have enough faith, that all
of our problems will disappear. But in truth, sometimes the person who has
faith has to go through problems,
sometimes even to death.
Look at the great chapter about the heroes of “faith” –
(Heb 11:33–38 NKJV) —33 who
through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises,
stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out
of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women
received their dead raised to life again. Others
were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better
Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were
stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They
wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted,
tormented—38 of whom
the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in
dens and caves of the earth.
Faith is not about having magic power to get rid of your problems.
Faith is about trusting God, no matter what.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were
threatened by King Nebuchadnezzar that they better bow down to his statue or
else be thrown into the fiery furnace, look at their reply –
(Da 3:17–18 NKJV) —17 If that is the case, our God whom we
serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver
us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve
your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
We will trust Him no matter what happens.
:12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary,
the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together
:12 to the house
Tradition has it that this was also the house where the last supper was
held. Now it had become one of the gathering
places for the church in Jerusalem.
We believe that she was a relative of
Paul tells us that Mark was a cousin to Barnabas (Col. 4:10), so Mary might
have been Barnabas’ aunt.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the
cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you,
Keep in mind that at this time Barnabas
and Saul are visiting in Jerusalem and possibly staying with Mary. They may have been a part of the prayer
meetings that are going on for Peter.
:12 John … Mark
This is the fellow who would one day write the gospel of Mark
He will be going along with Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary
He will be at the center of a controversy between Paul and Barnabas,
eventually leading to their splitting up.
Early church historians say that Mark
would eventually be Peter’s interpreter in Rome, and that his gospel was
essentially the preaching of Peter written down.
:12 many were gathered together praying
Back in vs. 5 we were told that the church was praying.
Now we know of one of the places they were gathered.
many – hikanos
– sufficient; enough
I’m not sure the idea is that there were huge crowds at Mary’s house, but
there were enough people there
to hold a prayer meeting.
How many people does it take to have a “sufficient” prayer meeting?
(Mt 18:19 NKJV) “Again I say to you that if two of you agree
on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My
Father in heaven.
:13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came
:14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she
did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the
She knew what Peter sounded like.
She recognized his voice.
:15 But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting
that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”
:15 You are beside yourself!
They think she’s crazy
:15 It is his angel
Some Jews believed that there were times when angels took the form of
specific people, the idea here being that an angel was appearing in the shape
:16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and
saw him, they were astonished.
:16 they were astonished
Believe it or not
They had been praying for Peter, but when an angel releases him, they don’t
The story is told of a small town in which there were no liquor
stores. Eventually, however, a nightclub
was built right on Main Street. Members of one of the churches in the area
were so disturbed that they conducted several all night
prayer meetings, and asked the Lord to burn down that den of iniquity. Lightning
struck the tavern a short time later, and it was completely destroyed by
fire. The owner, knowing how the church
people had prayed, sued them for the damages. His attorney claimed that their
prayers had caused the loss. The congregation, on the other hand, hired a
lawyer and fought the charges. After
much deliberation the judge declared, “It’s the opinion of the court that
wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern keeper is the one who really believes in
prayer while the church members do not!”
This does challenge the idea that God only answers according to our
“unwavering faith”. Sometimes it seems
that God answers despite our faith.
:17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them
how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these
things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another
This is James the half-brother of Jesus.
It would seem that by this time James was considered the leader of the
church in Jerusalem.
:18 Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers
about what had become of Peter.
:19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the
guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down
from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.
:19 put to death
The penalty for allowing your prisoner to escape was that you had suffer
whatever they were going to suffer.
:19 from Judea to Caesarea
Play Jerusalem to Caesarea map
Herod goes from Jerusalem to Caesarea.
12:20-24 Herod’s death
:20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre
and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked
for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.
:20 Tyre and Sidon
Play Tyre, Caesarea, Theater clip
The people are from the cities in the north, the remnants of the old
Phoenician empire, located in modern Lebanon.
They came and met with Herod in Caesarea, and most likely this next scene
will be taking place on the stage at the large open air Theater in Caesarea.
:20 made Blastus … their friend
The people of Tyre and Sidon imported their grain
from the area of the Galilee.
For some reason, Herod was punishing these cities with some sort of
They hired this fellow Blastus to act as a
lobbyist to persuade Herod to be nice to them and allow them to buy grain from
the farmers under Herod’s authority.
:21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and
gave an oration to them.
:22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!”
:23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not
give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.
:23 he did not give glory to God
Josephus gives us an account of Herod Agrippa’s death, taking place at one
of the festivals he had organized to honor Caesar –
“On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver,
and of texture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning,
at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh
reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and
was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon
him. And presently his flatterers cried
out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,)
that he was a god. And they added, -“Be
thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a
man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.” Upon this the king did neither rebuke them,
nor reject their impious flattery.”
It was then that he was struck with a pain in his gut. He died five days later. He died in 44AD.
Play Caesarea Stage clip
Pride only leads to trouble.
(Pr 16:18 NKJV) Pride goes
before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
I am the Lord,
that is My name;
What are the things we can do to cultivate humility and avoid the trap of
falling into pride?
(Lk 18:9–14 NKJV)
—9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that
they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the
other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You
that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust,
adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes
of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as
raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful
to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather
than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who
humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus told this parable for the purpose of dealing with
The man who “humbled himself” was the one who confessed
his sin to God and asked for mercy.
It is humbling to admit your sin. But humble is good.
I think this can also work in our
relationships as well. Are you a person
who can say those two awful words, “I’m sorry”.
Or even worse, “I was wrong”?
(2 Co 12:7–10 NKJV)
—7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the
revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded
with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He
said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in
weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that
the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs,
in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I
Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was not some sort of sin. But it was something that made him “weak”.
Paul came to realize that this weakness was being used by
God to promote humility as well as a dependence upon Jesus.
Are there things in your life you wish you were better
at? Are there things you are a little
embarrassed about? Some of us don’t like
the way our body looks. Some of us are
tired of the physical infirmities we struggle with.
Note: This isn’t an excuse for not taking care of
your weight. You owe it to God if you
are overweight to take care of your health.
animals were fat”
(Php 2:3–8 NKJV)
—3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in
lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each
of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of
others. 5 Let this
mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did
not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being
found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the
point of death, even the death of the cross.
One of the great pictures of Jesus’ servant-hood is seen
on the night of the last supper when He washed His disciples’ feet. He was doing the lowly job that was reserved
for a slave.
Serving others is one
of the ways we cultivate humility.
If you’re too good to
get up and take care of someone else’s needs, then you’ve got too much pride.
:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
Even with these new persecutions, the church grew.
12:25 Paul and Barnabas return
:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their
ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
:25 Barnabas and Saul returned
Play Jerusalem to Antioch map clip
Barnabas and Saul had been in Jerusalem with money for the church, to
prepare for the coming famine.
Now that they’ve delivered their gift, they head back to Antioch.
Next week we will pick up the story up in Antioch…