Reflections on the Book of Acts #11: James and Peter

Here’s the link to Acts 12.

Our passage begins by telling us that King Herod (Herod Agrippa I, 12 B.C. – 44 A.D) violently persecuted Christians. James, one of the two “sons of thunder,” was executed by his order.

Proclaiming Christ as the risen king gets you into trouble.

Herod also arrested and imprisoned Peter. And we’re told that the church prayed fervently for him. As a result, the Lord sent an angel to spring Peter out of jail. It was such a surreal, unexpected surprise that Peter thought it was all a dream. And when a woman named Rhoda told the other disciples Peter was at the door, they thought she was crazy.

The story raises an interesting and confounding question: why did God rescue Peter from certain death but not James? Or why did God answer the church’s prayers for Peter but the prayers for James (which, while unmentioned, are no less likely) go unanswered?

This happens all the time. Two families pray for a sick loved one; one recovers and the other does not. Not all prayers are answered, at least not according to our specifications.

It’s only natural that we would wonder what’s going on.

For me, I’ve come to accept that God is not obligated to fill me in on all the details. Why does it happen this way rather than that way? I’m not always going to know.

I think this is why the character of God is important. Because if we truly believe—based on Scripture—that God is good, wise, and just, then we also have to believe he has reasons we could never understand.

We do see God at work in our passage. We see him answering the prayers of his people. We see the news about Peter encouraging other believers. We see the word of God flourishing and multiplying. So, even in the midst of persecution God is very much present.

And we also see that ultimately God doesn’t let Herod get away with his wickedness forever. Because after Peter gets out of prison thanks to an angel, Herod dies and is eaten by worms. All because the very God he wants to deny does to him what he’s seeking to do to the church.

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