International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 1, 2015
Purpose: To acknowledge God’s presence and protection in times of persecution
Bible Lesson: Acts 12:1-11
Background Scripture: Acts 12:1-24
Key Verse: While Peter was held in prison, the church offered earnest prayer to God for him. (Acts 12:5)
Acts 12:1-11 (CEB)
(1) About that time King Herod began to harass some who belonged to the church. (2) He had James, John’s brother, killed with a sword. (3) When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter as well. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. (4)He put Peter in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers, sixteen in all, who guarded him. He planned to charge him publicly after the Passover. (5) While Peter was held in prison, the church offered earnest prayer to God for him. (6) The night before Herod was going to bring Peter’s case forward, Peter was asleep between two soldiers and bound with two chains, with soldiers guarding the prison entrance. (7) Suddenly an angel from the Lord appeared and a light shone in the prison cell. After nudging Peter on his side to awaken him, the angel raised him up and said, “Quick! Get up!” The chains fell from his wrists. (8) The angel continued, “Get dressed. Put on your sandals.” Peter did as he was told. The angel said, “Put on your coat and follow me.” (9) Following the angel, Peter left the prison. However, he didn’t realize the angel had actually done all this. He thought he was seeing a vision. (10) They passed the first and second guards and came to the Iron Gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself. After leaving the prison, they proceeded the length of one street, when abruptly the angel was gone. (11) At that, Peter came to his senses and remarked, “Now I’m certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod and from everything the Jewish people expected.”
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
After Chapter 12 of the Book of Acts, Peter is hardly mentioned. This story shows the importance of prayer by the church. In this text Peter is spared from the death sentence, however we know that Peter did suffer the death sentence later in Rome.
As I read this story by Luke, the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, it seems God’s plan is always in flux but always achieved. God had not spared James, brother of John, and one of the inner circle. I think in order to strengthen those gathered at the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, the writer of the Gospel and a companion of both Peter and Paul. The prayers of those saints became an important factor in moving the Gospel forward.
When we pray for others we can never be certain how God is going to respond to our prayers. There are times when the person praying receives more blessing than those being prayed for. While the act of praying and the faith involved worked out well for Peter, I think Peter was willing to suffer death for the cause of Christ. When Peter showed up at the gate of Mary’s home and Rhoda answered the door, she did not invite him in, instead she went back and told those gathered “Peter is standing at the gate”. Being reasonable they thought she must have meant Peter’s ghost or angel.
Since this does not paint a great picture of faith on the part of those praying, we can only assume God’s plans were bigger. Verse 17 says of Peter ……… “Then he left for another place.” Little more is heard about Peter in the Book of Acts. The narrative now will turn to Paul for the rest of the book.
Sometime later, after Herod Agrippa had been eaten by worms, Peter returned for the Jerusalem Council and gave a moving speech to support the Gentile ministry (Acts 15:7-11).
What can we learn from this story? First, God answers prayer according to his plan and will. Second, God’s will always trumps our faith. Third, we should always pray knowing the outcome will be what is best for us.
There is an old Hymn called “The Beautiful Garden of Prayer” It is a place all of us need to have. A place, whether alone, or in a crowd where we can bring our concerns and cares, whether big or small. Mary’s home was the place on this day in Peter’s life, Rhoda’s life, Mary’s life John Mark’s life, as well as James and the brothers and sisters of this new church.