As the church began to grow, the religious leadership in Jerusalem intensified their opposition of The Movement. Stephen is stoned to death, and Saul set out to destroy the church. But God intervened, as he had done many times before, and transformed Saul to be the missionary to the Gentiles. The Movement realizes, “If Saul can be converted, anybody can!”
In Chapter 12, politics enters the story. King Herod Agrippa (the grandson of Herod the Great, who ruled in the days of Jesus’ birth) becomes involved in persecuting the church. Herod had James, the brother of John beheaded. The death of James shattered the illusion that somehow, the twelve enjoyed a unique Divine protection.
Because it “won Herod brownie points in the polls,” so to speak, he decided to solidify his position with the Jewish Leaders and have Peter killed too. Peter, has been the outspoken leader of the Movement in Jerusalem. This chapter marks the transition in the book of Acts from Peter to Paul. The mission moves from a focus on the Jews in Jerusalem and Jewish Communities, to the Movement “Going on Mission” to the Gentile world.
Who was the most “weird, interesting or surprising” person to ever show up at your door?
What is one of most “weird, interesting or surprising” answers to prayer in your life?
Read Acts 12. Listen for a part of the story or a verse or a phrase that catches your attention.
- Why do you think Herod went to such great lengths to secure Peter. (vs. 6‐7)?
- One thing is for certain; they did not expect Peter to show up at the door. If the church was praying for Peter’s deliverance, why do you think they were so surprised when he showed up at the door?
- What are some possible emotions they were feeling, or thoughts running through their minds that might have kept them from believing Rhoda?
- Herod was an opportunist who sought power through means of accommodating the Jews and winning their favor. By joining in on their persecution of the church, he was gaining great support from the Jews; something he needed in light of the famine they were facing.
Many of us worry about how we are going to “get through the iron gate” before we ever get to it. But God took care of Peter, and Peter trusted God, he was sleeping the night before is trial!
How does this story help you to face imprisoning circumstances and difficult times?
Who truly has the power in this story?
When has God surprised you by intervening in an “imprisoning” situation that you thought was hopeless?
What did the people of Tyre and Sidon shout when Herod gave his speech (12:20-22)?
Why do you think the people would say this about Herod or similar things about leaders today?
If God can send an angel to miraculously release Peter’s chains, open locked gates and sneak past numerous guards, how does that help you to think and pray when facing your problems?
How do you see politics affecting the church these days?
For More Thought
Peter’s Escape Story contains a remarkable reversal:
At the beginning, James is dead, Peter is in prison, and Herod is triumphing;
At the end, Herod is dead, Peter is free, and the Movement is triumphing.
How is this a description of what God does for us in the gospel?
Where do I find myself feeling like “I am in prison,” so to speak, right now?
What can this group do to support and encourage you?
Think, Talk and Pray About Your Prayer Life
Does “earnest prayer” characterize your prayerlife these days? Why, why not?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the “powers” at work in our world when all we have is prayer.
But God says prayer is a powerful weapon.
- How could your prayer life change so that you develop a more earnest, courageous life of prayer?
- What needs to be included in your bold and earnest prayer?
- When have you been frustrated in prayer, and when have you seen God move in powerful ways to answer your prayers?
What part of this story speaks to you the most?
Pray for people you know who may be battling addictions, stress, broken relationships, or sins that may be “imprisoning” them.
Pray for each one of us and our church to be “on Mission” – doing our part in the Movement.
Pray for those in political power who may be making decisions that oppose the truth of God’s Word.
Pray for a deeper and stronger prayer life.
Personal needs and requests