Act 12:1 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. 3 After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. 6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
In this passage I discover a word of courage:
This story ends the work of Peter, with the focus in the next chapter moving to Paul. Jesus has gone; James has been executed; and Peter must be feeling that his own demise is imminent. It seems like the power of darkness has extinguished hope. In fact the way the story is written, Peter is literally in darkness – when a light appears….. a light that brings him hope, release, and restoration to his community. Luke tells this story at a time when the next generation of Jesus-followers are struggling for faith. They have seen Jerusalem burned to the ground; they have experienced persecution at the hands of Roman authorities – most notably when the Emperor Nero accuses them of burning Rome; and they have seen their church scattered. Luke writes to reassure them that God does not forget them, even when things seem at their most desperate.
In the same way you and I can take courage in moments of darkness that God will find a way to bring light. It might not be what we expect – but know that God will never abandon us to the darkness.
Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes
Let me see
Beauty that made
This heart adore You
Hope of a life
Spent with You
Lyrics: CHRIS TOMLIN
Ordinary 19 / Pentecost +12
41 Prayers and Promises
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 255.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.