Study No. 13 - Chapter 12:1-24 “Kiss the Son” (Psalm 2:12)
Ac 9:31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
The above verse represents an unknown time period. It was likely several years, but now in this chapter we discover King Herod deciding to harass the church.
What we have in this chapter is
- the aggression of Satan against the church
- an example of what it means to be ready to meet the Lord at any time
- the Will of God
- the purpose and power of prayer
No particular reason is given for Herod’s persecution of the church. It appears that the religious leaders had backed off of their attacking of believers - perhaps because a number of the priests had come to faith in Christ (Act 6:7). This persecution comes directly from Herod, the civil government. This Herod was an Edomite but was also a convert to Judaism.
Three different kings in the New Testament were named Herod.
Herod the Great – King of Judah during the birth of Jesus.
Herod Antipas – a ruler referred as a ‘tetrarch’, over Galilee.
Herod Agrippa I – Apparently ruling in Jerusalem/Judea. He is the one about whom we read in this study.
Acts 12: 1,2. - Herod harasses the church in Jerusalem.
We are not told what this harassment entailed, but we read that it has escalated to killing the apostle James. We also are not told why he picked James, but we can put forward a few possibilities.
James may have been outstanding in various ways. That is, he could have been a very outspoken preacher. We have no indication that James was ‘pastor’, but he was one of the three apostles to whom Jesus gave particular honors by including only them. For example, Mark 5:37 at the raising of a synagogue ruler’s 12 year old daughter, and Mark 9:2 at the transfiguration of Jesus.
In Mark 13, (the passage which gives so much detail about the second coming. –see also Matthew 24) we read this Mark 13:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"
Also Mark 13:33 in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed and was accompanied by the eleven disciples to a certain point, He then invited Peter James and John to continue on to a private area with Him.
James was one of the earliest chosen disciples, and while we have no direct quotations of his, we get the sense that he was not laid back or quiet.
Consider the following account:
Mt 20:20 ¶ Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. Mt 20:21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom."
Let’s read it also from Mark.
Mr 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."
36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
37 They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory."
In the Matthew account it appears that the boys’ mother was the ambitious one. But as we read the Mark account we recognize that the boys wanted this for themselves. Perhaps they had even suggested their mother do the asking. We gather from this that these men were not the type to remain in the background.
As a matter of fact, James and John were nicknamed ‘the Sons of Thunder’ by Jesus (Mark 3:17) when they once suggested that Jesus permit them to call fire down from heaven to burn up a city of Samaritans.
So why did Herod first go after James and not John … or Peter? We have no definite answers for that, but suppose that James stood out in the crowd.
James – the first of the Apostles to be martyred. Someone has said, Christians are immortal until their work on earth is done.
- Jesus predicted this. Mt 20:23 So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."
- He is killed by the sword. So was John the Baptist. So were many in bygone days: Heb 11:37 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—-- Jesus came to bring a sword Mt 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. When true Christianity comes into a family … or an extended family, it can be very painful, divisive and can produce great antagonism. 2Ti 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Persecution can be expected. Heb 12:4 ¶ You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
But now we read,
Ac 12:3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
Peter is arrested. Perhaps Herod would have apprehended him sooner, but Peter may have been away traveling. He has been seen as a key figure in the church. Herod is planning to execute Peter in a public fashion.
A King has dared to ‘touch God’s anointed’ and here does so again. (Psalm 105.14,15)
Certainly Peter is aware of what has just happened to James. Can you imagine his conversations with God as he sat there in his cell.
Peter is chained and guarded by 16 soldiers. From what we read of Roman practices, this would be two soldiers in the cell and two at the gate, and changing shifts throughout the night.
In spite of what he suspects may be waiting for him … he sleeps.
Ac 12:5 ¶ Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
Does prayer change things? Can it change the will of God? Does God experience a constant ‘now’ or can He experience time, even though He dwells in eternity?
Satan would have us confused and doubting … in order to cripple us.
Could God have delivered James from the sword? Yes. Would He have delivered James from the sword if the church had prayed earnestly for him? We don’t know that.
Does prayer make a difference in the deliverance of Peter? Yes, that seems to be the indication. In the book of James we read … 5:16 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.
7-10 The answer to this prayer is an undeniable miracle. Peter is chained to two soldiers. The doors are locked and guarded.
The answer is almost unbelievable 12-16 - Peter is released by an Angel, and finding himself out on the street, makes his way to a house prayer meeting.
This is the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (not the Mark of the Gospel). John Mark is nephew to Barnabas. Therefore Mary is Barnabas’ sister. Barnabas and Saul are here in Jerusalem at this time. (Acts 11:30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. It is possible that Saul and Barnabas are part of this prayer group.)
Peter ‘makes himself scarce’. 17-19. God has just delivered him. God could continue to protect Him. Peter does not ‘need’ to hide. But perhaps he is thinking … ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’
20-23. God has said, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. And in 2Thess 1:6, God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
God removes Herod from his throne and prestige. He removes him from ability to hurt the church any further. He removes him from the earth completely.
Exodus 34:6 "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty,
Herod made several mistakes that proved to eternally fatal for him. He was destroyed by pride. He dared to touch the Lord`s bride. As we stated in the title of this study, the Psalmist said, Kiss the Son lest he be angry with you and you perish in the way. This is exactly what happened to Herod. May we never forget who we are in Christ. We are sinners saved by grace.
Barnabas and Saul leave Jerusalem for Antioch, Syria and take with them Mary’s son, John Mark.
The Church grows … multiplies.