Peter slept peacefully through most of the night. Although his arms were chained on either side of his head to the wall. The two guards who were guarding him were fast asleep as well. Not wanting to take any chances, Herod had ordered them to stay up all night and watch Peter; however they dosed off an hour ago. Herod had heard of the empty tomb but He was convinced that Jesus’ body was stolen on the sabbath. To make sure nothing would happen to Peter, he had put the two sleeping guards in the cell with Peter, placed two guards outside the door of the cell and another two at the prison gates. It would take a bandit of skilled warriors to free Peter.
On the other side of the city, the saints had gathered together in Mary’s home, the mother of John Mark, praying earnestly for Peter’s release. They were all aware that Peter could be killed like James, the brother of John. Therefore they cried out to God for Peter to be released without a trial.
An angel of the Lord was dispatched to Peter. The angel appeared in the cell and shook Peter by the shoulder, woke him up and said, “Hurry! Get up!” At once the chains fell off Peter’s hands. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. Peter did so, looking on either side to see that the guards were still fast asleep despite the voice of the angel, the clanging chains and fumbling of clothes. He thought he was seeing a vision.
Peter followed the angel out of the cell, where the door was wide open, the guards standing there seemed oblivious to what was going on despite being wide awake and fully alert. When the angel and Peter came to the prison gates, the gates opened by themselves and they went out. Once again the guards seemed to be oblivious to their most guarded prisoner strolling out of prison like he was going to a picnic. They walked down a street and then the angel vanished.
Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” Aware of his situation, He went to the home of Mary where the saints were still praying. Peter knocked on the door a few times, shouting at the top of his lungs. Rhoda, a servant of the household, came to answer it. As soon as she got to the door, she recognised Peter’s voice, turned around and ran back to the lounge full of prayer warriors and excitedly announced that Peter was standing outside.
But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy, his trial only starts tomorrow.” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting that it was really him. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, “It must be his angel.” All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away. Finally they opened up and saw him–and went wild! He got into the house, everyone started cheering and praising God. Raising his hand, he calmed them down. The room went silent and everyone waited for what Peter had to say. He explained to them how God had brought him out of prison.
“Tell this to James and the rest of the believers,” he said; then he left and went somewhere else. At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. “Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?” When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: “Off with their heads!” All the guards were executed. Fed up with Judea and the Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.
But things went from bad to worse for Herod. After coming back, people from Tyre and Sidon made him furious. But they got Blastus, King Herod’s right-hand man, to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to make peace with him. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn’t afford to let this go on too long.
An appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” That was the last straw. The Lord had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to him. Herod had given the Lord no credit for anything. Instantly, the angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.
Heavily paraphrased historical events from the book of Acts chapter 12
Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John Mark with them.