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About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) 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. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
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. 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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.”
As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, “Tell this to James and to the believers.“ Then he left and went to another place.
When We Come Up a Little Short
This is one amazing story. Peter was in jail, awaiting certain death. But all of a sudden, an angel appeared and freed him. My goodness, he even led Peter past two sets of guards all the way to an iron gate through which the apostle got out of the city. Now, this is what happened, a spectacular event, one that could only make sense to those who have faith.
But as we see in the rest of the story, that didn’t happen for those believers who were praying for Peter in the house of Mary. You see, even though they were dedicated to Christ and devoted to God and even though they were praying that Peter would be saved, they didn’t believe Rhoda when she told them that God had done exactly what they’d asked and that Peter was at the gate. In fact, they accused her of being crazy. You see, instead of believing that all things were possible for God, they questioned and doubted, until they finally opened the gate themselves and saw that Rhoda wasn’t crazy at all. In other words, in terms of faith, these Christians came up a little short.
But I think what Peter did was remarkable. I mean, instead of condemning them, he told them the story so that they could share in the glory of what had happened. And then he gave them a job to do, to share this good news to James and the other believers. You see, he didn’t put them down or push them away. He treated them like friends. And I’ll tell you, that’s something we might want to keep in mind, and I’m talking about when we come up a little short in our faith.