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Acts Chapter 12
An Understandable Version of ACTS
Translation by William E. Paul
Concise PRESENTATION NOTES
by Charles Dailey

(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
  The Book of Acts has centered on Peter with Paul being introduced to the readers. In chapter 12, we hear nearly the last of Peter and the focus will swing to Paul and his international work for the remainder of the narrative.
1) Now about that time King Herod began a persecution of certain people in the [Jerusalem] church. [ Note: This man was the grandson of Herod the Great. See Matt. 2:1. ] Herod Agrippa I ruled an area the size of the one ruled by his grandfather.
- Notice that the membership of the church was identifiable. Either one was or was not a member.
2) He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. James is the first apostle to die. Saul (Paul) will bring the number of apostles back to 12. Reese calculates this as about May 1 in A.D. 44.
- A heart-warming story is relayed by Eusebius in his Church History, 2.9.
- Death by sword was a Roman, not a Jewish, practice.
3) When he realized that this act pleased the Jews, he proceeded to have Peter arrested also. [This happened] during the Festival of Unleavened Bread [See Exodus 12:15ff]. Herod was pleasing the crowd. The Jerusalem community had turned against the church. In the popular view, Peter is responsible for corrupting Judaism with Gentiles.
4) So, Peter was arrested and put in jail with four groups of four soldiers each guarding him. Herod planned to have him brought before the people after the Passover Festival was over. Jesus was arrested at the Passover time a few years ago.
- 4 x 4 shifts = 16 guards. But Peter would outlive Herod.
- Peter must have been considered an escape artist by now! Acts 5:18 ff.
- Execution during the Feast would be inappropriate.
 
5) So, Peter was kept in jail, but the church continued to pray earnestly to God for him. [See verse 12.] The church kept round-the-clock prayer going. This was a high-profile arrest, designed to enhance Herod's popularity.
 
6) Then on the night that Herod was planning to have him brought [before the court], Peter was asleep, chained between two soldiers, with guards stationed at the jail doors. Luke calls attention to God's timing. This was probably a Saturday night in our terms.
- This was a win-win situation for Peter. He thought he was going to be with our Lord. Such perfect peace.
7) [Then it happened]: [Suddenly] an angel from the Lord stood beside Peter as a light shone into his cell. [The angel] gently struck his side, waking him up, saying, "Get up quickly." His chains fell from his hands. The light did not disturb Peter or the guards that were chained to him.
 
- The angel poked him in the ribs.
- God can remove chains that bind.
8) The angel [then] said to him, "Put on your belt and sandals," so he did. Then the angel said, "Throw your [outer] robe around you and follow me." "Dress normally. We are going outside."
9) So, he followed the angel out [of the jail], not fully realizing what had happened, thinking [perhaps] he had seen [all this in] a vision. This seemed like the vision on the housetop. Acts 10:10.
10) And when they passed the first two guards, they came to the iron gate leading out into the city, which opened by itself. So, they went out and, as they walked down the street, the angel [suddenly] left him. By itself. The Greek word is where we get automatic - automatic gate opener.
 
 
- Peter is again free to serve the Lord.
 
11) Then when Peter realized what had actually happened, he said, "Now I know for certain that [it was] the Lord who sent His angel to rescue me from Herod's custody and from all that the Jewish people had planned [to do to me]." Experiences with the Lord strengthen our faith in Him.
 
- Reality is sinking in.
 
- He knew he was marked for death.
12) After thinking about the matter [for awhile], he decided to go to the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, where a large gathering [of Christians] was praying. Within a few hours, there would be a changing of the guard and Peter's absence would be detected.
 
- Luke identifies more closely with Mark than with his mother. There was an all-night prayer meeting.
13) When Peter knocked at the entryway door, a young woman named Rhoda answered. This was an expansive home. Probably the Last Supper was held here. Note Mark 14:17 where the New American Standard translation say, "...he came with the twelve."
- The door or gate was bolted. Was this the authorities knocking?
14) And when she recognized Peter's voice [speaking to her from outside], she ran back in [to where the prayer group was assembled] without even opening the door, and joyously told them that it was Peter [knocking]. If she could recognize his voice, he had been here many times before.
 
- Peter was well-liked by this young lady.
- Did she interrupt prayer?
15) And they said to her, "You are crazy." But she insisted that [what she reported] was true. They replied, "It is [only] his angel." Her report was not believed. They must not have been praying for Peter's release, but his courage and comfort.
- These Christians believed that each person had a guardian angel. Their view makes it neither true nor false.
16) But Peter continued to knock and when they [finally] opened [the door] they saw that it [really] was Peter and were amazed. Was Peter watching over his shoulder, watching for temple guards to come?
17) [Upon entering the house] he held up his hand to quiet them, then went on to explain how the Lord had rescued him from jail. He said to them, "[Go] tell all this to James [the Lord's half-brother] and to [the rest of] the brothers." Then he left [them] and went elsewhere. "Don't wake up the neighbors."
 
- Peter told the story of his deliverance from prison and death.
 
- The half-brothers of the Lord are listed in Matthew 13:55.
- James is already emerging as a leader of the church.
 
18) Now as soon as it got daylight there was a lot of commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. The soldiers probably worked six hour shifts.
19) When Herod's search for him turned up nothing, he questioned the guards, then ordered them to be led away and executed. He then left Judea and went to Caesarea, where he stayed for awhile. This was a judicial questioning like a court-martial.
- They had the wrong assignment!
- Herod should have seen the hand of God in this event.
- Caesarea was the Roman capital and he could feel safe from these unexplainable happenings.
 
20) Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon [Note: These were seaport cities not under his jurisdiction]. They came to him as a group, having befriended Blastus, an officer of the king [Herod], and tried to arrange a peaceful relationship [with him] because their country was dependant on him for their food supply. Tyre and Sidon were seaport and trade towns that had a certain level of political independence, but were dependant on inland sources for food.

 
- Perhaps there was bribery here.

 
21) And then, on a particular day, Herod, dressed in his royal robes, delivered a speech [to the people] from his throne. Reese believes this was August 2 in A.D. 44.
- Josephus says the robes were silver. Antiquities 19.8.2.
- Speakers sitting is an eastern custom.
22) The people began shouting, "His is the voice of a god and not a man." Peter had refused such honor.
- These Gentiles had no problem ascribing deity to Herod.
23) Suddenly, an angel from God struck him [with a terrible condition] because he refused to honor God [by what he said in his speech], so he was consumed by worms and died. Earlier an angel had released Peter. Here he sickened Herod.
- Another opponent is dead, but the message was alive (verse 24.)
- Intestinal round worms, a parasite.
 
24) But the [influence of the] message of God grew and [the number of disciples] multiplied. This is one of Luke's periodic summaries.
 
25) Barnabas and Saul returned [to Antioch] from Jerusalem after they had fulfilled their mission [i.e., of taking the contribution for the famineicken people of Judea. See 11:27-30]. They took John Mark [back to Antioch with them]. John Mark is being introduced because he becomes significant to the story. He later wrote the Gospel of Mark.
- Jesus had told His men to witness in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the distant regions of the earth. Acts 1:8. The first two parts have been completed and we are ready to view the third part.

  The Prophet Daniel foretold of these days. In 2:35 he wrote: "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." (NAS)
 
The process is underway as we complete Acts 12 and begin 13.

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