WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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PRAY AND EXPECT THE DOORS TO BE OPENED
In Acts chapter 12, Luke chronicles the story of King Herod Agrippa I, and his persecution of the Christian Church and its leaders at Jerusalem. Herod Agrippa I, was the grandson of Herod the Great, a direct descendant of Esau, who was ruler over Palestine around the time when JESUS was born. He was the son of Aristobulus, Herod the Great’s son by his wife Mariamne. Herod the Great murdered Mariamne, and then subsequently, murdered their two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus shortly after they found out that he had killed their mother.
Mariamne was a princess who descended from the Great Jewish dynasty, known as the Maccabees, who were direct descendants of Jacob. Therefore, Herod Agrippa I was pure-bred Jewish, raised that way by his parents. He was educated in Rome, and throughout his life, he adhered strongly to Jewish laws and customs. This made him very popular with the orthodox Jews, and through his persecution of the newly formed Christian Church, he no doubt sought to further improve upon his popularity.
In Acts chapter 12, taking up at verse 1, we are introduced to Herod Agrippa I, as he orders the death of James, one the original Disciples of JESUS. James, the brother of the Apostle John, became the first of the original Disciples to be martyred, as he was killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter, with the intent to kill him also, as soon as the Passover celebration had ended.
While Peter was in jail, the Church prayed earnestly for him, and on the eve of his trial while asleep in his cell, he was awakened by an angel of the LORD. The angel instructed him to “get up quickly”, and the chains that bound him between two guards, fell from his wrists. Then the angel told him to “Get dressed and put on his sandals and coat and “follow me”. So Peter did as the angel instructed, but all the while, he thought it was just a dream and had not yet realized it was really happening.
They passed the first and second guard posts, and then finally, they came to an iron gate that would open into the street. The gate opened by itself, and Peter was able to walk with the angel to freedom. As they were walking down the street the angel left him and he realized then, that it was not a dream. He now knew that the LORD had sent HIS angel to rescue him from his impending doom.
Peter then goes directly to the home of the mother of John Mark. John Mark is the man who became the eventual author of the Book of Mark, and is also the cousin of Barnabas (who was known as the enabling encourager) (Colossians 4:10). He would also, later, travel with Barnabas and the Apostle Paul, on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5). The home of his mother was apparently one of the meeting places (House Churches) of the followers of CHRIST in those days, and no doubt, was where they had gathered to pray for Peter during his incarceration.
When Peter arrives there and knocks on the door, a girl named Rhoda came to answer it. But after hearing the voice of Peter, whom they thought was still incarcerated, she, in her excitement, ran back to tell the others instead of opening the door for Peter.
The people inside, first, thought she was out of her mind, but finally concluded that she had, no doubt, heard an angel. But, when she insisted, they finally went to the door where they themselves heard Peter’s continued knocking. When they opened the door, they were amazed to see Peter standing there. Peter motions for them to quiet down, and then, tells them the story of how the LORD had led him to freedom. Before he left Mary’s house, he instructed them to go and tell James, the brother of JESUS, and apparent leader of the Church at that time, and all the others, what had just happened.
At dawn there was a great commotion among the palace guards about what had happened with Peter the night before. Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for Peter, but he couldn’t be found, and so he interrogated his guards and then sentenced them to death, before leaving for Caesarea to sojourn there for a while.
It was the strong earnest prayers of the Christians at the House Church of Mary, John Mark’s mother that unlocked the cell that held Peter captive in Jerusalem. And I’m certain that Peter must have been reminded of what JESUS told him and the other disciples, as HE closed out HIS private teachings to them, in that dimly lit upper room, somewhere in the midst of the festive Passover atmosphere of Jerusalem, on the final night of HIS life here on earth.
It is a statement and promise that is now available for all to see, as it is recorded in the Gospel account of the Apostle John (John 14:13-14). There, JESUS proclaims to HIS faithful followers, and to all future believers that; “You can ask anything in MY name, and I will do it, because the work of the SON brings glory to the father. Yes, ask anything in MY name, and I will do it! (NLT). Amen.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website