Well, King Herod needed to get involved. All the commotion of the growth of the new “church” had created a fantastic opportunity to muster some political bonus points:
1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
I’m sure many of Herod’s citizens did not like these “Christians” and as Herod perhaps surmised, the murder of James, one of “the twelve” was pleasing to some Jews in that city. Up until now, the church had been growing and growing. It seemed nothing could be done to stop them. The religious leaders were puzzled as to how to deal with the problem, and most officials were afraid to do anything.
Until Herod. Now, the seemingly Holy protection of those that walked close with Jesus was nothing but a rumor. James was beheaded (a likely result when the phrase “with the sword” is used) and that meant the disciples were vulnerable after all. Of course, Jesus already warned the disciples that they would be persecuted (see Matt. 10:16-26).
So, Herod was going to do the same to Peter. No telling what favor he could drum up with the death of “the Rock.”
But the church was praying. Did you catch that in verse 5?
The result? Peter received a special visitor while in prison – an angel – who took his hand and escorted him right out of there to his freedom. This was unfortunate for the guards at that time since letting a prisoner escape was punishable by death.
There is power in prayer. Wounds are healed. Captives are set free. God’s kingdom is advanced. The enemy is defeated.
I find myself thinking about what power the church could have if we would only pray:
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:13-15
Seems we’ve got a very similar situation today in America. Politicians looking to leverage any little comment or event to their political advantage – no matter who gets hurt.
Heal our land, Lord! Call your people to prayer once again. Send your Holy Spirit to convict us of our arrogance and cause us to humble ourselves and pray. Bring revival and cause your church to turn from their wicked ways. Let it begin with me, Lord.