Acts 12:1-11 - About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Our human nature and our national culture lead us to be keenly aware of when we aren’t being treated fairly. It shows up at early age with cries of, “It’s not fair!” from the mouths of toddlers. Justice is the cry of so many, and no doubt we are to seek justice for the oppressed, freedom for the slave, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry. What happens, though, when we are the victim? When we observe the actions of the apostles we don’t seem the see any fighting for their rights. Instead, all but John the Revelator marched to their deaths almost willingly. In Acts 12 we see Herod take James’s life and then imprison Peter with intent to kill him as well. What isn’t mentioned is a cry for justice or the raising of a coup.
Instead of playing the victim card, Peter takes his discipline. Perhaps he sees an opportunity to share the gospel in prison. Maybe he remembers what Jesus said to him when he sliced off the guard’s ear in the garden. Most likely, Peter simply trusts God. Paul’s words, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain,” haven’t been written yet, but the philosophy is present. Peter is aware that as long as he is following Christ, walking in the Spirit, then he can endure whatever is thrown at him. So trusting in his King Jesus keeps him steady.
The other thing we see here is the working of prayer. Luke makes sure to mention in verse five, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” Peter was lifted up, protected, and covered by the prayers of his fellow believers. I am sure that he knew it, and because he trusted God, he was sure those prayers would be answered. And so they were. An angel of the Lord came into the prison and led Peter out, right past the guards. When we throw off the victim mentality and surrender the results to God, we will be delivered. It may not be how we think it should be, like John, but you can be sure it will come.
Where in your life are you playing the victim? When life isn’t fair, how do you respond?
Is your trust in God greater than your sense of safety? Pray that God would release you from the bonds of self-preservation in order to let His way show through in your life.