Thursday: Herod’s Persecution

Turning again to Judea, we are faced now with the account of King Herod’s executing James, the brother of John and son of Zebedee (Mark 1:19). He also wanted to do the same with Peter.

Read Acts 12:1-4. What does this teach about the challenges the early church faced?

Peter Rescued from Jail

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The King Herod mentioned here is Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:1); he ruled Judea from A.D. 40 to 44. As a result of his show of piety, he earned popularity among his Jewish subjects, especially the Pharisees. His attempt to win the favor of the Jews by attacking some apostles fits perfectly with what we know of him from other sources.

Because James’s execution was effective in fulfilling Agrippa’s agenda, he planned to execute Peter, as well. Peter was arrested and delivered to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, one squad for each of the four watches of the night. Peter had four soldiers at a time with him: he would be chained to two soldiers, one on each side, and two would guard the entrance. Such extreme precaution was certainly taken to try to avoid what had already happened to Peter (and John) some time before (Acts 5:17-20).

Read Acts 12:5-18. What happened in response to the brethren’s prayers?

The night before the day that Agrippa had planned to put Peter on trial and execute him, Peter was once again miraculously released by an angel.

Next, we find the story of Agrippa’s death at Caesarea (Acts 12:20-23). Attempts have been made to identify the cause of his death (peritonitis, an ulcer, even poison); yet, Luke is clear in saying that the king died because of a divine judgment.

James is killed, Peter is delivered, and Herod faces divine judgment. In some cases, we see justice; in others, it doesn’t appear that way. What should this teach us about how we just don’t have all the answers to all our questions and why we need to live by faith regarding what we don’t understand?
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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons