Persecution, Prevailing Prayer, Power of God in the Church
King Herod (3) in NT.
1. Herod the Great = Wisemen came during baby Jesus’ time. Built beautiful buildings, refurbished the temple. He was cruel.
2. Herod – killed John the Baptist, Jesus appeared to him before his death.
3. Herod Agrippa – grandson of Herod the Great. All were descendants of Esau – not loved by the Jews.
They acted like Jews, tried to get Jews to like them.
Acts 3, Peter and John went to the temple for prayer, so new Christians were still being good Jews.
They found the beggar, healed him. All the people witnessed it, they were in awe of the Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah.
Many signs, miracles, wonders were done by the apostles. So, the people loved them, really respected them.
Sadducees didn’t like the Jewish Christians. Some Pharisees were not SO opposed to them.
Acts 5, apostles arrested, put in prison, angel rescued them. Told to go back to the temple to preach.
They were brought before the council, “why are you preaching in this name? You were told not to.” Peter: “Should we obey
God or man? We cannot help but to preach.”
Controversy, but a wise Pharisee counciled the others, “Other cults and religions have risen often and come to nothing. If this is of man, it will come to nothing. If it is of God, we would be opposing God if we went against it. Let it be for now.”
Generally, acceptance of converted Jews because they didn’t seem to affect Judaism in a HUGE way. True, they preached Jesus as Messiah, but they kept most of the Jewish customs.
Why the change in attitude now? Why does Herod set out to persecute the leaders now?
Earlier, Peter went to Cornelius’ house.
Before that, he’d taught in Samaria (among the non-pure-bloods – muggles).
John 4, Samartian woman was healed and changed and forgiven by Jesus. Gospel had already started spreading with her. After the Holy Spirit came, more Samaritans came to believe. Peter and John went down to teach among them.
But, this might have upset some in leadership. Esp. after the conversion of Cornelius (an unclean dog of a man – racism at its best).
Even the converted Jews were shocked by what Peter had done. Imagine the non-converted Jews. So, the attitude – overall – shifted greatly.
Herod knew it, so he wanted to appease the Jews – the majority. So, he decided to persecute the apostles and Christians. James, brother of John was beheaded – Jews loved it. So, he grabbed Peter next.
However, during the Feast, he couldn’t do anything. He was waiting for the end of Passover to try and execute him and get more love from the Jews.
There was a hesitation to do anything DURING the Passover because otherwise the people would riot. Scandal.
What was the church doing?
James and John “Sons of Thunder” they were called. They were very zealous, which became more tempered by love as they grew in the faith.
James was the first apostle to die.
Looks like Peter will be the second.
Church is praying, Herod means business, so their prayer becomes very focused.
An angel is sent.
Herod had no doubt heard of Acts 5 escape, so he had 16 total soldiers in rotation looking after Peter, with 2 of them chained to him. This is the last night on earth – potentially, but he is at peace.
But, perhaps he remembered Jesus’ promise that he’d live to old age, on the Island of Tiberius?
He was martyred eventually, but not now. He was at peace – he trusted Jesus fully.
The angel came, woke him, removed the chains, said, “Follow me.”
He went through the 4 groups of guards and gates, thought he was sleeping, once he got outside, cold air probably woke him up and he realized the angel had rescued him.
Peter thought, “what should I do now? Ahh! There’s a house meeting in Mary’s house! I’ll go there.”
Maid, “*Gasp*! Peter?!” Runs inside, “Peter! Peter!” People inside, “Crazy girl!” Girl, “Really!”
Finally, they opened the door on him and found him. Comical (3 stooges?)
Peter explains how he was released. Another James, the half-brother of Jesus heard – Peter sent someone to tell him and other apostles. Then Peter left.
2. Prevailing Prayer
Next, Herod’s consequences.
The next day, Herod’s soldiers woke up “*Gasp!* He’s gone? We’re going to die…”
If soldiers lost the prisoners, the guards take the prisoner’s penalty. Herod tortured them, no answers, executed them.
Then Herod went to the capital city.
Tyre and Sidon (coastal cities) wanted to make peace with Herod for food (FTA).
They made friends with a member of Herod’s court.
Herod is appeased, reconciled with these cities. He arrived early, appeared in a silver, shimmering gown, and begins to speak. “My voice is god’s voice!” An angel killed him.
Josephus says, he was languishing with a terrible disease, parasites that ate his insides, for 5 days, then he died. (v.23)
The word of God increased, multiplied.
What’s the relevance today?
Does God still send angels?
The word in Greek actually means “messenger.”
Russian writer tells a brave story not to give up. In the prison he was in, nothing to read, no one could speak, nothing encouraging for life. The stress was so much, he thought about taking his own life. If he tried to escape, he’d be shot “but at least the suffering would end” He was a Christian, and couldn’t. Morning, taken out to work, during the break, tempted to commit suicide, almost about to run so guards would shoot him. A shadow fell across his path. A fellow prisoner came, couldn’t speak words, but saw in his face love and concern. They communicated in their souls. The new one drew a cross in the dirt. New hope abounded! It’s not hopeless! 3 days later he was released. Learned that many had been praying for him.
God is sovereign.
We must not give up.
We can communicate hope to others.
We must love and pray for each others.
Herod is a representation of the rulers of this world. So, put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6).
Jesus is concerned about each of us personally.
He is concerned with your every day struggles and needs.
Let’s pray one for another, in and through each other.