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Peter in Prison, Acts 12:1-19

Angels Among Us

Do angels walk among us? Let me tell you my angel story. So I was a pastor in a congregation that had outdoor worship, which was awesome except for the part that I was responsible for getting the sound trailer out to the worship site. I have lots of gifts and I am good at a lot of things. Mechanics and machinery are not among those gifts. At all. When I learned I had to hook up the church van (already hard to drive) to the sound trailer and haul it out to the site, I was shaken. But I was not going to let my fear stop me from trying. I hooked that puppy up and took it out on the road. Except that I did it wrong and on the first bump the trailer came right up off the trailer-hook-thing (yeah, that's how I roll). Luckily, there were chains keeping it attached to the van. I quickly pulled over and got out to take a look. I thought maybe I could just lift it back onto the hitch (oh yeah, that's what it's called). Have you ever tried to lift a 2000 pound trailer? I'm strong, but not that strong. What to do? All of a sudden a man was standing there assessing the situation. He went back to his car, which I hadn't seen him drive up, grabbed a jack, and jacked up the trailer high enough that we could release down the guide tire. He got the trailer hooked up and before I knew it, I was on my way, and he was gone. Do angels walk among us? What do you think?

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 12:1-19

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, “Tell this to James and to the believers.” Then he left and went to another place.

When morning came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and could not find him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.