Hunkered Down Devotion

Acts 12:5-17 (Voice)
5 During Peter’s imprisonment, the church prayed constantly and intensely to God for his safety. 6 Their prayers were not answered, until the night before Peter’s execution.
Picture this event: Peter is sound asleep between two soldiers, double-chained, with still more guards outside the prison door watching for external intruders. 7 Suddenly the cell fills with light: it is a messenger of the Lord manifesting himself. He taps Peter on the side, awakening him.
Messenger of the Lord: Get up, quickly.
The chains fall off Peter’s wrists.
Messenger of the Lord: 8 Come on! Put on your belt. Put on your sandals.
Peter puts them on and just stands there.
Messenger of the Lord: Pull your cloak over your shoulders. Come on! Follow me!
9 Peter does so, but he is completely dazed. He doesn’t think this is really happening—he assumes he is dreaming or having a vision. 10 They pass the first guard. They pass the second guard. They come to the iron gate that opens to the city. The gate swings open for them on its own, and they walk into a lane. Suddenly the messenger disappears.
11 Peter finally realized all that had really happened.
Peter: Amazing! The Lord has sent His messenger to rescue me from Herod and the public spectacle of my execution which the Jews fully expected.
12 Peter immediately rushed over to the home of a woman named Mary. (Mary’s son, John Mark, would eventually become an important associate of the apostles.) A large group had gathered there to pray for Peter and his safety. 13 He knocked at the outer gate; and a maid, Rhoda, answered. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice, but she was so overcome with excitement that she left him standing on the street and ran inside to tell everyone.
Rhoda: Our prayers were answered! Peter is at the front gate!
Praying Believers: 15 Rhoda, you’re crazy!
Rhoda: No! Peter’s out there! I’m sure of it!
Praying Believers: Well, maybe it’s his guardian angel or something.
16 All this time, Peter was still out in the street, knocking on the gate. Finally they came and let him in. Of course, the disciples were stunned, and everyone was talking at once. 17 Peter motioned for them to quiet down and then told them the amazing story of how the Lord engineered his escape.
Peter: Could you please get word to James, our Lord’s brother, and the other believers that I’m all right?
Then he left to find a safer place to stay.

There is much that I love about this passage.  A couple of them are what we might call the very ‘human’ moments in this text.  These are the little details that help remind me that while we read scripture primarily for spiritual wisdom, guidance and theological insight, the people in these stories are not ‘characters’, but real people who lived real lives – just like us.

The first of these moments come as Peter reaches the gate of Mary’s house and Rhoda answers the door.  In her excitement and disbelief about Peter’s presence, she is so excited to go and share this good news with those gathered at the house that she leaves Peter standing on the outside of the door.  There is a little bit of a sitcom quality to what happens here, but at the same time, it is somehow incredibly relatable.  

The second of these moments comes at the end of the passage, and this time it is Peter that gets to play the part.  He tells the story of his amazing escape – and you can only imagine that every one is enthralled and excited – and Peter’s main concerns seem to be: 1 – making sure James gets word that he is fine and that, as quickly as possible, he finds a safer place to be.

This passage isn’t just about these human moments, however.  Tom Petty once sang ‘The waiting is the hardest part’, and while I think the sentiment is generally true it might have been particularly difficult for Peter as he waited for morning – and his impending execution – to come.

Those second, minutes, and hours must have inched by agonizingly slowly.  And in the midst of it all, how does Peter respond?  Is he up pacing his cell?  Is he trying to talk (or even pray) his way out of the situation? Is he nervously biting his fingernails?  No.  Instead, he sleeps.  

He is able to sleep not because he doesn’t care what is going to happen, not because he has some sort of death wish, not because he is counting on a miraculous or otherwise escape. Peter is calm and is able to sleep – and sleep so soundly that the angel has to prod him awake, he sleeps so soundly that when the angel wakes him, he thinks he is dreaming – because he knows that no matter what happens when the morning comes his life, his safety, and his eternal existence rests not in his own hands, but in the hands of his loving God.  

Trusting in Jesus is the peace that passes all understanding.  Trust in Jesus is what allows us to persevere and face both good and difficult times.

Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer: Lord, help us to trust in you and give us the peace that comes only from you. Amen.

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