Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Acts 12:1-3
Like many countries around the world today, Acts 12 opens with the account of a king who supports the killing of Christians. Herod is the perfect example of weakness cloaked in the illusion of power. He killed the Apostle James. The church is in crisis. Their great leader, a man called “The Son of Thunder” has been crushed. And because the Jews are pleased, Herod took Peter for the same purpose. Peter, who believes this is his last earthly night before facing the executioner at daylight, sleeps soundly chained between guards. But the church cannot sleep. Herod seems unstoppable. One by one, he will bring terror and death until the church is only a memory. They gathered in the dead of night to pray for Peter, but I am certain they prayed for much more. Why, God, would You let James die? You could have stopped the hand of Herod. How can we stand and not lose heart when our teachers, our leaders, our examples are thrown away? God, will you save your church? The burden of grief is a hard calling.
The church prayed, until every heart determined that their love for Jesus Christ could lead them in the footsteps of James. Christ gave His life; each follower could do no less. So the heavy blanket of grief that covered that prayer meeting turned to joy and a peace that passes understanding. Peter was in God’s hands and would soon see Him face to face. The church would triumph over Herod who was in fact a slave to the whims of evil people.
When their prayers were through and their hearts were pure, Jesus stood at the right hand of God and gave the command. Peter’s angel, move swiftly! Awaken the sleeping Christian now! And a few days later, Herod the people pleaser, makes his last pitiful weak stand against the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. He delivered his people-pleasing speech with all the pomp of the vote-gathering politician, and delighted as the people declared, “he is no longer mere mortal, but a god!”
There is one Savior. There is one truth in Jesus Christ. And the political leader who would strive to distort that truth for the sake of popularity is in grave danger indeed. The One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life stood up from His place at the right hand of God, and once again gave the command. “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote Herod, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.”
And so the word of God grew and multiplied, and the Kingdom of God prevailed. Today the blood of martyrs speaks courage to the church, persecuted by weak people pleasers. He shall reign forever and ever. And we must pray like the church at Rhoda’s house, until our hearts are pure, and we will follow without hesitation in His footsteps.