1 About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, 2 and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. 3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was praying fervently to God for him. 6 When Herod was about to bring him out for trial, that very night Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while the sentries in front of the door guarded the prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, “Quick, get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 “Get dressed,” the angel told him, “and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Wrap your cloak around you,” he told him, “and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening, but he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street, and suddenly the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s grasp and from all that the Jewish people expected.” 12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many had assembled and were praying. 13 He knocked at the door of the outer gate, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the outer gate. 15 “You’re out of your mind!” they told her. But she kept insisting that it was true, and they said, “It’s his angel.” 16 Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 17 Motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. “Tell these things to James and the brothers,” he said, and he left and went to another place. 18 At daylight, there was a great commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had searched and did not find him, he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Together they presented themselves before him. After winning over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. 21 On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God flourished and multiplied. 25 After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who was called Mark. — Acts 12
“But What About James?”
by Matt Pearson
West Franklin Campus
Recently I was with a group of multi-denominational pastors from all over Middle Tennessee. At one point, one of them spoke of how they had to correct one of their members who prayed, thanking God for sparing them in a wreck they had been involved in. This pastor said, “I couldn’t let this person assume God saved them, while for another person in my congregation who lost someone in a wreck He didn’t save their loved one.” This pastor, in other words, didn’t want one member to feel as if God didn’t care for them like the other member because He didn’t rescue their loved one from the wreck. To put it another way, this pastor didn’t want to let God be God, so they removed God from the picture altogether.
I understand the pastor’s struggle. It’s hard. So often, life just doesn’t seem fair. But we can’t assume God is not fair simply because it doesn’t work out the way we want it to.
Acts 12 is a fascinating chapter, filled with dramatic escapes from prison and angels and testimonies and celebrations and bad guys getting eaten by worms. But it starts with a somber couple of verses: “About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword.” (Acts 12:1-2)
Yeah. That happened.
Later in the chapter an angel of the Lord saves Peter. But the angel didn’t save James. I am almost positive James prayed for an angel to rescue him. It had happened before (see Acts 5:17-21). But not on that night. An angel didn’t show up to rescue James, but showed up later to dramatically deliver Peter. God definitely was there rescuing Peter. So, where was God when James needed an angel? We can’t just assume God was not around. We simply cannot dismiss Him.
Just because Jesus saves one person from a situation and allows the other to be killed does not for one second mean He’s there for one and not there for the other. This world is not our home. James was the first of the Twelve to experience what Jesus prayed for in John 17:24. Peter lived that day but died another. James died that day and went on to live forever, to enjoy what Jesus had purchased for him. Jon Bloom, in his book Not By Sight (a book I highly recommend, by the way) put it this way: “There will come a time when Jesus’ prayer for us to be with Him will overrule our prayer for prolonged earthly life. And when it does, we will experience a life so far better, richer, fuller, purer, and more joyful that we will shake our heads in wonder that we ever pleaded to stay.”
Let’s never, ever forget that God’s ways are not our ways, and His ways are always perfect, loving, and good. It may not make perfect sense, and it may not be easy. But removing God from the picture not only removes the One doing it all, but it also takes away all our hope.
- Have you ever asked God to work in a certain way—and He didn’t? Can you look back now and know why He did what He did in those situations? Take a moment and thank Him for working His plan and not yours. Ask Him for faith to believe the next time something similar happens.
- Based on Acts 12, how would you counsel someone who asked you, “Where was God?” What would you say to them? How does knowing God is there, doing the rescuing and/or allowing the death, bring hope and comfort?
- Read John 17:24 and Philippians 1:23. What do these verses have in common? Where should our hope be?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.