Lesson 28: The Word of God Grew and Multiplied/ Barnabas and Saul Returned to Antioch

Acts 12:13-25

Are you ready? Acts Lesson #28. Peter is in the dark, Acts 12:13, get your eyes on the text. In our last lesson, Herod, the governor decided to play bloody politics. He had James the apostle killed with the sword. Then, to make a few points with some of his Jewish constituents he imprisoned Peter for the same fete. But an angel appeared to Peter that last night before Herod was to send for him. The angel led Peter out into the street and the angel departed. After Peter decided he wasn't dreaming, he went to the home of Mary the mother of John Mark. That's were our last lesson ended. We said this lady, Mary, was apparently a sister of Barnabas, the preacher-exhorted who had just spent a year in Antioch and went to Tarsus to get Saul. Comparing the last verse of Ch. 11 and the first verse of Ch. 12; it would appear Barnabas and Saul were in the area of Judea (on the relief mission) during the time of Herod's political episode for blood. Barnabas' sister's house would have been a reasonable place for them to have lodged that night but we have no evidence they were there. Now, as Peter approached Mary's house in the dark; sharpen up your imagination! Peter didn't want to be detected by the authorities, The last part of v. 12 said: "Many were gathered together praying." Now, if it had been me, every dog in the neighborhood would have raised a fuss. But Peter knocked on Mary's door [knock! knock! knock!} Let's try to get a handle on what was happening inside. They were there to pray. We don't know who was leading the prayers. I think it not unreasonable to assume they may have sang a hymn or two AND one or two of the more capable brothers may have had a few words of exhortation and encouragement. On second thought, they may have avoided singing, in light of the present persecution if they thought it might call attention to themselves in the neighborhood, or especially the authorities. O.K. milk every word! Let's read v. 13-17, "And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to barken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, it is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go show these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place." If Peter could hardly believe he was released, you can imagine how it shocked Rhoda to hear Peter's voice. The word "damsel" here is translated from a word that means a female slave or maid. The RSV uses the word "maid" instead of "damsel". This gives you a little more insight into the household of Mary. I suppose they would have most naturally expected the knock to be another disciple seeking to participate in the prayer meeting. Notice in v.14, Rhoda recognized Peter's voice without opening. This very fact makes it certain Rhoda was well acquainted with Peter. Peter having resided in Jerusalem now for ten years, having a household there and possibly having preached at gatherings where Rhoda likely attended would be sufficient to account for Rhoda recognizing his voice. However, her acquaintance with Peter may have been more intimate than the casual manner I just described. I Pet. 5:13 is usually interpreted to mean Peter baptized Mark, whose home this was where Peter knocked. If that be the case, then Peter had likely visited in Mary's house many times and it is entirely possible Peter may have taught or baptized Rhoda and others of that household. Whatever her acquaintance with Peter may have been, I think you can visualize what her cheering stance must have been in v. 14 as, "she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate." Isn't that just like a young female, to get so exhilarated and caught up in the splendor of the moment, she forgot to carry out the simple utility of opening the door? And, isn't that a typical little argument that precipitated from Rhoda's announcement? As Peter continued to pound on the door, (knock! knock! { "Thou art mad." Today we would probably substitute some cute little quip like, 'you are nutty as a fruit cake.' It just couldn't be so! What would be the next closest possibility? And then someone suggest, "it is this angel." It very well MIGHT BE that I detect here a little sparkle of humor on the part of Dr. Luke. Can you imagine being told this story by a friendly first hand eye witness, like Luke must have heard it? In the mean time some one must have scrambled to the door and threw it open. There was no doubt about it, even in the dun glow of an olive-oil-lamp, it was Peter. I can imagine, for the first few seconds everyone's mouth was so wide open, they couldn't say anything. V.I6 says they were astonished. And then, they all began to speak at once, just like it always happens. Notice in v. 17 Peter raised his hand in a motion for silence. As he eased through the doorway and a serious stare came over everyone's face, he began to explain, "how the Lord had brought him out of prison." V.7 said the angel of the Lord. Then he instructed the, "Go show these things unto James, AND to the brethren." He undoubtedly implied at daybreak or as soon as practical. Every disciple around Jerusalem must have been a carrier of the message when daylight came. The James referred to hi v. 17 was likely James the half brother of Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary. It is generally believed he was appointed an elder in the church at Jerusalem. We shall encounter this James again before our study is complete. He is also thought to be the author of the book of James, the 20th book in the N.T. It was obviously NOT the apostle James, I trust you remember the list hi Acts 1:13. That other James is also a reasonable possibility but the concensus of the scholars is that Peter meant James the son of Joseph and Mary. Did you notice in v.l 7, that Peter, "departed, and went into another place." That is, Peter departed from Mary's house. That parting must have been the scene of some very firm hand shakes, some emotional embraces and a few tears. We are not given a hint as to where the other place was. We can only imagine it was the best place of hiding that Peter could find in Jerusalem between midnight and daylight. He did not tell the brethren for the obvious reason he wanted it to be anonymous AND they could honestly say" they didn't know" if they were questioned by the authorities. Now, verses 18-19, let's read, "Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and there abode." It was the death penalty for a Roman soldier to let a prisoner escape. Thus, those soldiers must have done some swift and serious searching when they discovered the absence of Peter. We are not told how soon it was when Herod sent for Peter, but according to v.6 it must have been the day following Peter's escape. If I understand correctly, Herod had no alternative EXCEPT to have the guards put to death. However, before the command was given Herod must have done a thorough and probing investigation. Some commentaries assume Herod killed 16 soldiers. I see no reason to assume more than 4 were executed, as there were probably only 4 on duty at any one time. After this incident, Herod left Jerusalem and went down to Caesarea. The territory had been consolidated since the time of Pilate when Jesus was crucified. Herod ruled over a larger territory and had a palace at both Jerusalem and at Caesarea. He probably spent time in the two respective cities as circumstances demanded. The last sentence in v.l9 indicates that Herod shifted from Jerusalem to Caesarea at that convenient time...after the feast days. O.K. SO, Peter escaped! The soldiers were killed! Herod is now in Caesarea. The scene changed to that sea port town, and it follows Herod to his abrupt end. Tyre and Sidon were cities of Phoenicia and not part of the territory in which Herod ruled. Tyre and Sidon are cities #12 and 13 respectively on your map. Phenicia was a narrow range of mountains that ran north and south along the sea., They produced timber and other resources but they had very little agricultural land to support their cities. Thus, they had to import grain from Egypt, Asia or Palistine. Geographically, you can see it was to their advantage to deal with Herod close by. That, Herod was displeased indicates there was some grievance not defined in this verse that had to do with the sale of grain to the Phoenician cities. Either a group of Phoenician citizens or ambassadors were able to make Herod's chamberlain, that is, his treasurer their friend. One is tempted to see bribery as the means of having made Blastus their friend but this is not said. The Phoenicians were trying hard and making strong concessions to get the good will of Herod. You will recall agabus, the prophet from Jerusalem that came to Antioch. He prophesied international economic problems would transpire. This might well be part of that fulfillment. V.21-22-23, let's read, "and upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, it is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." Josephus, a Roman historian goes into much greater detail of this account but suffice it to say here this was some kind of a festival at which Herod spoke. "Upon a set day" is paraphrased in the Living Bible, "An appointment with Herod was granted." Herod tried to impress them with his royalty, and this was probably a diplomatic move to drive a hard bargain with those of Tyre and Sidon. It seems, it was during this speech that they gave Herod worship and showered him with divine attributes. It would seem that Herod accepted that flattery and took more glory than to which he was entitled. The Living Bible paraphrases that part like this, "an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness so that he was filled with maggots and died - because he accepted the people's worship instead of giving the glory to God." According to Josephus, Herod did not die until some days later but was struck with stomach pains immediately that eventually led to his death. SO, Herod died. At least 4 soldiers were dead! Peter was still preaching! Herod's bloody dealing with the Christians and his own sudden death after so short a time must have caused many citizens to sense a connection. V.24, let's read, "But the word of God grew and multiplied." This civil persecution against the church was short lived as compared to the religious persecution that had been in progress for six or eight years. Just as the religious persecutions had resulted in producing the opposite effect (to that anticipated by the Sadducees and the Pharisees) the civil persecution brought on growth in the church instead of diminishing it. Let's read again, v.25, "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark." At this point, Luke returns his narrative to Saul and Barnabas. We are not told how long they stayed in Judea in delivering the bounty from the Antioch brethren. But most likely they had been in Judea over the Passover week and could fill in the Antioch brethren about the death of James, the Imprisonment of Peter and the civil persecution. V.25 does NOT say Antioch but it is implied that is where they returned. They brought John Mark, Bamabas's nephew back to Antioch with them. The death of James and the imprisonment of Peter must have made a lasting impression on this young man. V.25 closes our chapter 12. Now, from this point forward the remainder of this book assumes the characteristic of a biography of Paul and follows his travels in great detail. You have, therefore, NOW completed the general section of the book of Acts. And just as this general section, (we have completed), could be divided into subsections, namely: the establishment of the church, the church is Jerusalem, the spread of the church as a result of persecution, AND the annexation of the Gentiles. The last section of this book, chapters 13-28, can also be subdivided into the missionary journeys of Saul. We shall begin that study in lesson #29. The first part (or general section of Acts) does not take up quite half of the total content of the book, but almost. I trust you have comprehended the general section of Acts and now feel competent tin that material.
But, some of the more interesting examples of conversion are yet to come. A good understanding of the first 12 chapters will help considerably in understanding the message and purpose of Paul's missionary Journeys. Let's do a quick review of the general section of Acts. Chapter one contained the promise of Jesus to the apostles concerning the H.S., Jesus' ascension from the mount of Olives, the wait of the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem and the appointment of Mathias. In c.2: the apostles received the baptismal measure of the H.S. and preached the kingdom of God to the multitudes of Jews who were at Jerusalem on Pentecost, three thousand were baptized for the remission of sins and the church or kingdom was established. They continued daily with one accord, more were added and the church grew daily. Ch. 3 is the account of Peter and John healing a lame man at the entrance to the temple and the sermon they preached to the crowd that assembled. Cf.4 explains, how the captain of the temple and the Sadducees through jealousy interrupted Peter's sermon and arrested Peter and John. They were brought before the council, threatened and released. They prayed for boldness and the H.S. reassured them. Barnabas and others contributed to the welfare of the brethren. Ch. 5, Ananias and Saphira lied to God about their contribution and were struck dead. The church grew more and more. All 12 apostles were arrested again by the Sadducees, they were arraigned before the council, Gamalial suggested caution on the part of the council, the apostles were beaten and let go; but, they continued to teach, boldly. Ch. 6, covers the daily ministration and the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews. Seven deacons were appointed. A company of priests obeyed the gospel. Stephen disputed in the Grecian Synagogues. The Pharisees could not withstand Stephen's spirit and words. The Pharisees suborned false witnesses and brought Stephen before the council. Ch. 7 is Stephen's long defense. They were cut to the heart by Stephen's words. The council meeting ended in a riot and Stephen was stoned to death. C.8: the Jews brought a bitter persecution upon the church. Most of the disciples were scattered from Jerusalem, except the apostles. Philip went to Samaria and converted many people there. He was called by an angel to assist an Ethiopian cabinet member in learning and obeying the law of Christ. Ch.9: Saul, a persecutor of Christians saw Christ on his was to Damascus. He was converted as a special case. Ananias baptized Saul and he immediately preached and taught Christ in the synagogues at Damascus. A threat was made on his life. Saul escaped Damascus at night and fled to Jerusalem; where he met Barnabas, and lived in the household of Peter 15 days. His life was threatened again and the brethren sent him to his hometown of Tarsus in Cilicia. Peter healed Aeneas at Lydda, and raised Dorcas from the dead in Joppa. In c. 10 Cornelius saw an angel, sent for peter, God grafted in the Gentiles. Peter baptized the household of Cornelius and they received the H.S. similar to the apostles on Pentecost. In ch. 11, Peter was called on the carpet by the apostles and other disciples; they agreed the Gentiles had also been granted repentance unto life. Barnabas was sent as far as Antioch. The church at Antioch grew rapidly. Barnabas went to Tarsus after Saul. They spent a whole year at Antioch and taught much people. The brethren at Antioch sent relief to Judea by Barnabas and Saul. Ch.12: The apostle James was killed by Herod. Peter was imprisoned. An angel of the Lord helped Peter to escape. Herod was smitten by the hand of the angel and died. Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch. They took John Mark with them. There you have it, the first 12 chapters. The remainder of Acts is a biography of the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. We will continue our study in lesson # 29.

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