After arresting Peter, Herod put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’
Peter is rescued by an angel. This angel appears in the cell and miraculously releases the chains holding Peter to his guards. This angel appears in a physical form, and thumps Peter to wake him.
If we’re talking miracles, then we have an angel appearing inside a heavily guarded prison, a bright light apparently emanating from the angel, chains falling from Peter’s wrists, barred doors and gates being opened. The guards in the cell were not necessarily asleep, but they had no idea of what was going on. The guards outside were most likely awake and on guard, but Peter and the angel walked right past them without being detected. Then the angel disappears, just like that. Job done.
Yet within all this amazing stuff going on, the angel is very practical. He instructs Peter to get himself up and dressed, and to be quick about it! Peter is in a daze, and in need of clear, firm instructions. It would have speeded things up a bit if the angel had the clothes miraculously placed upon him, but that didn’t happen! Peter does as he is told, but he’s still not quite sure whether this was real or not.
What we might miss in this story is what happened before the event took place. We read that the church was earnestly praying for him. We already know the outcome but they were concerned that, without divine intervention, Peter’s fate was likely to be execution. God responded to the prayers of the faithful friends in a way that could only have been of God.
What would you have prayed for if you were part of that church?
What would you have hoped for?
How does hope affect prayer?
As you look back on your experiences, could there have been some divine intervention at any time?
Father God, I sing of chains figuratively falling off at your eye’s quickening ray when I recall my commitment to follow Jesus, but real chains fell off Peter’s arms, so I pray that you continue to deploy your angels in miraculous ways in this world. Amen.