The parable of ‘Peter the outsider’

In Acts 12:1-19 the apostle Peter had to negotiate several barriers to his progress.

  1. How did he get out of jail (Acts 12:1-11)?

That was easy. Doors simply swung open before him as he made his escape that night from Herod’s jailhouse. It was like using the treasured ‘Get out of jail free’ voucher in a Monopoly game!

Although on Death Row and due to be executed next day, Peter was sleeping so soundly that ‘an angel of the Lord’ had to prod him awake and lead him to the street outside because Peter thought he was dreaming. Some time previously God had given him a revelation that Jesus is ‘the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16-18). On that occasion his Master promised that ‘the gates of [death and] Hades’ would not prevail against his church because he knew that he himself, as the resurrection and the life,’ (John 11:25) would break the locks of death’s door, and of course fling open the gates of every lesser prison. Herod’s jail, persecution, yes and the prisons of anxiety and depression must yield to him as the risen Saviour, ‘the angel of the Lord’.

‘Stand up, [Peter]‘, said the angel (Greek = anasta) using the language of resurrection – anastasia, literally translates as ‘stand up’ – something no corpse is capable of doing! (Compare Acts 14:8-10.)

Thus Peter got out of jail, but . . .

  1. How did he get into the gathered church (Acts 12:12-19)?

That was such a struggle. A servant lass called Rhoda heard someone knocking on the outer door of John Mark’s house, and when she asked who was there she recognised Peter’s voice, and ran in sheer excitement back into the room to tell the praying church. But what was their reaction? ‘You’ve just imagined it. It’s actually his guardian angel, which means that Peter’s gone to be with the Lord. Hallelujah, our prayers have been answered.’

It’s obvious from the text that they had not been praying for his release, but more probably that this time he would not deny the Lord with oaths and curses! However, God demonstrated to them that he ‘is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:20).

In the final book of the Bible we find Jesus himself confronted with the same problem – sadly, not for the last time. In Revelation 3:20 he tells his church, the community he had gathered together in Laodicea, ‘Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking.’ If even a Rhoda would open the door, ‘I will come in’ among you so that we can share mutual communion with one another.

He is already out of the tomb, but we must let him in, as all the locks and bolts are internal devices.

It’s ‘an open-and-shut case’!

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