Have you lain awake at night, fretting something that was coming the following day or week? Not knowing what to expect, or how the situation might play out, your mind became so active it was impossible to sleep. Nervousness kept you from finding the sweet rejuvenating peace of sleep.
No matter what the sleep issue might be, the solution is always to be found on Sunday morning. When the alarm knows itís time to get ready for church, itís as if the body itself finds the way to create the deepest sleep.
Once again, the enemy at work. Satan knows you can be easily persuaded to forego church with the peaceful sleep youíve been missing.
The twelve chapter of the book of Acts tells an interesting story about a time when Peter slept. Actually, it starts out much more harmful that the bedtime story I just proposed. Herod had just taken and killed James, the brother of John, whom Jesus called the sons of thunder. And seeing how it pleased the Jews, he then went after Peter, seeking even more political capital, and had the great apostle arrested.
Herodís goal: To have Peter executed after Easter. Now itís already told us that this event took place during the days of unleavened bread, so the use of the term Easter, which Iíve always believed was a mis-translation or an error by the translators, is neither, but is actually so worded to teach us something. Unleavened bread occurs AFTER Passover. Additionally, Herod would not be celebrating the resurrection of the Lord at the same time as he was killing his servants. So the celebration Herod was partaking was the long standing, un-godly pagan ritual of Easter. By this inclusion in this story of Peter, we confirm the ritual was of old, and has nothing whatever to do with the rising of our Lord and Saviour.
Peter is secured with four quatrains of soldiers. Thatís 16 men. Heís chained between two, and an additional 14 more are charged with his keeping. Herod no doubt is aware of the first time the Apostles were arrested, and how they all miraculously found release and were instructed to return unto the Temple and continue preaching. You can read the details in Acts 5.
Sixteen guards, chains and several gates might all serve to make Peter the most secure prisoner of the times. Herod was taking no chances.
I imagine Peter got to know his keepers somewhat, being beside them continually over the weekend. What else to do for hours on end but talk to one another? No doubt he preached the good news of the gospel to them, if they showed any interest at all. You can imagine the guards even took a liking to the friendly fisherman and showed him some empathy for this situation.
ďReally, Peter, were it up to us, youíd be free, but the truth of the matter is, you are going to die in a day or so, and even recent history confirms there is no escape. Your companion and fellow disciple, James, was here just recently, and you know his end.Ē
And what must Peterís response have been? We can only speculate at the conversation, but Peter went to sleep.
Now itís one thing to be comfortable with your situation and whatever may befall you, but Peter wasnít exactly known for his bravery. You recall in the garden, when Peter was with Christ, he was willing to take sword in hand to try to kill the high priestís servant. Afterwards, when Christ had been arrested, Peter was ready to run to the hills at the mere suggestion that he had been with Christ. His lack of bravery led to the thrice denial.
Is Peter so content to go to be with the Lord that he can just easily lay down and sleep? Perhaps, but thatís not what is going on here.
Peter knows he isnít going to die.
In fact, we can assume ďquick to speakĒ Peter may have gotten brave in confronting his jailors. ďIím not the one in trouble here. I donít know how itís going to happen, but Iím not dying. You guys work out the details, but Iím going to sleep. Iíve probably got a big day tomorrow.Ē
In the 21st chapter of the gospel of John, Peter was admonished by the Lord in what must have seemed like an embarrassing lesson. You know the story. Peter had denied the Lord three times, and now, on the shore, Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him.
The rebuke, and the seeming favoritism of John probably burned within Peter and perhaps made him sad. Until one night in prison, he realized what the Lord had actually told him.
And to the guards, before going to sleep, (a sleep so deep and peaceful an angel had to strike him on the side to wake him), Peter probably confessed: ďThe day I was arrested, I dressed myself. I went where I desired and even between these chains, no one is carrying me. Fellows, Jesus told me Iíd be an old man some day Ė he made me that sweet promise, although I didnít see it as a promise at the time. So, tomorrow, I may go fishing for fish, or fishing for men, but Herod isnít about to have my life any time soon.Ē
Act 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
Act 12:6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
Act 12:7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon [him], and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from [his] hands.
Act 12:8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me
Act 12:9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
Act 12:10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
Act 12:11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and [from] all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
And when he had
considered [the thing], he came to the house of Mary the mother of John,
whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
Act 12:14 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.
Act 12:15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
Act 12:16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened [the door], and saw him, they were astonished.
Act 12:17 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 shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
Act 12:18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
Act 12:19 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 Judaea to Caesarea, and [there] abode.
Act 12:20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's [country].
Act 12:21 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.
Act 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
Act 12:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled [their] ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
How fitting Barnabas and Saul were witnesses to the angelic rescue of Peter. For Paul himself would find occasion to tell the story to Silas, as they were in stocks in a jail under Roman authority. Act 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard themÖ
Brother Royce Ellis