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 is to have Peter executed after Easter. Easter. What great controversy stirs around this word. "The King James translators made a mistake!" "It's really just the English translation for Passover." Really? Luke, the accepted writer of Acts was the most meticulous and careful scribe of events. In the 27th chapter of Acts he records such minute details as the names of currents and weather systems! Moreover, the Holy Spirit, who inspired all the words of scripture, we suspect knows what words to use, in every language. You recall on the morning of the resurrection, Jesus instructs Mary to "touch me not." Failure to rightly divide there leads one to claiming that Jesus meant to say "don't cling to me." But as the Holy Spirit uses the proper word, clave, in the story of Ruth, (1:14) we doubt He forgot it on this occasion.
The timing of this event also speaks volumes. 44 or 45 A.D. A scant dozen years past Calvary, the stubborn Jews in Jerusalem are not likely to be celebrating the Lord's triumph.
Now itís already revealed Peter's confinement is during the days of unleavened bread, which begin following Passover. Passover is a word the Holy Spirit and Luke would know, so the use of the term Easter must teach us something. Why not use Passover if that's what is meant here? Passover falls on the 15th of Nisan, and on a full moon (the Jews used a moon calendar). The Latin calculation to determine the timing of Easter is that it is the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. If the full Moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday. Peter in prison over several days awaiting Easter to come and go pushes us even further away from Passover. Herod's willingness to let the date pass before executing Peter further shows his respect for the day.
In First Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul addresses the Greek converts at Corinth, who knew little of the old Jewish ceremonial laws. He uses the word passover rather than associating the feast with a supposed name that would have been more familiar, Pascha (Easter). He says what he means.
And, if further proof were needed, Herod would not be celebrating the resurrection of the Lord (which modern proponents claim Easter is) by killing His servants. So the celebration Herod was partaking was the long standing, un-godly pagan ritual of Pascha, or Easter. Those who have bothered to research the origin find the name tied to a pagan goddess of spring or renewal during the vernal equinox. This inclusion in Acts defines the character of Herod and confirms the ritual was of old, having nothing whatever to do with the rising of our Lord and Savior. Easter is not a Passover translation mistake in Acts 12.
Peter is secured with four quatrains of soldiers. Thatís 16 assigned men. We assume four to each of the watches of the night. Heís chained between two, and an additional 2 outside his cell. 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, 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.
Act 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. :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. :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. :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. :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. :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 :12 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 12:18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. :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]. :21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. :22 And the people gave a shout, [saying, It is] the voice of a god, and not of a man. :23 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. :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