Peter is Rescued & The Death of Herod

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 38

Peter is Rescued & The Death of Herod

Acts 12:6-25

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Peter, in prison and to be executed the next day, is woken by

     an angel, chains binding Peter are broken and fall off him, and Peter is lead out of the prison

by the angel.

  1. Peter thought at first he had merely seen a vision while

asleep. Finding himself on the street alone, he proceeds to the place where the church is praying for him.

  1. The place of the prayer meeting is the home of Mary, the

mother of John, whose other name is Mark. This home is

likely the place where the Passover/Last Supper was taken.

  1. Answering Peter’s knocking at the door is a servant girl

named Rhoda. She knew Peter’s voice, and in her excitement

she rushes in the tell the rest Peter is at the door. For unknown reasons she does not open the door.

  1. Rhoda is not believed; rather the church people think she

is delusional.

  1. Rhoda, however, was insistent and Peter kept knocking at

the door. Finally they do find it is Peter after all and Peter

then tells everyone of his miraculous escape.

  1. Peter, concluding his story, wants the account of events told

to “James and the brothers.” This James is the half brother of

Jesus, who had emerged as the head of the early church in

Jerusalem and is the author of the letter of James.

  1. Peter now goes into hiding at an undisclosed location. Herod tried to find him but to no avail. And according to Roman law, the jail keepers guarding Peter are put to death.

This Herod Agrippa I, thinking more highly of himself than he ought, dies a miserable death

some short time later.

Gospel Meditation, #37 James Killed and Peter Imprisioned

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 37

Acts 12:1-5

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. “Herod the king” a son of Herod the Great, ruled much of Palestine from A.D.41-44, was unscrupulous and did all he could to please the Roman emperors, Caligula and Claudius.
  8. He set about to persecute the Church and did so violently, thus demonstrating his political and religious convictions were weak.
  9. James was the older brother of John, the Beloved Disciple. The family name was Zebedee and they were fishermen. James and John were among the first followers of Jesus going back to the days of John the Baptist. (see Matthew 14:18-20)
  10. Herod would do anything to retain political power so he killed James “with the sword” and it is uncertain how the execution was carried out.
  11. The event pleased the “Jews” and this is in reference to the religious Jews, the Sanhedrin, who watched with horror no doubt, the growth of the numbers of followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.
  12. These events took place during the high holy days, the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. (see Leviticus 23:3-8)
  13. Wanting to further ingratiate himself with the Jewish community, Herod proceeded to imprison Peter who was a prominent leader amongst the Christians.
  14. “Four squads of soldier”—Herod would take no chances with Peter, who had escaped from a Roman prison before. (see Acts 5:17-21)
  15. The plan was to have Peter presented to the people, in a public display, at the time of Passover. This is, of course, is exactly what happened to Jesus.

The Church in Antioch

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 36

Acts 11:19-30

The Church in Antioch

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. This portion of Acts occurred without the church in Jerusalem knowning anything about Peter and Cornelius.

8,    We return now to the events following the death of Stephen. Believers were scattered about and in Antioch, the third most important city in the Roman Empire, the Jewish missionaries preached to Gentiles, a great number of whom were saved.

  1. News of this reached Jerusalem and the church sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he saw what the Lord had done, he was glad. This is one of the most significant and world changing events in history.
  2. While Barnabas was there, a great many more were “added to the Lord.” Barnabas, seeing the need for these new followers of Jesus to be discipled, heads north to Tarsus to find Paul and after doing so brings him to Antioch. (Antioch of Syria, is now part of Lebanon.)
  3. A whole year, Luke tells us, the two spent working with the Gentile believers; they “taught a great many people.”
  4. It was in Antioch where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” and the term essentially means, “belonging to Christ.”
  5. For unknown reasons, “prophets” came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, and one was named Agabus.
  6. This introduces something that is not clearly understood in terms of who prophets were and what function they occupied in the church. Here Agabus, who will be encountered in Acts 21:1-14, announces that a famine will come upon the world. History gives us a time period given for the famine, “in the days of Claudius” who ruled Rome from A.D. 41-54. It is thought the time period here would be about A.D. 44.
  7. Interesting to note that in Acts 21 Paul disregarded the prophesy of Agabus. But the church at Antioch acted on the word from Agabus and sent relief money to Jerusalem, which resulted in Barnabas and Paul traveling to Jerusalem, another significant historical event.

 

Peter Reports to the Church Acts 11:1-18

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 35

Acts 11:1-18

Peter Reports to the Church

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Gentiles are now believing in Messiah Jesus. This is nothing less than a seismic change for the Jewish followers of Jesus.
  8. Peter, the lead apostle, confirms the events at Caesarea with Cornelius and his “household.” The Holy Spirit indeed has fallen on Gentiles.
  9. Peter, as part of his report, goes back to the baptism of John in the Jordan.
  10. Peter recalled the words of Jesus who said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
  11. An important note is necessary. The word “with” in the first part of the sentence above could be rendered “in.” And it is clearly, in the Greek text, “in the Holy Spirit” and not “with the Holy Spirit” in the second part of the sentence.
  12. This reading, “in” is more in line with the fact that the believer is placed “into” the body of Christ. Theologians vary here. (see Romans 6:3)
  13. Baptized in the Holy Spirit means a new placement, a new identity, as opposed to a being “anointed” with the Holy Spirit.
  14. Gentiles have now been given the same gift as Jewish followers of Jesus. Peter could not then reject as being brothers the Gentiles in Caesarea.
  15. Those of the Church in Jerusalem “fell Silent” and glorified God. What this would have looked like is not clear. Did a worship service break out? Were people shouting “hallelujah? Were the believers offering words of praise? We simply do not know. We do know that they admitted that “God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
  16. “Repentance” likely means a change of heart and mind; Gentiles were now embracing Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for. Life here is zoe and refers to ultimate life, eternal life.
  17. This alone is the one and only significant event.

The Holy Spirit Falls Upon the Gentiles

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 34

Acts 10:44-48

The Holy Spirit Falls Upon the Gentiles

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Peter’s first message to Gentiles at Caesarea results in the third awakening recorded in the Book of Acts, the first being that of Jerusalem (Acts 2), the second being the Samaritan (Acts 8).
  8. When the Holy Spirit “fell” on the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius’ home, Peter, along with the six companions from Joppa were amazed that Gentiles experienced the same as they had on the Day of Pentecost.
  9. The Hebrew Scriptures mentioned that Gentiles would be blessed, and no Jew would have doubted such would be impossible, still it was a shock to the early Jewish believers.
  10. Here though were Gentiles speaking in tongues, just like at the Upper Room in Jerusalem. (We note that there was no mention of tongue speaking at the Samaritan awakening.)
  11. Now that the barrier was broken down, and that by an undeniable demonstration, what next?—baptism.
  12. Neither John the Baptist nor the early Church developed the practice of baptism. It was practiced in Judaism before the days of Jesus. There is evidence or baptismal pools, for instance, at the Qumran community dating to the first century before Christ.
  13. Baptism was always a symbolic ritual showing a turning from the past and turning toward something new. It also indicated reception into the community of believers as it was a public profession of faith.
  14. We must note also, that baptize means dunk or immerse.
  15. Peter now “commands” the newly converted Gentiles to be baptized once he receives approval from his companions.
  16. Baptized into “the name of Jesus Christ” means that the baptism meant those so baptized believed in the finished work of Jesus the Messiah, namely His death, burial, and resurrection.

Peter’s Vision, part 2 & Gentiles Hear the Good News

GOSPEL MEDITATION #33

Acts 10:17-43

Peter’s Vision part 2 & Gentiles Hear the Good News

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. While Peter was perplexed by the vision he saw, emissaries from Cornelius arrived at the door of Simon the tanner.
  8. Peter is expressly told to go with the men from Caesarea. Peter even invited these men in to stay over night. Amazing!
  9. Arriving in Caesarea, 30 miles north of Joppa, Peter enters the home of Cornelius and finds a gathering of Cornelius’ relatives and close friends. Cornelius begins to “worship” Peter, but Peter “makes of himself of no reputation.” (Phil. 2:7, KJV)
  10. Cornelius explains to Peter the events leading up to that moment and invites Peter to speak to them all “in the presence of God” all Peter had been commanded by the Lord.
  11. Peter, a man steeped in Judaism and Jewish culture, sees that God is far more generous than he imagined to the point of caring for those who fear Him. And Cornelius, a God-fearer, desired to know more of the God of Israel.
  12. Here now is a wonderfully condensed account of the Gospel ti be found in Scripture. Did Luke condense the words of Peter to the bare minimum? We cannot know the answer.
  13. “God anointed Jesus”—for a Gentile this is the same as Jesus being the Christ, the Messiah for a Jew.
  14. The message is “good news” because it means that sinners, including Gentiles, can be forgiven. The means of which is Jesus’ dying on the cross followed by His resurrection.

Peter and Cornelius & Peter’s Vision, part 1

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 32

Acts 10:1-16

Peter & Cornelius & Peter’s Vision, part 1

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Caesarea, 30 miles NW of Joppa, given by Julius Caesar in 47 BC to Herod the Great who built it into a magnificent city; the Roman governors, (like Pilate) of Judea lived there.
  8. Cornelius, a Gentile, one of the commanders of the Italian Cohort (1/6 to 1/10th of a legion) commanded 100 soldiers. He was a God fearer; he worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  9. He prayed to God, gave alms, was well respected, and God heard his prayer.
  10. At 3pm, one of the three traditional times of Jewish prayer, he has a vision. He is mindful and awake—no trance state. An angel gives him instructions—he is to send for Peter in Joppa.
  11. Peter, amazingly is actually staying with Simon the tanner, against all Jewish sensibilities. Religious and cultural walls are coming down.
  12. Peter, in Joppa, at noon time, another time of Jewish time of prayer, has a vision also. Again Peter is fully aware, and he sees something like a “great sheet” being lowered with animals, reptiles, and birds in it. This happens three times.
  13. Peter hears a voice telling him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” And Peter protests, much like the Prophet Ezekiel did per Ezekiel 4:14.
  14. In both Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11 is listed clean and unclean animals. As a Jewish man, Peter is not allowed to eat certain “unclean” creatures he sees in the vision.
  15. Then, in the midst of Peter’s protest, God reveals to him, “What God has made clean, do not call common,” which echoes what we find in Mark 7:19. Cornelius the Gentile, is clean.

The Healing of Aeneas & Dorcas Restored to Life-Acts 9:32-43

GOSPEL MEDITATION #31

The Healing of Aeneas & Dorcas Restored to Life

Acts 9:32-43

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Luke’s story returns now to Peter. Likely Peter, returning to Jerusalem after he and John investigated the events surrounding Philip’s Samaritan mission, evangelized on his way home. At Lyyda, formerly Lod, NW of Jerusalem, Peter encounters a man named Aeneas, a believer, paralyzed for either 8 years or since he was 8 years old.
  8. Aeneas is healed, by Jesus, and as a result “all” but meaning “many” are converted. (Consult a map to view region.)
  9. Tabitha (Hebrew name) or Dorcas (Greek name) and both mean Gazelle, living in Joppa, dies. She is called a “disciple” and we note Aeneas was not so designated. (Joppa, also knows as Jaffe, is in the environs of Tel-Aviv.
  10. She was prepared for burial, absent the usual anointing with oil, and her body was placed in an “upper room”—an open air but covered rooftop room, common in that period.
  11. Peter is in Lydda, a 3 hour walk from Joppa. The believers in Joppa are aware of Peter’s closeness and send 2 men to ask him to come to Lydda.
  12. Peter encounters “widows” and these are likely considered poor, and for which Dorcas had given gifts to, which garments they were then wearing.
  13. Peter put these all “outside,” just as Jesus had done in the case of the daughter of Jairus (see Mark 5), getting on his knees (Jewish men usually prayed standing), said to the “body” “Tabitha arise.” With Jairus’ daughter’s case, Jesus said, “Talitha arise.” Talitha means young girl. We note in Mark 5 that Peter, James, and John were present then.

Saul/Paul’s adventures after his conversion. Acts 9:19b-31

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 30

Acts 9:19b-31

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues & Saul Escapes from Damascus & Saul in Jerusalem

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Paul is “some days” in Damascus and immediately begins presenting Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, thus showing that the Messiah, Jesus, is fully deity.
  8. Paul has to flea now since the Hellenistic Jews in Damascus understood the import of Paul’s message.
  9. “His disciples”—we see this in verse 25 indicating that Paul has attracted others around him. These would support him and see to his well being.
  10. At this point, according to Galatians 1:11-23, Paul goes into Arabia, the ancient Nabataean kingdom, for some period of time. Luke does not present this short departure.
  11. Luke now jumps to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem, also found in Gal. 1, and “attempts” to join with the disciples there.
  12. The early and original disciples, with the apostles, were yet afraid of Paul. This is curious and Luke does not explain their reluctance.
  13. Now Luke brings in Barnabas. He was introduced in Acts 4:36 and now we find Barnabas instrumental in making reconciliation with the church in Jerusalem and Paul. Indeed Barnabas lives up to his nickname, Son of Encouragement.
  14. Paul is boldly preaching Jesus now right in the midst of those who were antagonistic to him. Again, Paul’s enemies want to kill him.
  15. The “brothers” direct Paul to Caesarea and then onto his home in Tarsus. The church grows via the Holy Spirit.

 

The Conversion of Saul, Acts 9:1-19a, part 1

GOSPEL MEDITATION #29

Acts 9:1-19a

The Conversion of Saul, part 1

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. We can only wonder at the extreme reaction Saul/Paul had toward the followers of Jesus. Were we that way as well?
  8. There were about 10 synagogues in Damascus at that time; Paul needed the commission of the Council of Israel, which they gave to him. The Sanhedrin was in crisis mode.
  9. On the road to Damascus (Syria), a light from heaven flashes around Paul; God is present right there.
  10. “Why?” Paul are you persecuting Me. To persecute the disciples of Jesus is to persecute Jesus Himself. We are His body after all. (see1 Corinthians 12:27)
  11. Paul’s travelling companions also heard the voice, now utterly stunned, they lead blind Paul into the city.
  12. Ananias, a disciple, God also speaks to in a vision (orama in the Greek), not a trance state, likely while in prayer. He receives instructions about Paul, but he is reluctant since he has heard about the evil Paul was doing.
  13. God’s ways are not our ways, and He has plans for this persecutor. His commission of this “chosen instrument” will be three-fold: preach to Gentiles, kings, and to the “children of Israel.”
  14. Ananias obeys, comes to Paul, lays hands on him, which shows fellowship and a setting aside, a common Jewish practice, and Paul experiences conversion.
  15. At once Paul is baptized. Wish we knew more of this.