Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’
© January 11, 2015 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on June 26, 2011
Responsive Reading #602 (Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33), Prayer
Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain
Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Scriptures: Acts 12:1-11; 20-25
Let us pray…
Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where we have a lesson entitled ‘Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’, taken from Chapter 12 of the New Testament’s Book of Acts of the Apostles. You may recall that after the Day of Pentecost, where God’s Holy Spirit came upon all the believers, and with the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, Jesus, the disciples or students of their teacher, Jesus, became apostles, or messengers, of the Gospel or story of Jesus. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we too are messengers or apostles of the Lord.
There is a possibility for readers of this account to confuse the identity of those named in Acts, Chapter 12. Let us briefly review who were, as there may be some confusion among some here today, not necessarily with respect to what happened, but with whom and to whom, the narrative in the Scriptures describe:
Acts 12:1-11(ESV) James Killed and Peter Imprisoned
12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
We have the Apostle James, one of the Lord’s original disciples, executed by sword at the order of King Herod. When Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, he had another Apostle, Peter, arrested with the intent to also be executed, following Passover or the days of Unleavened Bread.
But the church of the Way of the Lord, which are the people, prayed to God. And how did the people pray, earnestly.
Peter Is Rescued
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
On the night that Peter was to be executed, the apostle was enchained, sleeping between two guards, when an angel of the Lord arrived in an illuminated cell, woke Peter, causing the two chains to fall off. The angel ordered Peter to get dressed and put on his sandals, wrap himself in his cloak and to follow the angel.
Uncertain that what was happening was a dream or vision, Peter obeyed the angel.
Peter followed the angel, as they passed the guards and went outside the Iron Gate leading to the city, which was opened.
Eventually Peter realized that what was happening was not a vision, remarking that: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:11).
Acts 12:20-25 (ESV) The Death of Herod
20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,[a] they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
Though Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, who he assumed were responsible for freeing Peter. Being dependent on Herod for their food, the people asked the King for forgiveness, an on an appointed day, following a speech from the King, proclaimed Herod as a god.
Though Herod observed the Passover tradition of not executing Peter, the king did not acknowledge God, but accepted the people’s proclamation. This offence sealed the king’s fate, as an angel of God struck Herod down.
The word of God increased and multiplied, with Barnabas and Saul returning from Jerusalem, bringing with them John, who was also called by the name Mark.
For those who followed these Scriptures may ask: “Who is John Mark described in Acts 12:25?”
And recalling the description of The Visit of the Wise Men, from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-15, didn’t Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt, only to return at the death of Herod?
It is time for a little research or as I lie to call them: Wikibits, to understand the answer to these questions. First, let us look at the identity of John Mark:
Identifying John, Mark and John Mark (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
From these it may be gathered that John’s mother Mary had a large house in Jerusalem to which Peter fled after escaping prison; that John assisted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey in Cyprus but then returned to Jerusalem; and that later controversy over receiving John Mark back led to Paul and Barnabas parting ways, with Barnabas taking Mark back to Cyprus and both thereafter disappearing from the narrative of Acts. The reasons for John Mark’s departure to Jerusalem and the subsequent disagreement between Paul and Barnabas have been subject to much speculation, but there is simply too little data to regard any explanation with confidence.
It was common for Jews of the period to bear both a Semitic name such as John and a Greco-Roman name such as Mark. But since John was one of the most common names among Palestinian Jews, and Mark was the most common in the Roman world, caution is warranted in identifying John Mark with any other John or Mark.
Ancient sources in fact consistently distinguish John Mark from the other Marks of the New Testament and style him Bishop of Byblos. Nor was John Mark identified in antiquity with any other John, apart from rare and explicit speculation.
Medieval sources, on the other hand, increasingly regarded all New Testament references to Mark as Mark the Evangelist, and many modern scholars have agreed in seeing a single Mark. The very fact that various writings could refer simply to Mark without further qualification has been seen as pointing to a single Mark.
First, there is Mark the cousin of Barnabas, mentioned by Paul as a “fellow worker” in the closings of three Pauline epistles. In antiquity he was regarded as a distinct Mark, Bishop of Apollonia. If, on the other hand, these two Marks are to be identified, the fact that these epistles (if authentic) were written after the departure of John Mark with Barnabas in Acts must suppose some later reconciliation. But a majority of scholars, noting the close association of both Marks with Paul and Barnabas, indeed regard them as likely the same person.
Mark the Evangelist, however, is known only from the patristic tradition, which associates him only with Peter and makes no mention of Paul. Jerome alone suggests that the Mark of whom Paul speaks may be the Evangelist. But modern scholars have noted that as Peter fled to the house of John Mark’s mother, the two men may have had a longstanding association.
Several scholars have argued, on the other hand, for identifying John the Evangelist and/or John the Elder with John Mark;] there is, in fact, a great deal of controversy surrounding the various New Testament people named John.
While it is not clear whether John Mark in Acts 12, describes the Apostle Mark or a different Apostle, named John Mark, we do know that the arrest of Peter in this passage refers to the Apostle Peter. The Devil loves theologians to debate the identity of John Mark, which missing God’s response the peoples’ fervent prayer where He sent His sending his angel to free Peter in quite a dramatic way. And then God sent His angel to strike Herod dead, for refusing the people’s declaration that the king was a god.
Which brings us to the question of the identity: who is the King Herod in Acts 12?. Again let us look at our Wikibits:
Herod the Great (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Herod (/ˈhɛrəd/; Hebrew: הוֹרְדוֹס, Hordus, Greek: Ἡρῴδης, Hērōdēs; 74/73 BCE – 4 BCE), also known as Herod the Great and Herod I, was a Roman client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis“, “the evil genius of the Judean nation”,”prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition” and “the greatest builder in Jewish history”. He is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Herod’s Temple), the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada and Herodium. Vital details of his life are recorded in the works of the 1st century CE Roman–Jewish historian Josephus.
Upon Herod’s death, the Romans divided his kingdom among three of his sons—Archelaus became ethnarch of the tetrarchy of Judea, Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and Philip became tetrarch of territories east of the Jordan.
King Herod Agrippa (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Herod Agrippa, also known as Herod or Agrippa I (11 BC – 44 AD), was a Judean monarch during the 1st century AD. The grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice, he was born Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. He is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, “Herod (Agrippa)” (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as “Agrippa the Great”. Christian and Jewish historiography take different views of this king, with the Christians largely opposing Agrippa and the Jews largely favoring Agrippa.
The Herod referred to in Acts 12, was King Herod Agrippa, grandson to the deceased King Herod the Great, or Herod I, who met with the Magi, or Wise Men, as described in Matthew 2. We see in the case of King Herod of Agrippa, the grandson to Herod the Great that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Both kings sought to kill anyone who posed a perceived threat of to keeping the people from worshipping the king as a god, by proclaiming the deity of Jesus, the son of God.
One other observation regarding the freeing of the Apostle Peter from prison by angel of God described in Acts 12, is the state of Peter when thee angel came upon him. Peter was fast asleep. This is quite out of character for an apostle who was not noted for his patience or inactivity at times of challenge. It was Peter who wanted to join the Lord, walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee, and who did not hesitate to rush into the empty tomb of Jesus, on the day of the Lord’s resurrection. It seems strange that the man of action had nodded off just before the day of his trial and execution, unless he had the confidence and faith that the Lord would rescue him from his dire circumstances.
In conclusion, the faithful prayers of the people of God’s church were answered by the Lord, when he had his angels release of the Apostle, Peter from prison and with the death of King Herod, as a judgment for not acknowledging the authority of God.
Let us pray…
Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound
Benediction: (1 Peter 5:10-11) And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. – Amen.