Monday, April 16, 2012

Acts 12:1-5


Summary retelling of Acts 12:1-5

King Herod decided to arrest James in a blatant attempt to persecute the church.  James – the brother of John – was killed by the sword, which is likely a way of saying that he was beheaded.  He is the first of Jesus’ disciples to die (except for Judas, who killed himself).  Herod’s reputation increased with James’ beheading, so Herod arrests Peter and plans to kill him, too.  Herod handed him over to four squads of soldiers (that’s plenty, in case you were wondering).  Herod planned to kill him after the Holy Festival passed.  In spite of his arrest, the church prayed for Peter.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
This section of text is absolutely going to challenge you if you are willing to be challenged by it for the next few days.  First, let’s make sure we understand what is going on here.  Herod’s popularity was waning, and he needed a way to boost it.  Herod knew that the Christians were not popular among the Jews by this point, so he has James arrested and killed.  James didn’t do anything wrong.  He was just arrested and killed for no reason other than a popularity boost.  This isn’t too much unlike why Jesus died, really.  In the end, there is no point to James’ death.  He hadn’t done anything wrong.  He was the victim of human self-centeredness.

Do you find yourself getting upset by the pointlessness of James’ death?  Do you think James minded giving up his life knowing that he was being killed for the faith?  Does this challenge you at all?

Second Thought:
The Jews applaud Herod’s action.  This shows us that they really were beginning to hate the Christian movement within Jerusalem.  Whether it was because the people were tired of the debating or because they were afraid that the Christians were “stealing from their members” or simply convinced that followers of Jesus were wrong – we don’t know why the Jews began hating the Christians enough to want to see their leaders dead.  But the reality is that when James was executed, Herod’s popularity increased.  So, Herod grabs Peter and plans on doing it again.  Herod is willing to sacrifice life for temporal popularity.

What does this story demonstrate to you about humanity’s ability to think only of themselves – or think of themselves first?  Does this passage say anything about how human leadership truly views their subjects?

Third Thought:
The believer’s response is significant.  They pray.  It is really a simple response.  They don’t attempt to break Peter out.  The humble themselves to God’s will and let God be in control.  These verses are a great testimony to how the believer is truly changed.  When things were going south for Herod, he took matters into his own hands and started using people to his own advantage.  When a believer experiences things going south, they humble themselves in prayer and let God be in control.

Do you think we as modern Christians are very good at letting God be in control?  How can we get better at it?

Passage for Tomorrow: Acts 12:6-9
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