Message:  In Acts 12 persecution was bad. Herod had just had James executed and it was clearly a political move because when he saw this pleased the Jews he had Peter imprisoned and scheduled for execution as well. Peter was heavily guarded and the church was at a house fervently praying for him. The night before his execution was supposed to happen Peter was powerfully released and it was such a miracle that Peter himself thought he was experiencing it in a vision and the church didn’t believe it was really him when he came knocking on the door. A few things really caught my attention about this story. The first thing was understanding the severity of the situation. They didn’t just fear that Peter would be executed. James had just been executed and the reality was that Peter was being held deep in the prison with 4 squads of soldiers guarding him the night before he was scheduled to be executed. This was happening. What caught my attention about Peter’s release was the order of it all. The first thing that happened was that a bright light shined in the prison cell. Reading this made me think of all kinds of spiritual imprisonments. They say that the first step to recovery is acknowledging the problem. God shines a light on our situations before he delivers us. The next thing that happened was that the chains fell off Peter and the angel gave him instructions. Get up, get dressed, put on your sandals, follow me. Peter had to follow all of those instructions and when he did he was led out of the dark prison. As I thought about this, I realized that those prisons weren’t just a simple room with bars and an obvious way out. It was dark and there were tunnels and rooms to navigate through. The same is true of our spiritual imprisonments. On our own we would not be able to navigate through all of that without getting lost and probably discovered and put right back in prison. It was imperative that Peter follow all of the angel’s instructions. He got up, but he had to also get dressed, and his sandals were necessary for what he had to walk through but he also told him to wrap his cloak around him. This is so symbolic of our walk to freedom in our lives. We can’t just wait for it to happen to us. We have to follow the instructions to our freedom while God provides the miracle. This miracle was so incredible that the church who was fervently praying for Peter didn’t believe it was him knocking at the door. According to the footnotes in my bible the Jews commonly believed in guardian angels and often saw them shortly after the death of someone. They had truly expected Peter would be executed so when he showed up free they didn’t believe it even though they were praying for his freedom. This is one of the hardest parts about praying for someone who is spiritually imprisoned. After watching them self-destruct for so long your mind is programmed to expect certain behaviors. You are praying for the miracle but something deep inside fears getting your hopes up because the reality is so real. The miracle in this story was both the freedom of Peter and the freedom in the hearts of the church. They saw the reality changed in front of them and I can only imagine how this changed them forever.

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