There is No Place Like Home
Theme: No matter where we find ourselves in this world-or in the span of time —we all long for Home
Acts 12 Summary
Luke plops us down right in the midst of another Passover week, with Jerusalem full of Jewish families preparing to celebrate the Exodus — the Israelite deliverance from slavery.
The tension can be cut with a knife. Herod Agrippa 1 rules through a program of intimidation. Persecution was on the rise, and James was the first Apostle to be martyred (although eleven of the twelve apostles would eventually die for their faith in Christ).
Although Luke begins this portion of his letter with an account of James’ martyrdom, he quickly turns our eyes to the miraculous deliverance of Peter. He means to show us that what we see with our eyes is not all there is. That Reality is what God is doing over and above, under and through that which we see with our eyes ….. or hear with our ears.
Ralph Davis says, [God’s] scepter is unseen, His sovereignty hidden behind the conversations and decisions and activities and crises of our lives. We see only grocery lines and diaper changes and school assignments; but through and over and behind it all [God] rules. He is not absent but neither is He [always] obvious.
Acts, Chapter 12, is full of stark contrasts meant to encourage the people of God as Luke juxtaposes two kings, representative of two kingdoms. One counterfeit kingdom (ruled by sin and typified by Herod who ruled by terror, oppression and fear) and one legitimate Kingdom (ruled by Christ). When we come to faith in Christ, we move from the dominion of sin to the dominion of Christ—leaving behind the citizenship into which we were born (because of the first Adam) and moving into the citizenship of God’s Kingdom. And our citizenship is reflected outwardly as the Spirit of God grows Kingdom character inwardly…so that as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom—as Christ’s disciples—we do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Yes, we still sin, but sin does not rule us. Christ broke the reign of sin. We have been filled with the very Spirit of God as a sign and a seal of our new citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom, and the Spirit works in us to will and to do what is right.
Our passions are being changed minute by minute to hate what God hates and to love what He loves. We still retain our personalities and our gifts, our senses of humor and excitement of learning—but our minds, our consciences and our character are molded by His Spirit.
The war between King sin and King Jesus is over … done … behind … for those who have come to faith. We are in Christ as citizens of the Kingdom of God, covered with Christ and filled with the Spirit.
This doesn’t happen over night, but it will happen as God conquers the former ruler of our hearts with the light and life of Christ.
Historians tell us that WWII was won on D-Day … that the minute the Allies landed in Normandy, the Germans were done…yet battles raged for years to come.
So even though we are not yet experiencing perfection in our inner being yet, it is absolutely assured because Christ said, it is finished… The war is won.
Studying our Bibles is about getting to know the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! That is why Luke interrupts his story about Herod to tell of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. The rescue story is strategically placed in the midst of Herod’s story to remind us that God is on the throne — He always has been, He is now (whenever now might be), and He ever shall be! No matter what our eyes may see … no matter what our ears may hear. In Christ, the war is over and we are eternally secure in the arms of God — the Lover of our souls-Forever.
Toward the end of chapter 12 Luke comes back to Herod’s story. He describes for us the end of Herod.
Luke tells us that Herod became angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon for some unknown reason and had either threatened to cut off their food supply or had already cut it off. The Phoenician people depended on Herod for their food, and he leveraged that to the hilt because suppression and tyranny were hallmarks of his reign.
The Jewish historian Josephus affirms Luke’s account:
“Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea…. he exhibited shows…. On the second day of the festival, Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a truly wonderful contexture, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment was illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it.
It shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him. At that moment, his flatterers cried out […] that he was a god; and they added, ‘Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.’
Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But …A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner….. Accordingly he was carried into the palace…. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign.” (Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities
Luke keeps the question before us: Who is the true King?
In Luke’s account we see the contrast of two kingdoms, two Kings:
Herod chains and imprisons, Jesus frees …
Herod intimidates, Jesus woos…
Herod struts and preens in the city gates; Jesus stumbles His way along on a dusty road, up a hill, carrying a cross …
Herod condemns, Jesus saves ….
Herod’s coronation was regal, Christ’s was brutal
Herod’s self-preservation calls down violence on all rebels, Jesus pours out His life for rebels like you and like me—and calls us — Beloved…..
And as that truth sinks into our souls, we raise our voices in praise — we come boldly to His throne of grace for mercy in our time of need…praying as a first line of defense in our lives…trusting in His good promises and purposes.
Just like those wonderful people in Mary’s house in Jerusalem … where earnest prayer was being made for Peter as he sat in a prison cell in a fortress … bound with chains. Isn’t this a great story? It is so real — Did you laugh out loud at Rhoda’s leaving Peter at the door?! If they were trying to make this story up, they would never have thought to add a story like this.
This story should be a great encouragement to us all — God does not need to use our prayers for His purposes, but He has chosen to do so.
Prayer is a means by which God sovereignly acts.
It sounds crazy, but that is the indisputable testimony of scripture. God has ordained the means as well as the ends of His purposes…and prayer is one of the means God uses to fulfill the plans He has already determined to accomplish.
This doesn’t mean that God will answer your prayers in exactly the way that you intend for Him to answer them — He is not our heavenly butler. But it does mean that you can be absolutely sure that He listens to every cry of your heart.
That He records every tear on His scroll (PS. 56:8), that He hears the prayer in your groaning’s and sighings, as well as in your hallelujah’s and amen’s.
So as we finish our study, we are left with a simple, profound statement:
The word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
Just as God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, so now in Christ, the Kingdom does just that—it increases and multiplies—bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8).
It’s revealed throughout the rest of the book of Acts —in your life—and mine. It’s revealed in the lives of people around the world and throughout time until the Day when King Jesus makes all things right.
On that Day, we will be Home. Gathered together with people from every nation, tribe and tongue around the Table of our King. At the great wedding banquet with Christ, the Lord of all.
Our Home is even better than Eden — because Jesus, the last Adam, obeyed so that we would be welcomed in with no possibility of ever being sent out again.
This is the Story behind every other story in the Bible. The Story of The King of Kings —Who left His throne and came to earth in order to rescue us and take us Home.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!