At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
This passage further implies the growing importance of Antioch, which we are told through historical records became the cradle of Christianity. So important apparently that we are told of Antioch’s support of Judea during a famine, implying growing wealth for the church in Antioch and dwindling wealth for the church in Jerusalem. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise since the second part of our passage highlights the continued persecution of the church, including the arrest of Peter.
It almost appears that as things are getting worse in Jerusalem, things are getting better in Antioch.
*To help those of you who like to think spatially about these stories, Antioch is in what in present day Turkey, very very close of present day Syria (about 75 miles from Aleppo by road today), close to the coast of the Mediterranean, not very far from Cyprus. If you want to check out a map, the ruins of Antioch lay pretty much under the city of Antakya, Turkey.
Questions for reflection:
- The Antioch church could be seen as the little sibling of the Jerusalem church, yet, by giving money back to Judea, they are showing their growing importance. Where have you seen this kind of “upstart showing up the originator” process these mirrored in other places?
- What impact on the Early Church would have Peter’s arrest most likely have had?
- Peter’s arrest during passover mirrors who else’s arrest?