The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’
As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’ Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, ‘Tell this to James and to the believers.’ Then he left and went to another place.
I am always struck by the details Luke decides to leave in and the ones that are left more open ended and vague. He is clearly trying to indicate specific people by given the multiple name of people, like “John whose other name was Mark” but in the end, it just confuses me and makes it hard to keep track of which characters did what. I am sure it was clearer to those who would have been hearing or reading this as a fresh text, maybe with pre-knowledge of the folks named here.
But then at the same time, he simply states that Herod was going to bring him out, which i assume is the same thing that happened to Jesus as he was brought out in front of the people on Good Friday, given the custom of pardon someone, but which ultimately led to his crucifixion. And at the end of passage, we are told that Peter simply went to another place, which will hopefully be clarified in the upcoming passages.
Luke’s writing style leaves so many open vistas some 2000 years later, how we wish we had more details, more specifics, more understanding of what the people would have know. As a result the work of bible study invovles making choices and trusting the Holy Spirit, and recognizing that we maybe be getting some of this stuff wrong.
We really can’t read scripture like any other book, we have to engage in it deeply, pray about it, talk about it with peers, study it, study supporting historical documents and maybe more importantly simply meditate on it, and let it speak to us.
Questions for Reflection:
- What would it have been like to be peter, knocking at the door, and having no believe it was actually you?
- What would it have been like to be the guards, or Herod, and to witness the prisoner Peter slip through their fingers so miraculously?
- God works very openly and often in the Acts of the Apostles, this miracle is just one of a myriad of examples. Does God still work in this way today? If not, how do we identify the work of God? If yes, where is God speaking to people, and breaking them out of Prison, and if we are not experiencing it directly, what could that mean?