5/8/16 The Angel’s Touch Brings Death For The Prideful Heart

Peter and the rest of the apostles split up, Peter heading for the wall of the city where he knows of an area that is not well-patrolled at night.  He manages to escape while the others go to various homes around the city to spread the word of the angel freeing Peter from the prison.  Daylight is beginning to fall on the city, and with the crowing of roosters, the soldiers awaken to find that their prisoner has escaped.  They exchange looks of dread, knowing that the fate that had awaited their prisoner now awaits them.  They won’t even be allowed to speak with their families before they are executed for negligence at their posts.  Frantically, they search the entire prison, hoping that they might be lucky enough to find some sign of him, but their search is in vain.  But when Herod Agrippa’s messenger comes to tell them that the king is ready for them to bring the prisoner, they have no choice but to go and confess.  “What!?” Agrippa roars.  “How could you lose him?  There were four squadrons of you guarding him.  Only him.  You incompetent fools!”  Herod Agrippa storms out of his palace and personally goes to the prison and searches it, but finds nothing.  In his fury, he orders the soldiers executed immediately.  “I can’t stay in this place any longer,” Agrippa tells his servants.  “We go to Caesarea this afternoon.”  Trying to rid himself of thoughts of Peter’s escape, Agrippa concentrates on the escalating tensions between himself and the rulers of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon.  These cities are loosely ruled by Rome, and Agrippa wants them under his control, but they have been unwilling to even discuss the possibility.  He has sent a courier to them to give them notice that unless they are willing to negotiate with him, he will no longer allow any exports of corn, oil, or wine to go to them.  Agrippa knows that his territories provide the principal sources of these exports to the Phoenician cities.  He also knows that there are several small communities of Followers of the Way living there who will be suffering without those exports, and that just sweetens the deal for him.  He doesn’t have to wait very long for a response to his threat.  The Phoenicians are businessmen, after all, and they know when to back down.  Emissaries are sent to make peace with Agrippa, and they first appeal to Agrippa’s aide, a man named Blastus.  Through him, they are granted audience with the king himself, and they humble themselves before him.  Agrippa, dressed in his finest kingly clothes, stands before them and makes a speech, outlining several reasons why they should allow themselves to be annexed by him.  The emissaries kneel before him during the speech, watching him as though in awe of his majesty (though they probably are just very good actors, seeing as how none of their countrymen actually want to be ruled by Agrippa).  When the king finishes his speech, they rise and applaud, slathering him with praises.  “Oh, what a beautiful speech!  You have the voice of a god!”  Agrippa agrees with them, and the praise inflates his already pompous nature.  But it does not last long.  An angel, possibly the same angel that came to rescue Peter, comes to Agrippa.  Just like with Peter, the angel taps Agrippa’s thigh.  But whereas Peter was sleeping, content in whatever would befall him because of his faith in his Messiah, Agrippa is beginning to consider himself a god in his own right, and refuses to even acknowledge the God who created him.  His attitude and actions come from a wicked heart, and that heart is his undoing.  When the angel touches him, he immediately falls to the floor, dead.  The believers, upon hearing of the death of Agrippa, feel free to spread Jesus’ message more openly again, and the church grows exponentially.  Paul and Barnabas arrive in Jerusalem with the supplies sent by the Antioch believers shortly after this.  Barnabas stops in to see his friend John Mark, and tells him all about their travels and about the wonderful believers he has had the opportunity to work with.  John Mark is very enthusiastic, and asks if he might join them.  After speaking with Saul and getting his approval, the three set out together to return to the Antioch region.

 

Acts 12:18-25

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