Daily Devotion Text

May 26, 2022

Acts 12:1-17

By gracepoint In Acts, Devotion Text with Comments Off on Acts 12:1-17


Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.


Commentary for Chapters 1-11


vv.1-17: “To this point in Acts, the apostles of Jerusalem are keenly favored by the ‘people’ of Israel and resisted only by the council – the ‘official’ religious authority in the holy city.  The reputation of the apostolate throughout Palestine has most recently attracted the malicious attention of Herod Agrippa I, client of Caesar Gaius and the principal political authority of the region.  […]According to Josephus, his reign was characterized by violence and caprice, which is vividly captured by the account of his death in Acts (see vv.20-22).  Perhaps this is sufficient evidence to fill in the historical gap left by the narrative, which tells the reader nothing of Herod’s motive for this most recent attack upon the Judean church.  Nor does Luke make clear why the apostle James is beheaded and the apostle Peter spared; presumably the church prayed for the release of both.  The brief mention of James’ martyrdom indicates the depth of difficulty Peter finds himself when Herod ‘proceeded to arrest Peter also’ (v. 3). More importantly, however, James is not replaced as Judas was before him (see 1:15-26), and so the circle of the Twelve seems broken beyond repair with their rule at an end in Jerusalem.  The succession of their spiritual authority appears necessary, since the Jerusalem mission must continue on under new leadership (= James the brother of Jesus) as Acts makes clear (see 15:4-29; 21:17-26).”[1]  

v.5: “To the gloomy picture of Peter in prison Luke adds the hopeful note of the church earnestly in prayer for him (v. 5). […] While Peter was fast asleep in prison in the middle of the night (the angel had to wake him – v. 7), the church was engaged in vigilant prayer for him.”[2]

vv.12-17: “The second instance of irony is the unbelief of Peter and the praying church that their prayers had been answered (vv. 9-11, 15).  And this came after God had similarly released Peter from imprisonment on an earlier occasion – that time too through an angel at night (5:19-20).  In fact, when the servant girl Rhoda was overjoyed over the answer to the prayers of the believers, they pronounced her out of her mind (vv. 14-15).” [3]

“The statement ‘it must be his angel’ (v. 15) reflects the Jewish belief in protecting and guiding angels, who ‘were sometimes thought to resemble the human beings they protected.’  Thus the believers thought that Rhoda mistook Peter’s guardian angel for Peter.  The irony continues as Peter went on knocking while the believers argued among themselves (v. 16a).  While the big iron gate of the prison opened with no effort to let Peter out (v. 10), he was unable to get past the gate of his own friend’s home.” [4]

“Though we do not know from where Luke got these details, the record of Peter’s anxious gesture of motioning with his hard for them to be quiet (v. 17) indicates ‘the authentic touch of an eyewitness.’  Peter probably then went ‘underground so successfully that no one to this day has discovered for certain where he went.’  Peter wanted James to be informed about what had happened, which suggests that he had already become an important leader in the church (cf. also Gal 2:1-10).” [5]

vv.19-23: “We are not told the exact cause of death; Longenecker suggests it may have been through infection by intestinal ringworms.  There is irony here too, for the man who was glorious on the outside was rotting of worms on the inside.” [6]

vv.24-25: “Immediately after the report of Herod’s death Luke gives a report of the growth of the church he had brutally tried to suppress.  The customary summary of growth in verse 24 ends the description in Acts of the Christian mission to the Jewish world.  The section closes on a positive note.  The early popularity of the church has given way to hostility, but that does not hinder the forward march of the gospel.  From the next chapter to the end of Acts, the focus will be on Paul and his missionary activity.” [7] 

Bible Text
: Acts 12:1-17 (ESV)

1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.

Go Deeper

Acts 12:1-17

  • Consider the picture of “earnest prayer [being] made to God by the church” for Peter (v. 5), and Peter being rescued out of prison by the angel (vv. 6-11). Who are some people in need of deliverance that I need to intercede for?
  • What is ironic about the believers’ response to Rhoda’s report? Given this, what can I learn about the power of “many gathered together” (v. 12) in concerted prayer?

[1] Leander E. Keck, The New Interpreter’s Bible: Acts  (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 178-179

[2] Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series, 362-363.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series, 363-364.

[7] Ibid.


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