“The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.” Acts 12.6-10
Ok, I must confess, this is the final non advent devotional before I switch over and begin to share some thoughts on Advent. All this talk of angels in this passage has persuaded me! But seriously, the angelic interaction with Peter in his jail cell is very similar to the angels’ arrival to all of those in the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph both were met by an angel, the shepherds and wisemen too. The angel who showed up for them appears again to Peter in a prison cell in Jerusalem.
What happened to Peter was indeed amazing. He was in prison, being watched by sixteen soldiers. He was bound with chains and locked in a cell. And he was guided out to freedom by the angel of the Lord. This is awesome. But it wasn’t Peter’s doing, it was the angels arrival, sent by God, to release his follower out of jail.
With the shining of a great light, the angel appeared. Even though light “shone in the cell” he still had to wake up Peter by striking him on the side (Are angels are also physical beings if they can strike a man on the side?). The angel tells Peter to get dressed, “put on your clothes and Birkenstocks,” (my translation) and follow me. Peter was awakened from a dead, deep sleep and thought he was seeing a vision.
The angel leads Peter out past all the guards, unlocking doors as he went, and went to the iron gate that lead into the city, which opened by itself. It was there that the angel left after walking “the length of one street.” From there Peter was most likely wide awake and had to figure out where to go next.
The angels arrival offered rescue to this man of God. Just as the angel in the nativity story announced good news, warned the wisemen and Mary and Jospeh, so the angel in this story is guiding Peter, the leader of the early church. This disciple who was Jesus’ “rock,” and the one they needed the most to lead the early church.
My point, God will go out of his way to rescue his people. He did it through angelic arrivals, miraculous happenings and unexpected events. God is working for our good as it is in keeping with his plan to restore and redeem humanity. God is appearing in dreams and visions to Muslims living in Iran. His Spirit is moving mightily among oppressed nations like China and North Korea. God is bringing deliverance to his people even now and for all who call upon his name.
Have you called upon the name of the Lord? Have you submitted to his ways and to his rule? Are you asking God’s angels to guide and direct your life? Why not? What are you waiting for? Cry out to the God Who Saves that he might meet you where you are this day.
“O Lord God, we are deep in Advent. The earth is filled with your glory and praise. Even when evil shows it’s ugly head, you are near and you are victorious. You defeated death on the cross and your created this world by your design and us in your image. Help us follow your voice. Help us look for your power and presence. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen