At this time – almost 15 years after Jesus had returned to heaven – the new King Herod was persecuting some members of the Jerusalem church (260). For example, he had one of the 12 witnesses — James, the brother of John — put to death by the sword.
When Herod saw that this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested, during the annual springtime Festival of Passover & Unleavened Bread. Peter was kept in jail under guard. Herod planned to put him on public trial after the Passover had passed. While Peter was in jail, the people of the Jerusalem church were praying earnestly to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping in jail, shackled with chains between two guards. Other guards were on duty at the prison gate.
Suddenly an angel of God stood in Peter’s cell, surrounded by a very bright light. The angel shook Peter by the shoulder & said, “Get up!” At once the chains fell off Peter’s hands! Then the angel said, “Put your cloak around you & come with me.” Peter followed him out of the prison. However, Peter didn’t really know if all this was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.
The angel & Peter passed by first one guard & then another. They came to the last gate that went into the city — which opened for them by itself! So they went out began walking down the street. Suddenly the angel was gone. Just as suddenly, the Holy Spirit helped Peter realize: “This is really happening! God has sent his angel to rescue me from Herod!”
Peter went quickly & quietly to the home of Mary — the mother of Mark, one of the four gospel writers — where many friends had gathered to pray for him. Peter knocked at the outside door & a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overwhelmed that she ran back inside the house — without even opening the door for Peter!
When Rhoda announced that Peter was standing at the outside door, the people inside first exclaimed: “You’re crazy!” But when Rhoda insisted that it was true, Peter’s friends said: “It must be Peter’s angel.”
Meanwhile, Peter kept on knocking at the door. When at last they opened the door & saw him, they were amazed. Peter motioned for them to be quiet, and he explained to them how God had brought him out of prison.
“Tell all this to James and the rest of the believers,” Peter said. (He was referring to the other James, the close relative of Jesus, who had become a believer after Jesus rose from death.) Then Peter left them.
(260) Acts 12:1-17