6 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. 7Suddenly 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. 8The 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.’ 9Peter* 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. 10After 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. 11Then 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.’
12 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. 13When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 14On 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. 15They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’ 16Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. 17He 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.
18 When morning came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19When Herod had searched for him and could not find him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
So, Herod has already had James put to death, and he plans to kill Peter when the holiday is over. But the evening before Peter is to be brought out to be put to death, Peter is keeping watch in prison. Herod has heard about this man’s miraculous escape before, when he was found standing in the temple courts after being locked up by the religious leaders, and Herod is taking no chances. Peter is chained, there are soldiers on either side, and there are soldiers outside the door. And yet, an angel comes, wakes Peter, and tells him to come with him quickly – the chains fall off; the angel tells Peter to fasten his belt and put on his sandals; and he wraps his cloak around him, and follows the angel. This whole event is so miraculous that Peter himself can’t believe it; he thinks it is a vision! But then Peter wakes up, the angel is gone, and he is outside the prison! And Peter thanks the Lord for his rescue.
Then Peter goes to the home of Mary (this Mary is the mother of John Mark), and he knocks on the gate. A maid named Rhoda answered the knock, recognizes Peter’s voice, and is so overjoyed she forgets to open the gate! When she runs in and tells the others, they say she is out of her mind. The very thing they had prayed for has happened, and they do not believe it! Do we ever pray, not really believing God can work the miracle we ask? But then they do go to the gate, and are overjoyed to see Peter, and they hide him, and then help him get out of town.
And Herod is furious! So much so that he has the guards who were responsible for the prisoner killed. And then he returned to Caesarea and stayed away from Judea. It would seem that the king is frightened of powers he does not understand!
The question that comes to mind is: why was Peter saved when James was killed? Why in one instance does the angel tell Peter to leave the prison and stand in the temple courts to be arrested again, and in another lead Peter out of prison, and in yet another have Paul and Silas stay in the jail after an earthquake has shaken loose their chains and opened all the locks? The Holy Spirit does not have a stock answer for every situation! We have to follow the guidance of the Spirit to know what to do! It may not be the same as what we did previously. The Spirit, in each of these instances, had the apostles do what furthered the kingdom of God! Even James’ death led to the spread of the church out of Jerusalem. But in today’s passage, God has much work for Peter to do yet!