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Acts 12:1-19

  • Think of a time in life when you really had to trust God. Or think of a time when trusting God was really difficult. What happened?

The church in Jerusalem had begun on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and had grown quickly under the leadership of Peter and James and the other Apostles. The news of Jesus' death and resurrection had been spreading out from Jerusalem to Samaria, to the Ethiopian Eunuch, to Saul of Tarsus (who became Paul), to the city of Antioch and to the Gentile Cornelius. Yet back in Jerusalem, things are getting very, very challenging at the heart of the Jesus movement. Would they keep trusting God?

Read Acts 12:1-5

  • What do you imagine was the mood in the church, with the injustice and persecution of Herod - especially the execution of James and the arrest of Peter? How do you imagine you would have felt in this situation?

  • What does it say about the church, that they were "praying earnestly to God for him"?

Take a few moments now to spend some time in prayer for Christians around the world today who are facing similar persecution. You might find it helpful to read through the Open Doors Prayer Guide and explore their website to help your group to know what to pray.

Read Acts 12:6-11

  • Peter was in prison for a while - probably several days. How do you think Peter was feeling about his impending trial and likely execution?

  • When the angel showed up and released Peter, why do you think Peter thought he was only 'dreaming' or 'seeing a vision'?

Read Acts 12:12-19

  • This is a remarkable and quite amusing end to the story. Why do you think the church disbelieved Rhoda when she told them Peter was at the door?

  • What does it say about the faith of the people in this story that Peter thought he was only dreaming, and the church thought Rhoda was 'out of her mind', or seeing 'his angel' (or perhaps we might say, 'his ghost')? [1] How do you feel about the examples of faith we see here in Peter and the church in Jerusalem?

  • There is a sort of contest embedded in this story, between King Jesus and his loyal followers the Church, and King Herod and his Jewish supporters and professional guards. How can this story (and others like it in the Book of Acts) strengthen our faith? How strong and powerful does each group seem - and who ultimately wins - and how?

  • In light of this chapter of Acts, and the things we've discussed, how should we respond to situations in life when it's really difficult to trust God?

  • Spend some time praying for a greater gift of faith through the Holy Spirit - faith to trust God, and faith to remain loyal to our King Jesus no matter what.

[1] N.T. Wright explains the use of 'his ghost':

‘It must be his angel,’ they say. What do they think has happened? Some people think they are referring to Peter’s guardian angel, a not uncommon idea; but there is no evidence that people in those days thought guardian angels would imitate the voices of their clients. Rather, I suggest that the gathered church suppose that Peter has been killed in the prison, and that his ‘angel’ is visiting them. People in the first century knew just as well as we do that sometimes, after someone we know and love dearly has died (and whether or not we know that their life was even in danger, let alone that they have in fact died), we can experience a vivid sense of them being briefly with us, speaking to us, cheering us up, smiling at us — and then they are gone. Those who believe, as the Pharisees believed, and as the early church believed, in the ultimate resurrection of the dead, must also believe that the dead person is still ‘alive’ in some sense, though not now bodily, between bodily death and bodily resurrection. As we shall see at 23:8, two of the regular available ways of describing this intermediate state were ‘angel’ and ‘spirit’; and the group in Mary’s house opted for the former.

Acts for Everyone, vol. 1, p188.


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