Peter's Miraculous Prison Break


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 12:7-25

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

As Peter sleeps in prison, scheduled to be executed the following day, he is visited by an angel who miraculously escorts him to safety. We’ll talk more about guardian angels, giving glory to God, and the difficult question of why God works miracles for some but not for others.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Hey, everybody. I'm back from enjoying the longest preaching break I've had in 10 years, actually. It's just incredible. B. J. Taught the Life's Healing Ch choices series because he felt a conviction from God to do that, that God wanted to do a work among us to free us from things and bring us more of the life of Jesus. I think his conviction has been vindicated by the good things the Lord has done among us and the things that he could tell continues to do. You don't know this, but B. J. Is not crazy about preaching. He does it because he believes the Lord has called him to do that. The two of us together as elders in the church, we pray and discern when the Lord is doing that, and then we follow the leading of the Lord. He does it because he really believes the Lord has something that he wants to share with the church. I just want to ask, would you just put your hands together and just let him know that we appreciate him and the series that he taught with us? We're so thankful for you. We love you, brother. We're thankful to Jesus for you.

With that, we're going to get back into the Book of Acts. If you don't have a Bible or an outline, you're going to want to grab one from the back in the lobby because as always, we're going to be in the Word. When we left our study in the Book of Acts, we ended on a cliffhanger. Let me recap events for you to refresh your memories or bring you up to speed if you're just joining us recently. It's around 44 AD, roughly a decade after the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Governor Herod Agrippa, seeking to please the unruly Hebrew population of Jerusalem that he was tasked with overseeing, has had the Apostle James beheaded. Noting the positive response of the influential Jewish upper class, he has continued targeting the leaders of the church by arresting the Apostle Peter. His plan is to execute him, too, in front of the people in just a few days at the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Wanting to prevent a supernatural jailbreak or any other shenanigans, Herod has secured Peter with four teams of four soldiers who are rotating every six hours to keep him under constant watch.

Two are beside him in his cell and two are right outside his cell door. The church has heard of Peter's arrest and they're praying fervently. It is now the night before Peter is scheduled to be executed. Remarkably, he's sleeping soundly. We talked about that where we left off last time in the Book of Acts. Let's jump back in Acts 12, verse 7, where we read, Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. Peter is sleeping so soundly that not even this light wakes him up, which is why we read, Striking Peter on the side, he, the angel, woke him up and said, Quick, get up. The chains fell off his wrist. Get dressed, the angel told him, and put on your sandals. And he did. Wrap your clothes around you, he told him, and follow me. Having just been woken, Peter is still in such a daze that after telling him to get dressed, the angel has to remind him, Put on your sandals, grab your clothes. This is how you get dressed. Come on, come on. This is happening. Verse 9, So he, Peter, went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening.

But he thought he was seeing a vision. Peter thinks, This is all a dream. He's like, This is crazy, man. What a dream. Verse 10, After they passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street and suddenly the angel left him. Historians tell us that details like this in the text mean that Peter was almost certainly jailed at the Antony of Fortress in Jerusalem. Let's put that image up on the screen and I'll show you this. This is a model of ancient Jerusalem. The model is actually in Jerusalem. The Antony of Fortress is that imposing four-towered structure in the middle toward the front. To the left of it is the outer court of the temple in the bottom left corner. That's the outer court of the Temple Mount. So, the fortress is right next to the temple because if anything was going to go down in Jerusalem, any protest or anything, it was probably going to happen around the temple mound. Then behind the fortress is basically the rest of the city of Jerusalem.

From the perspective of this image, the angel led Peter out of a gate that would have been in the back of the fortress that led into the city. So they get about a block away from the fortress, and suddenly the angel left him. This was a supernatural miracle. If the angel didn't tip you off, the fact that the chains fell from Peter's wrist should do the job. The guards in the cell, outside the door, and at the prison gates did not see Peter or the angel. They walked right past them and disappeared into the night. Verse 11, When Peter came to himself, he said, Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's grasp and from all that the Jewish people expected. Only after standing in the middle of Jerusalem for a moment with the crisp night air blowing on his face, did Peter realize he was actually awake and everything that had just happened was real. He praised God for his miraculous deliverance. Verse 12, As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who was called Mark, where many had assembled and were praying.

Peter knew the church was praying. He knew they were worried sick about him, and so he immediately sought to connect with them and fill them in on what the Lord had done. John was a Jewish name and Mark was a Roman name. It was common for people to use both names at the time. For example, Paul is his Jewish name and Paul is his Roman name. It's the same name just in two different languages. To avoid getting this John confused with the Apostle John, we generally refer to this John as John Mark. The house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, was likely where the last supper took place and also where the 120 were gathered to pray in the upper room in Acts 2. Details in this account will make it clear this home was large. It was an upper-class dwelling, featuring a second floor, a courtyard, and a forecourt. There were servants on the premises and the property was able to accommodate many people. After the church was barred from meeting on temple grounds and in synagogues, they began gathering in homes just like this one. They would basically poll the congregation, figure out who's got the biggest house, and they would arrange for the church to meet there in different groups that would fit.

Understandably, it seems that Mary, the mother of John Mark, her house became the home base for the church in Jerusalem. Peter knew the church would be gathered there to pray for him. Verse 13, He knocked at the door of the outer gate and a servant named Roda came to answer. She recognized Peter's voice and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announce that Peter was standing at the outer gate. While sweet Roda is a servant of the house, she's also clearly a believer and she's also clearly part of the church. She knows Peter well enough to recognize his voice and cares for him so deeply that she's overwhelmed with joy at the realization he's standing right outside the gate. She's so overjoyed, in fact, that she forgets to let him in. This next part cracks me up because the church is busy praying fervently for God to save Peter. But when Roder runs in and tells them that Peter is at the gate, we read their response in verse 15, You're out of your mind, they told her. These saints of great faith were praying for God to rescue Peter.

But when Roder runs in and tells them God has rescued Peter, they reply, You're out of your mind. Peter can't be at the gate because he's in prison. They go back to praying, Lord, you can do anything. Please free Peter from prison. But she kept insisting that it was true. They said, It's his angel. Now, this is a weird response because A, Peter has a personal angel and his voice sounds like Peter's. B, the appearance of such an angel isn't noteworthy. It's so common that they can't even be bothered to get up and take a look. They're just like, Oh, it's just his angel. Remember, we want to be intellectually honest when it comes to the Bible, always. That means when we read something strange or odd in the Bible, we don't want to pretend that it's not that. We concede that it is. Then we research, we read, we question, we discuss, we study, we gain historical knowledge, and we search for an answer. If we find one, great. If we don't find an answer, we make a note somewhere of this unresolved issue, and we freely admit that we are still looking for a good answer.

Now, that doesn't happen often. Nine hundred and nine times out of a thousand, if you research, ask, and discuss, you will find a good answer. Because of that, we're comfortable trusting that where we don't yet have a good answer, we will ultimately find one. When I researched this, I learned that the believers in Jerusalem seem to be referring to some extra-biblical beliefs that had made their way into Judaism in the centuries before the Incarnation. Remember, pretty much everyone there is Jewish because they're in Jerusalem. In some ancient Rabbinical writings, events are described where angels take the form of specific people such as Moses or Solomon. The believers praying at the house may have assumed, based on this superstitious belief from Judaism, that an angel had taken the form of Peter and appeared to Rhoda. Many Jews at the time also held to an extra-biblical belief in guardian angels. These believers may have assumed that this was Peter's Guardian angel. When I say extra-biblical, I just mean it's not in the Bible. But neither of these historical views or superstitions or traditions explain why they were so dismissive of the fact that an angel was at the house's gate.

On this point, we can only speculate that perhaps angelic visitations were extremely common during the early years of the church. Like you probably do, I find these explanations somewhat lacking, and I can't help feeling like there's some context we're missing that would make the response of those praying more understandable. So, if you figure it out before I do, please come and let me know. I'd love to know. Now, because this verse is one of the proof texts that is used in the discussion of the subject of Guardian angels, I thought I'd take a moment to speak to it. The doctrine of Guardian angels is codified in the theology of the Catholic Church. It's official. The Catholic Church will point to verses like this in Matthew 18, 10, where Jesus is speaking to his disciples as a small child is in front of them. He says, See to it that you don't despise one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven, their angels continually view the face of my father in heaven. Many have read that verse and concluded that Jesus is saying that every child has a guardian angel. However, the word there is a collective pronoun in the original language and is stating that angels in general, serve believers on God's behalf.

It is not stating that angels are individually assigned to human beings for the duration of their lifetime or their childhood. What Jesus tells his disciples is that angels are attentive to the face of the Father in heaven. In other words, they are always in the ready position to receive instructions from the Father. Jesus' point is that the Father is omniscient. That means he's all-knowing, all-seeing. Therefore, this is Jesus' point, people should be really careful how they treat kids because the Father sees everything and has angels at his disposal, ready to act on his behalf. Scripture doesn't teach a doctrine of individual Guardian angels. It does teach that angels are ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation. God doesn't need to use angels, but he chooses to involve them in his work, just as he doesn't need us, but he chooses to involve us in his work. The greatest assurance we have is not that God sometimes ministers to us through angels. The greatest assurance we have is that God is always watching us and never leaves or forsakes us. If we have an omniscient, omnipotent and all-loving God with us, then it doesn't really matter whether or not we have an individual Guardian angel.

Let's get back to our text because this is no angel knocking at the door. It's actually Peter. Verse 16, it says, Peter, however, kept on knocking. When they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. Just imagine the overwhelming joy of this moment, the shock, the wonder, the tears, the shouts, the embraces because Peter is really there. The other elders of the church were surely already thinking about what they were going to say to the church after Peter had been executed. But now here he was alive and right in front of them. Verse 17, Motioning to them with his hand to be silent. Peter knows the authorities are likely already searching for them so he tells the brethren to lower their voices. He described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. Tell these things to James and the brothers, he said. He left and went to another place. The James who was murdered in verse 2 of this chapter was the brother of John the Apostle. Like John, that James was also an apostle and one of the 12. The James referenced here is the half-brother of Jesus.

He too was an apostle, but he was not one of the 12. He's identified as one of the pillars of the Jerusalem Church in Galatians 2:9, along with Peter and John. The three of them became the primary leaders of the Jerusalem Church. But there were also other elders, and that's who's referred to here by Peter as the brothers. When it says Peter left and went to another place, it means that Peter got out of Jerusalem as quickly as he could to find somewhere to lie low for a while. He knew that Herod Agrippa would order a search throughout the city if he hadn't done so already, and Peter didn't want to create any trouble for the other believers if, for example, they were found to be harboring a fugitive. From this point on, Peter will become more of a missionary to Jews across the known world. While he will visit Jerusalem regularly, he will no longer live or serve as an elder there for the rest of his life. Verse 18, At daylight, there was a great commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. This would seem to imply that the two soldiers who were in the cell with Peter, who were chained to him, were somehow supernaturally sedated.

As Peter's absence is only noted hours later at sunrise, likely when they were changing the rotation of the guards. Verse 19, After Herod had searched and did not find him, he didn't find Peter, he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution. This was standard protocol in the Roman Army for allowing a prisoner to escape. It was considered a dereliction of duty and abandoning one's post. So yeah, you didn't fall asleep on the job. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. Now, Caesarea was a predominantly gentile coastal resort town on the Mediterranean in Samaria. Herod would have been staying at a Roman palace that was located there. It was a holiday home in an idyllic and luxurious setting that was frequented by the elite of the day. Infuriated by Peter's disappearance, Herod decided that he had earned some R&R, and so he headed to Caesarea. Even though Samaria is to the north of Jerusalem, you'll notice the text says Herod went down to Caesarea. That's because in the Jewish mind, Jerusalem was the holy city. Whenever you were going to Jerusalem, you were going up to Jerusalem, no matter what direction you were coming from.

Whenever you left Jerusalem, you would be going down to wherever you were going, regardless of the direction you were going in. Verse 20, Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were two cities that were further up the Coast in present-day Lebanon, but they were also within the territories that were ruled by Herod Agrippa. We're not told why he was angry with them, only that he was. We keep reading, it says, Together they, the leaders of Tyre and Sidon, presented themselves before him. After winning over Blastus, who was in charge of the King's bedroom, they asked for peace because their country was supplied with food from the King's country. Now, this was a serious situation. Tyre and Sidon relied on Galilee for their food supply. Apparently, Herod's anger toward them had put their supply chain at risk. This explains why they were so desperate to win back Herod's favor. So they make the journey to Caesarea and somehow persuade, likely through bribery, Herod's chief of staff, who is Blastus, to get them an audience with the king. Verse 21, On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them.

This is the contingent that came from Tyre and Sidon. Herod wasn't content to have a regular normal meeting with them in private. He wanted to flaunt his power over them with a spectacle. The Hebrew historian Josephus records this event took place outside in the theater in Caesarea at dawn, at daybreak. Herod appeared in royal robes that were made of pure silver threads so that when the rays of the rising sun struck him, he glistened and glimmered and shone like a God. Josephus records that witnessing this display and wanting to ingratiate themselves to Herod, the leaders of tire and sight and cried out, Be gracious to us. Hither, too, we have reverenced you as a human being, but henceforth we confess you to be of more than mortal nature. A s Herod launched into his speech, we read in verse 22 that the assembled people began to shout, It's the voice of a God and not of a man. This is world-class sucking up by the leaders of Tyre and Sidon. It's exactly what Herod wanted to have happen. Unfortunately for him, God had a different perspective on these proceedings. In verse 23, it says, At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died.

It's weird. I don't remember seeing any pictures of this in the children's Bibles I read to my kids for some reason. We don't know exactly how Herod died, but we only know that it was painful, it was ugly, and it was inflicted by God as a judgment for Herod's standing in Israel and receiving the praise of men as though he were a God. The reason I say we don't know exactly how he died is that the phrase eaten by worms was a colloquialism at the time. It was a well-known phrase, a saying that was used for someone who died a slow and painful death but deserved it. Josephus says Herod was struck with severe intestinal pains that lasted for five days until he died. His grievous sin, we are told is that he did not give the glory to God. This is the same sin that Paul writes in Romans 1, brings the wrath of God upon the unregenerate. You'll recall in Romans 1, Paul wrote, God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness, suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them because God has shown it to them for his invisible attributes, that is, his divine power, sorry, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made.

As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Paul says the glory of God is revealed in creation all around us. Every person knows deep down that this is not an accident. Every person inherently knows, even if they don't know the terminology, that order cannot arise from disorder. Consciousness cannot arise from unconsciousness. Mind cannot arise from nothing. It's impossible. Complex cannot arise from chaos. Every person knows that creation testifies there is a creator. Paul says there are people, though, who suppress that, who are who suppress that knowledge in their mind and in their hearts because they don't want to acknowledge God. Though they knew God, they knew, they refused to glorify Him as God or show gratitude. There's really only one piece of life application we can draw from the death of Herod. Give God the glory. Give God the glory. Verse 24, underline this in your Bibles. I love this. But despite all this, the word of God spread and multiplied. Herod had tried to crush the church in Jerusalem by executing her leaders. But instead, within a few weeks, Peter had been miraculously freed from prison and Herod had died a gruesome death.

God does what he wants and nothing can stop him. Solomon, the wise man who lived other than Jesus, succinctly we observe this in Proverbs 1921, Many plans are in a person's heart, but the Lord's decree will prevail. In the tumultuous conspiratorial days in which we live. I find great comfort in this verse. Many plans are in a person's heart, but the Lord's decree will prevail. You can bet your life on it. Our camera now switches back to Barnabas and Sol, who had been in Jerusalem to deliver funds for famine relief that had been sent with them by the church in Antioch. It's most likely they were not in Jerusalem at the time James was executed and Peter was imprisoned, but either shortly before or shortly after those events. Verse 25, After they had completed their relief mission of bringing those funds to the Jerusalem Church, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John, who was called Mark. Now, if your Bible, like mine, says that Barnabas and Sol returned to Jerusalem, you need to know that it really should read from instead of to. They were returning to Antioch, following their time in Jerusalem. There's a lot of debate among translators, but the context makes it absolutely clear.

A more accurate translation of verse 25 would be Barnabas and Sol returned, having fulfilled their service in Jerusalem and having picked up as companion, John, who was called Mark. This is again the same John Mark, whose mother's house Peter went to immediately following his miraculous jailbreak. He feels disturbed by the Holy Spirit to leave Jerusalem and join Barnabas and Sol in their ministry work in Antioch to the north. I want to talk a little bit more about two issues that are brought up by our text today. Now, we're not going to talk more about what it means to be eaten by worms, but firstly, I want to talk about the fact that God killed Herod Agrippa because he did not give the glory to God. Now, why does God care so much about us giving Him glory? Why does God command us in the Bible over and over and over again to worship Him? Why is praise God or praise the Lord the most frequently repeated command in Scripture over 2,000 times? Why does He demand that we worship Him exclusively? I mean, if He's God and He lacks nothing, then why does He seem to need our worship?

Is He insecure? Is He a narcissist? Let me say first, He doesn't need our worship. Just like He doesn't need us. He lacks nothing. He's completely satisfied relationally in the Trinity. The reason God commands us to worship Him is not that he needs our worship. It's because we need our worship to be directed to him. Because the truth is, whoever you are, whatever's going on in your life, every single one of us is always worshiping something. Even if you think I'm not, Jeff, I'm independent. I think my own thoughts. I have no God. All that means is that you worship yourself. You are the one sitting on the throne of your life. You believe your thoughts are the greatest, most important thing in the world. You are ruling your life and you bow down in submission to your thoughts, your judgments, your desires, your feelings. You worship yourself. Every one of us is always worshiping someone or something that's just the reality of the situation. There is an opinion that is higher than all others in each of our lives. If it's not God, then it's you. Your opinion is the most important opinion in your life.

In Psalm 135, we read, The idol of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak. Eyes they have, but they do not see. They have ears, but they do not hear. Nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them. So is everyone who trusts in them. David writes a profound truth. We become like that which we worship. We become like that which we worship. The object of our worship affects who we are and who we become. David says all other gods are ultimately dead. They're lifeless. Those who spend their lives bowing down to these false gods are destined to become like them, empty and completely void of life. We all intrinsically know this principle to be true. Deep down, we all understand that who we are and who we are becoming is being shaped by the things we prioritize and desire the most, the things we worship. Our heavenly father does not need our worship. Jesus doesn't need our worship. He lacks nothing. There is not an itch that he needs scratched, but he is our heavenly father and he loves us with a perfect love.

He knows how we were created because, spoiler alert, he was in on it. He knows that we're wired to always be worshiping something. And so, understanding that, let me ask you, where would a perfectly good and loving God command us to direct our worship? To the one who will fulfill us the most, to the one who will satisfy us the most, to the one who loves us the most, and to the one whom it is most desirable to become like. And that one is Him. God commands us to worship Him only because He is the best, most satisfying, most rewarding, most fulfilling thing in existence. If he commanded us to worship anything less than Him, if he allowed us to worship anything less than Him, he would be allowing us to settle for something inferior and something ultimately empty and something ultimately destructive to us. So out of love for us, the Lord says, Worship me and worship me alone. Would you write this down? Because we are all worshiping something and because we are all becoming like that which we worship, our loving heavenly father commands us to worship that which is best for us.

Him. He commands us to worship that which is best for us. And that's him. The second issue I want to speak to, if you haven't thought about this, the text demands that we ask this question, why was Peter miraculously delivered from prison and execution, but James was not? Why did God save Peter, but not James? Merely weeks apart. We know it's not a question of power. We know God could have saved James, so why didn't he? Of course, this question relates to so many situations unfolding around us today and in many of your lives as well? Why does the cancer clear up for some Christians but not for others? Why do some get a miracle but not all get a miracle? We have limited time together today and there's so much that I could say on this subject. I don't want to give the impression that this subject is smaller than it really is because it touches on some of the most painful times in our lives. But with the time I have, I want to offer a few hopefully helpful thoughts for your consideration. The history of the earth is a mega narrative. It's one big story and in that story, God creates human beings with free will.

He does this because he wants to share himself and his goodness with children. He wants children to bless. He wants children to pour into because he's literally overflowing with goodness. I always make the joke when I share this that no sane person has kids because they think it's going to make their life easier. Nobody says like, Hey, you know what, babe? It's just really been on my heart. What are we going to do with all this spare money that we have? We should have some kids. That's what we should do. Nobody says, I can't help noticing, sweetie, that we've just got so much free time. What are we going to do about this, kids? Let's have some kids. Nobody says, Hey, you know what would make life easier? Let's have some kids. That's why all of us who are sane just cringe when somebody says, Oh, my marriage is in crisis. Maybe having a kid will fix it. We're all thinking, You're out of your mind. You're absolutely crazy. The reason we have kids as people is the same reason that God created us. We get this from Him. We have kids because we want to share our lives and ourselves with them.

We want to bless them. We want to pour into them. We don't need them, but they bring us joy. Why did God create children, human beings with free will? Because he wanted to have a relationship with them that was meaningful. The only really meaningful relationship is the one based on love. Love is not possible apart from free will. For love to have any meaning, it must be a choice. It doesn't mean anything if I program a robot to have affection for me. That's not love. It's programming. It's meaningless. Just as if I were to buy a million robots and program them to like some songs that I wrote, it wouldn't mean anything if I was like, I don't want to brag, but there's like a million people out there who love my music. It would mean absolutely nothing. Why? For one reason. They didn't make a choice. They didn't have free will. There cannot be love apart from free will. God created us with free will sovereignty. Free will not only means giving us the choice of who we love. Here's what's really important. Many of us understand this first part, but not the second.

Free will doesn't just mean that we have a choice to love or not to love. Free will also requires that the natural consequences of our decisions be allowed to unfold. Imagine I tell my son I want him to get into trading stocks because I want him to learn how to make wise decisions. I'm going to trust him and I'm going to respect his decision-making. I'm going to give him $100 to invest and I'll see what he does with it. But also, if he makes any bad decisions, I'm going to swoop in and bail him out. I'm going to add any money that he loses back. I'm going to cancel any trades that he schedules that I know aren't really good bets. Am I respecting his sovereignty? Does he actually have free will to trade as he sees fit? Is he an independent sovereign stock trader? Of course not. Here's my point. Genuine free will requires not only the option to choose, but it also requires the consequences of our choices be allowed to unfold. And that is exactly the world that God gave to Adam and Eve. He gave them a perfect world and he gave them genuine free will.

And in genuine free will, our independent decisions need to be allowed to run their course, including all the consequences. But there's also humanity collectively. Free will requires that humanity's collective choices be allowed to run their course and the consequences be allowed to unfold. So, the things that as humanity, we decide to do actively, the things that we allow, the things we don't stop and intervene in, all of those things must be allowed to cause their natural consequences, or else there's not really free will. And if there's not really free will, there's not really love. God did all of this giving this perfect world to Adam and Eve, entrusting it to them, knowing that what they did with it would have serious consequences one way or the other. God did all that knowing how it would turn out. He knew that Adam and Eve would reject his Lordship over their lives and bring sin into the universe. He knew that. But not only that, the Lord knew that in every hypothetical possible multiverse scenario, in every single one of them, if you create genuine free will, someone will make the wrong choice. Every single time. There's no way to create genuine free will beings without things going sideways.

God knew that. He knew before the world was made that the only way to save humanity after Adam and Eve inevitably messed it up would be for Jesus to come as the son of God in the flesh, the second Adam, and live perfectly. Never rebel against God. Die for the sins of humanity in their place. Be judged for all of them and then rise on their behalf in victory to give them the choice to be part of the family of God. Here's the amazing thing is that God knew before the first atom in our universe was created, he knew what it would cost to create children with genuine free will. He knew the price that would have to be paid, and he did it anyway because God is love. Because God is love. The big story of humanity still includes free will. It still includes the choice of who to love, who to worship. It still includes the natural consequences of our actions. Things like death and sickness and injuries and war are the natural consequences of all of us collectively as the human race, choosing to bring sin into the universe that God handed to us in a perfect, sinless state.

God has a plan that has been in place before the world was made. His plan is perfectly on schedule and His plan is unstoppable. His plan preserves free will but still offers a path into his family through Jesus. As part of that plan, God sometimes does intervene and work miracles in our world. But we don't know all the reasons why he intervenes in one situation and doesn't intervene in another. We just know that his plan is being worked out and his plan is good. We know that he is balancing preserving free will with caring for his children. He's balancing them as only he can because only he is God. I shared last time about the words Jesus spoke to Peter that prophesied that Peter would die as an old man by crucifixion. In John 21, Jesus told Peter, Truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don't want to go. He said this to indicate by what death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, Follow me.

Jesus tells Peter, You're going to die one day for me, Peter. Then he says to him, Follow me. Now, let me just keep reading from John 21. It says, So Peter turned around and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them. If you're not familiar with the Gospel of John, it was written by the Apostle John. In it, hilariously, he repeatedly refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. Peter, after Jesus says this to him, turns around and he sees John right there. It says, When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, Lord, what about him? In other words, what's his destiny? When's he going to die? Is he going to die for you? How is he going to die for you, Jesus? This is why we love Peter. He's just so much like us, so much of the time. Jesus reveals his will for Peter's life. The first thing Peter does is compare his calling to somebody else's, his lot in life to somebody else's. This is huge. Don't miss this. Notice how Jesus responds. If I want him to remain until I come, Jesus answered, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.

Jesus says, Peter, if I want to keep John alive to the second coming, that's none of your business. It's got nothing to do with you. You are to be concerned with what I'm calling you to, and I'm calling you to follow me, knowing that one day it will mean being crucified for me. When you read the Gospels, you'll find that Jesus is very upfront about the cost of following him. The Bible calls us to be prepared to be persecuted, suffer, and die for Jesus. These things may not happen to every believer, but every believer is called to be ready to accept any of those challenges. Every believer is to understand that we belong to Jesus and the part that he calls us to play in his big story is completely up to him. It's completely up to him. The part Jesus had for James ended with him being beheaded by Herod Agrippa. The part Jesus had for Peter ended with him being crucified upside down a couple of decades later. The part Jesus had for John ended with him dying of old age. Play the role God has called you to. Give your life to it.

Do it with all your heart and know that he loves you. Know that he's with you. Know that he's working good for you in every circumstance of life. And never forget this. If any part of you wants to object, never forget this. The part that Jesus wrote for himself included suffering and dying for your sins and mine. Whatever part he wants to write for me, whatever part he wants to write for you, that's his business. I'm just glad to be part of the story. Jesus told his disciples to pray to our heavenly father with this sentiment, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We're to pray for God's will to be done in every situation. I don't know if you realize this, but God's power doesn't increase or decrease based on our prayers. It's not like we pray and God's like, Oh, sweet. A power boost. That's not what happens. Nor can anyone or anything resist His will. He could do whatever He wants. The purpose of praying, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done is to change us. It's to change our hearts, our desires, our thoughts. That happens when we pray for God's will to be done.

It's something we need to do because it does not come naturally, especially in trials. Our natural response in the time of trial is, Just end this. I don't care what your will is. Just save me from this. Just deliver me. Just make the pain stop. Our natural fleshly response in a trial is, My will be done. But following Jesus's Lord, living lives truly submitted to God means praying, Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. Because that prayer will never flow from our natural desires, we need our desires to be changed by the Holy Spirit. That happens through prayer. That happens through praying, Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. Because that prayer will never flow from our natural desires, we need our desires to be changed by the Holy Spirit. That happens through prayer. That happens through praying, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done. If you're in a trial, if you're in a crisis, if you're in a dark valley of the soul right now, pray, Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Would you make a note of this? Praying for God's will to be done in our lives aligns our will with his. We're not trying to align God's will with ours.

We're trying to align our will with God's will. Remember, Jesus knows what you're going through. I don't mean that he knows in the sense that he knows everything. I mean, he knows because he's been through it himself in an infinitely more painful and intense way. On the night Jesus knew that he would be arrested, he pulled away from everybody else and he prayed this prayer, Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. Father, if I can be healed, I want to be healed. If I can be delivered, I want to be delivered. If it can get better, I want it to get better. But if this is your will, Father, if you're doing something through this, or if this is part of your plan for my life or my role in your story, then let your will be done. Let your will be done. Jesus knows, so bring it to him. Bring your fears, bring your anxieties, bring your hurts, bring your struggles because we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. With that, would you bow your head and close your eyes? Worship team, I'll ask you to come up. Jesus, thank you so much for your Word and the way it ministers to us and speaks to us. Lord, we just recognize that from the very early years of the church, the first years, they had to confront this reality that sometimes you do a miracle here, but not over there. Sometimes there's a miracle for this person, but not for that person. They had to come to peace, come to terms with the reality that you're good in every situation equally, that you are doing good here and now and you are doing good for us into eternity. And so, Jesus, I ask that you would make us mature in the faith, mature in our understanding of you. That we would not throw tantrums like young infants in the faith. But that, Lord, we would grow to the point where we are just so overwhelmed with gratitude with what you've done for us already that we are eager and glad to say, Your kingdom come.

Your will be done in my life. Whether that makes my life easier or more difficult. Whatever part you have for me in your story, Jesus, I'm just so glad you put me in your story. I am a character out of place, and yet there I am. I'm in your story. There I am, a son, a daughter in the family of God because of your grace, because you have already done a miracle in my life far exceeding anything else that could ever be done. Because you've already been more good than I could ever possibly thank you for in this lifetime. Lord, I pray that your will would be done in my life. I just want to invite you as we're praying, if there is a situation where you haven't been praying, Lord, your will be done. You've been having the human natural response of God, just make it stop. God, just get me out of this. Would you right now change that prayer to, Lord, if I can be healed, I want to be healed. If I can be delivered, I want to be delivered. But Lord, if you're doing something in this, I'm good with that.

Lord, if this is just part of the part that you have for me in your story, I'm good with that. But then let's also ask, Lord, I pray for anyone in that situation, a situation right now where you're doing something, I pray that you would speak to them and encourage them with that assurance that you are doing something and that that would be enough for us, Lord. We desire that you would be glorified in our lives. We desire that we would use our free will to love you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We desire that you would wrestle from us the parts that we hold on to tightly that we don't even realize we refuse to let go of. You take them, Lord. You take them for your fame and for your glory. Jesus, we love you so much. We're just so glad to belong to you. In your name we pray, Amen. Amen.

back to list