I. NOW ABOUT THAT TIME HEROD THE KING STRETCHED FORTH [HIS] HANDS TO VEX CERTAIN OF THE CHURCH.
A. This was Herod Agrippa the first, a grandson of Herod the Great.
1. His father Aristoboulos was one of the sons murdered by Herod the Great.
2. He was a nephew of Herod Antipas, the one who ordered the death of John the Baptist.
3. He was the father of Herod Agrippa, II, before whom Paul appeared in chapter 26.
B. Herod Agrippa of this chapter was a direct descendant of the Maccabees through his mother Mariamne. He had been educated at Rome, but developed a good relationship with the Jews by his attempts to keep the law and Jewish observances. He was popular with the Jews, and no doubt, is his desire to carry even further favor with them that he began an attempt to destroy the church by wiping out the leadership.
C. The certain of the church seems to refer to the leadership.
1. No doubt he felt that if he could destroy the leadership, the whole movement would just disappear.
II. HE KILLED JAMES THE BROTHER OF JOHN WITH THE SWORD.
A. He says the brother of John, to identify him from the other two James in the gospels and Acts.
1. In the listings of the disciples there is James the son of Alphaeus.
2. We also read in the list of the brothers of Jesus a James. This is the James that we find taking a leading role in the church in chapter 15.
B. James and John are called the sons of thunder by Jesus.
1. They were actually the sons of Zebedee.
2. He was with Jesus on special occasions.
a. The raising of the daughter of Jarius from the dead.
b. On the Mount of Transfiguration.
c. With the three disciples who were brought closer to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
C. The mother of James and John requested that Jesus allow one of her sons to sit at His right hand and the other at His left, when He came into His kingdom.
1. Jesus questioned if they were able to drink of the cup that He was to drink of, and they immediately declared that they were.
2. Jesus said that they indeed would drink of that cup, but the honor as to who would sit on the right hand and left was something that the Father would bestow.
3. James has now fulfilled that prophecy of Jesus as he is put to death by the order of Herod Agrippa.
D. One of the early church fathers tells us that the man that had accused him repented when he saw the apostles' extraordinary courage and undauntedness and fell at his feet and asked forgiveness, and professed his desire to be a Christian. He was determined that James should not die alone. James reportedly said to him, "Peace be to thee," and kissed him, so they were both beheaded at the same time.
E. He killed him with the sword.
1. The Jews had four methods of capital punishment.
2. Killing by the sword or beheading was reserved, according to the Talmud, for anyone who drew a person away to strange worship.
III. BECAUSE HE SAW THAT IT PLEASED THE JEWS, HE PROCEEDED FURTHER.
A. Not from a sense of right.
B. Not to enforce justice.
C. Not to protect the innocent.
D. His motives seemed to be political, he desired to please his constituency.
1. It is a sad thing when a man will compromise on his convictions, in order to gain a political advantage.
2. Unfortunately, we often see this when a Christian is running for office.
E. It is a dangerous thing when a person devotes himself to be a manpleaser.
1. Paul said that if he sought to please all men, he would not be a servant of Christ.
2. He warned the servants not to be menpleasers.
3. It so often leads to a compromise of our own convictions.
F. So Agrippa proceeded to take Peter also.
1. Peter was one of the most prominent leaders of the church at this time, and he no doubt had purposed to have him killed also.
2. There is the mention that these were the days of unleavened bread.
a. This is the seven days that followed the Passover feast, known as the feast of unleavened bread, but was closely related to the Passover feast.
b. He no doubt was planning on waiting till the feast was over, then have Peter executed.
c. This was about 10 years after Jesus was crucified, for the most part, the apostles were still assembled in Jerusalem.
d. It is thought that this time of persecution had as an effect the scattering of the apostles to various parts of the world.
IV. WHEN HE HAD ARRESTED PETER, HE PUT HIM IN PRISON WITH FOUR QUATERNIONS OF SOLDIERS TO GUARD HIM.
A. A quaternion is four, so there was a total of 16 soldiers who were guarding Peter.
1. The day was divided into four parts so that every eight hours, a fresh quaternion of soldiers would take over the duty of guarding Peter.
2. He was intending after the Passover feast to bring him before the people.
a. He was going to make this a real public display.
b. The King James translation of the word Pascha as Easter is a sad mistake.
c. The pascha is a reference to the Passover feast of unleavened bread.
3. The word Easter does not have a biblical origin, but actually a pagan origin.
a. At the time of the Spring equinox, the pagans had a celebration for the new life that was evidenced in nature.
b. It was a celebration dedicated to Ashtarte who was the Babylonian Semiramus, or the Roman Venus, or the Greek Aphrodite, the goddesses of fertility.
c. The holiday was Christianized by the Roman church and the name changed to Easter.
d. The whole carnival, followed by lent that led up to the celebration were all of pagan origin, the colored eggs, and hot cross buns were all of pagan origin. In fact, Jeremiah spoke out against the Jews observing this pagan holiday.
The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead [their] dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
e. The church of England had adopted much of Romanism, the religious holidays with the names, so at the time of the translation of the King James Bible they chose to prefer the word Easter, for by that time it was a common church holiday.
4. Easter and Passover do not always come at the same time.
a. The Passover takes place on the 14th day after the first new moon of spring.
b. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring.
V. PETER THEREFORE WAS KEPT IN PRISON, BUT PRAYER WAS MADE WITHOUT CEASING OF THE CHURCH FOR HIM.
A. This arrest of Peter caused the church to wake up to the present realities of the dangers they were facing.
1. I often wonder what it will take to wake the church up today to the realities that we face in these days.
2. We are living in desperate days, but the problem is that the church is not desperate in prayer before God.
3. It seems that even though we are on the verge of hearing the cry, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh." That we are slumbering and sleeping."
B. The word for without ceasing is the Greek word ekthenees which means earnest or fervently.
1. The word is used only one other place in the New Testament, in 1Pe. 1:22
, where Peter exhorts that we love one another with a pure heart fervently.
And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
A. Peter was chained to two soldiers. There was a soldier on either side of him and two soldiers guarding the doors at all times.
B. The indication is that Herod was planning on his trial the next day.
1. The time had run out for Peter.
2. What is Peter doing?
a. He was sleeping.
b. He seemed to be good at that.
c. This says something to me about the faith and commitment of Peter.
d. The fact that he could sleep at a time like this shows his utmost commitment to the will of the Lord.