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Where do I see Jesus in this passage?

Jail Blog

Scripture passage: Acts 12:1-25

          Acts chapter 12 is a roller coaster of emotions.  It starts off on a low note, with the martyring of James (the brother of John) and the arrest (and apparently immanent death) of Peter, but then quickly swings completely the other way with Peter's miraculous rescue from prison.  Finally, it closes with the death of Herod Agrippa.  In 25 verses, you go from anger over the persecution of Christians, to sadness over the death of James and the plight of Peter, to optimism in the faithful prayers of the church, to joyful celebration over God's rescue of Peter, back to anger at the pride of Herod, and finally to holy fear of God's judgment when he finally "gets what he deserved."

          With all of these different thoughts and feelings swirling around, it can be hard to understand what we should take away from these passages.  How does Acts chapter 12 point us to Jesus?  That's the question we always want to answer when we engage with scripture, "Where do I see Jesus in this passage?"  I believe underneath all of the emotions of the narrative in this chapter, we can see Jesus in a few distinct ways.

#1 - Jesus is the sovereign king of the universe
          One of the greatest stumbling blocks to believers and non-believers alike is the problem of evil and suffering.  Everyone knows there is something wrong with the world; that the violence and pain inflicted amongst humanity isn't the way things are meant to be.  When bad things happen, especially when they happen to "good" people, we all struggle to understand, if there is indeed a God who is in control, how these things, in a sense, "slipped by him."  But Acts chapter 12 reminds us that Jesus is in control and he does have a plan and a purpose in all things, and for all people.  The story of James ends here, but Peter's story wasn't finished yet.  Both men, one in death and one in life, were fulfilling the plan and the purpose that Jesus had for them in the work of his kingdom.

#2 - Jesus is of supreme worth
          The blood of martyrs always proclaims the supremacy of Christ.  Ask ten people, and ten times out of ten, the list of things they would be willing to give their own life for will always be a short one.  For most it would include a spouse, children, or other loved ones.  Soldiers and first responders often put their lives in danger to protect their country or to help save others.  In any case, no one is willing to die for something frivolous or superficial.  This is nowhere more true than in the case of those who lose their lives for their faith.  Throughout the history of the Church, a multitude of Christians have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  The Apostle Paul, who himself gave his life for Christ, captures the heart behind this unwavering willingness to die for what we believe as Christians.  In Philippians 3:8 he writes, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ."  Only a deep affection for Jesus as Lord and Savior can motivate a person to give up everything, even their own life, to follow after him in obedience.

#3 - Jesus is the author of grace and justice
          To say that the Gospel of Jesus is a message of hope rooted in grace is undoubtedly a drastic understatement.  Jesus constantly offered grace to those who repented and believed upon him for salvation.  In Luke chapter 4, when Jesus read scripture in the temple, it was Isaiah 61:1-2 that he proclaimed was fulfilled in him  That passage reads:

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor..."

          In Acts chapter 12, we see Jesus quite literally opening the prison of the captive Peter.  But that passage in Isaiah 61:2 goes on to say more.  The end of the verse says, "...and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."  While we love to celebrate the grace of Jesus, we mustn't be quick to forget that the Bible also proclaims Christ as the judge of both the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).  In Acts chapter 12, we celebrate the grace of Christ in saving Peter, but we also recognize his righteous wrath upon the wickedness of Herod.

All of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation is the story of Jesus.  We have to be willing to constantly seek to find him there.

In Grace,
Chris Morris

If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

Part 27 - James Killed, Peter Imprisoned

Questions discussed in this sermon:

1.  What is the church to do in the midst of persecution?
2.  Where is God in the midst of persecution?
3.  How does Acts chapter 12 give us hope for today?

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