Acts 12:1 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. 3 After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. 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. 7 Suddenly 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. 8 The 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.” 9 Peter 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. 10 After 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. 11 Then 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.”
You’ll remember that, among the 12 disciples of Jesus, there were three who were closest to Jesus and formed the primary group of senior leaders in the early church. They were Peter, James and John (James and John were brothers). Herod was persecuting Christians and went after these leaders, starting with James who was put to death. Next Herod arrested Peter. But instead of becoming a martyr like James, the Lord sent an angel to free Peter from prison – which was great news for sure.
The question that emerges for me in this story is why Peter was spared and James was not? Of course only God knows the answer to that question, but it’s a question I ask anyway. Similar questions emerge for me all the time. Why do some people prosper and others struggle – though they are both persons of faith? Why do some people recover from illness and others die? In many cases there doesn’t seem to be any logic or reason, which can be maddening.
Which of course has a way of sending me to my knees before the Lord, naming the truth that I just don’t understand. Perhaps this is the answer to the “why” question. Not knowing keeps me humble before the Lord. Heavenly Father give me peace in the midst of unanswerable questions. Amen.