Donald Karnes - James and John from Acts 12:2-4

"And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter, also."  This chapter begins with a life consumed upon the Altar of God!  And, it closes with a life laid fresh on the Altar of God!  It also begins with an angel of God freeing Peter from the prison!  And, it ends with an angel of God smiting Herod!  Man proposes, but God disposes!  God can square up accounts in a hurry!


This king was the grandson of Herod the Great that sought to kill Jesus, the son of Herod Antipas who had John the Baptist beheaded.  Knowing how this brought judgment on these kings for their acts, he was more responsible, and thus, judged even more severely.  He got this title as King from Caesar and wasn't at all beloved of the Jews; thus, he sought to buy their favor at the expense of the Church!  Oft in the course of history, rulers sought to procure favor from the crowd by blaming the Christians.  I am stunned at what a supposedly enlightened world will permit: "Because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter, also."


Crime and injustice should never please the public; cheating and economical robbery should never get the votes of the taxpayers!  What is it that reaches toward the inherent meanness and anti-God that riot in people "intending after Easter to bring him forth to Herod the people?"  Herod didn't want to make sport of the holiday: he wanted to butcher Peter and throw him as a bonus sacrifice towards the Jewish altars "because he saw it pleased the Jews."  Herod was mean and evil but smart, and he knew how to get votes!  He pretended that he was the "defender of the Pharisee's faith."  The Church survives because there are men and women like these in this chapter.  Satan can never match them!  There was no competition for Daniel: adversaries, yes, but no competition!  The gates of Hell shall not prevail.  True witnesses are not popular: the Herod's of today want to please the people and thus, the faithful are marked.  It would afford them pleasure to see the disciples humbled or hurt; but don't forget - God knows the combination of every prison!  He can make foolish those who plan the destruction of His Will.


Long, long ago, in an international court, one was heard to utter this word to the King: "The Church is an anvil which has worn out many a hammer" when fresh persecutions were intended.  History is our proof of God's passion for long odds:  David against the giant Goliath - the sling versus the sword; Gideon's three hundred men against the host of Midian; Elijah facing over eight hundred false prophets; and now sixteen soldiers and sentinels to keep an eye on one homeless preacher!  In Herod's estimation, Peter was as good as dead.  He felt he had Peter and his God outnumbered!  Many have made that same mistake.  "But prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."  Herod didn't count on that!  It's quite a contrast to the world's system that depends on muscle.  God's people believe in miracles!  The world fights for their evil ends with politics.  His own battle on their knees with prayers!  When they are taken with the barricades, they take to their knees!  They didn't bother Herod with their petitions, but with their prayers - this invisible Source!  If they cut this connection, they would, like Samson, be just reduced to human strength.  Herod might be a match for us and outnumber us, but he is no match for God!  Men's power cannot divide the Red Sea or shut the lions' mouths!  "When Herod would have brought Peter forth, he could not."  How foolish and ridiculous he had become.  Proud Herod was left with an empty prison cell and beautifully dressed guards!  God sets the bounds and beyond these, none can go!


Deliverance was so fast that Peter thought it was a vision!  "A light shined into the prison…and his chains fell off from his hands."  It was Heaven's visitation!  How quickly light shone in darkness!  God can send light into the darkest circumstances!  Yet, the angel did not do a thing for Peter that he could not do for himself.  The angel awoke him, but Peter had to obey.  Arise!  He couldn't remove the chains; they fell as he stood!  "Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals, cast thy garment about thee and follow me."  These were some of the first words Peter ever heard from Jesus - "Follow Me!"  Here he is hearing it again: the message was simple and he only had to obey. God did the impossible!  Peter never could have found his way out of that prison even had all the bands been loosed.  He could never have opened the Iron Gate, but the angel led him.  He didn't question, but he didn't understand fully either!  He didn't ask for an explanation.  It all became very clear:  trust and obey, there is no other way!  One day, He will send an angel to deliver His own, and in spite of the odds or in the face of defeat, hoping against hope, a Light will shine and the chains will fall and our nakedness will be clothed.  Jesus reaches all the way!


We may question why certain things happen: why it was James and not another?  Was prayer made unto God for James; and if not, why?  God doesn't play favorites! Why was James expendable?  When we voluntarily enlist in His service, we must be willing to serve anywhere and in any way.  Matthew 16:24 are the conditions.  James' exit was so quick, but it wasn't the last of him!  Had it not happened, Herod could never have foolishly proceeded further. Little did he think his days were numbered as Belshazzar's were!  He was provoked to multiply his crimes.  "And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him because he gave not God the glory, and he was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost."  That is not much of an epitaph for a man who, moments before, heard the uproar of applause from the crowd.  "It is the voice of a god and not of a man."  Sacrifice is an investment that produces dividends in His kingdom!  We have the words of Jesus regarding these two sons of Zebedee being fulfilled here!  The mother came with her two sons and fell before Him and He asked what she desired.  Her desire was that one son was to sit on His right and the other on His left in His kingdom!  Jesus didn't rebuff her, but pointed at the conditions:  "Are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink of and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"  They say unto Him, "We are able."  Jesus told them that day they would indeed "drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism, etc., but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father." Those that reign with Him must suffer with Him.