Remember God Has Rescued You

April 18, 2021

Pastor John Hering

Acts 12:1-19

Acts 12:1-19

At about that time, King Herod laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter during the days of Unleavened Bread.

After arresting Peter, Herod put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. Herod intended to bring him before the people for trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church earnestly offered up prayer to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out for trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers. He was bound with two chains, while sentries were in front of the door, guarding the prison.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood near him, and a light shone in the cell. The angel woke Peter up by striking him on the side, saying, “Quick, get up!” The chains fell from his wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” So he did so. Then the angel told him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” Peter went out, following the angel, but he did not realize that what the angel was doing was really happening. He thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed through the first and second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city. It opened all by itself for them. They went outside, walked down one street, and immediately the angel left him.

11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.”

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who is also called Mark. Many had gathered there and were praying. 13 When Peter knocked at the entrance gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice and was so overjoyed, she did not open the gate. Instead she ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.

15 They told her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept on insisting it was so, and they started saying, “It’s his angel.”

16 Meanwhile, Peter kept on knocking. When they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned to them with his hand to be silent and described to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. He said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he left and went on to another place.

18 At daybreak, there was no small commotion among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod searched for him and did not find him, he questioned the guards and ordered that they be executed.

The helicopter pilot was fighting the high winds trying to keep the chopper steady as the rescue basket was lowered while waves were swamping the boat.  Would they be able to rescue the sailors?  Or Rescue 51 pulls up to the car that is balancing on the edge of the cliff, teetering back and forth with the passed out passenger bleeding from his head.  Engine 51 pulls up as the firefighters jump out with ropes and begin to tie them to the bumper of the Engine and to the car was rocks are falling away under the car.  Will they secure the car in time?  Rescue stories keep us on the edge of our seats.  But, I don’t really remember the names of the people in the boat or the car.  But, if was waiting to be rescued in a sinking boat, or teetering on the edge of a cliff in a car I think I’d remember the names of the rescuers!  Wouldn’t you?

Last week we talked about our rescue the Resurrected Lord Jesus gave to his Church.  Today in Acts 12 we see the rescue of Jesus at work in the lives of three people.  And we can take home some important lessons so that we can also live joy-filled lives when we

Remember God Has Rescued You

An Unexpected Rescue

He wasn’t taunting the authorities trying to get himself into trouble.   In fact, the events of Acts 12 happened several years after Peter had left the hotbed of hatred of Christians in Jerusalem and did some evangelism work along the coastal towns.  But, Peter was back and continued to share the Good News about Jesus death and resurrection, about repentance and forgiveness, about grace and love with no particular threats from the Sanhedrin.  Not this time.  No, this time it was King Herod.  This Herod is the grandson of the Herod that killed all the babies in Bethlehem.  But, this Herod also had a heart that was as ruthless, rotten and empty as his grandfather.  He was set up as the ruler in Jerusalem and the locals didn’t like him a bit.  At about that time, King Herod laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter during the days of Unleavened Bread.  If the leaders didn’t like Herod, they hated Jesus and his disciples even more.  So, Herod’s little plan to gain some favor with the locals was gaining traction at the expense of murdering Christians.  Peter was caught and jailed.  And if you were with him what would you be thinking?  “Well, this is it.  There’s no escaping this time!” because After arresting Peter, Herod put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him.  Here’s the facts:  There’s tight security.  One of your best friends was just put to death for proclaiming Jesus.  There’s a blood thirsty King just waiting for the Passover to be finished so he can toss your carcass to the crazy crowd.  If I were with Peter that night I’d be tossing and turning, rattling the chains attached to two soldiers and wondering what it would feel like to die.

But, The very night before Herod was going to bring him out for trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers. He was bound with two chains, while sentries were in front of the door, guarding the prison.  Peter was sleeping like a baby!  He was probably in stage three REM sleep when the miracle happened. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood near him, and a light shone in the cell. The angel woke Peter up by striking him on the side, saying, “Quick, get up!” The chains fell from his wrists. Then the angel said to him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” So he did so. Then the angel told him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” Peter went out, following the angel, but he did not realize that what the angel was doing was really happening. He thought he was seeing a vision.  10 When they had passed through the first and second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city. It opened all by itself for them. They went outside, walked down one street, and immediately the angel left him.  11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.  It was a lightbulb moment!  A totally unexpected rescue just happened!  Praise God!

Do you know anybody who’s been in jail?  Actually I visited with him this morning…..while I was brushing my teeth.  He was looking back at me through the mirror.  The jail I’ve been in, I’ve been in since I was born.  No, my parents weren’t married in a jail 70 years ago and had me 58 years ago.  But, they did pass on to me the chains of sin linked to my hands and feet, my head and my heart.  I was chained to the devil.   The older I got the more obvious my being chained to sin became.  It started out by showing my selfishness when playing toys with others kids, then riding my bicycle too far from home where I couldn’t hear my dad’s whistle to come home, then playing with matches in the woods, then off to high school and freedom from my parent’s rule (or as they thought, freedom from our naughty child), then off to college and I’d be ashamed to tell you what that was like, but I have trouble remembering many of those Friday and Saturday nights in a town that was famous for having more bars per capita than any other town in Wisconsin.  The older I get the more obvious my weaknesses and failures have become.  The temptation to think I’m in control instead of God.  The confession of sins at the beginning of worship have become more personal and real to me because I need rescuing!  How about you?

But, thanks be to God for the light bulb moments when we’re chained to the dark streets of our mind and God taps us on the shoulder with his Word and says, “Get up!”  I sent Jesus to free you from the chains of sin.  You are a Rescued Sinner!  How about that!  You and me so undeserved, so unexpected.  God’s Rescue is

Such An Inspiring Rescue

While all this is going on with Peter, something else was happening to God’s people through this whole ordeal.  12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who is also called Mark. Many had gathered there and were praying.  13 When Peter knocked at the entrance gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice and was so overjoyed, she did not open the gate. Instead she ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.  God’s people were praying!  “Shhh!  Someone’s knocking at the door!  Maybe it is Herod’s soldiers looking for more people to throw into jail!”  Then the simple sentence: Rhoda came to answer.”  Who do you see?  A servant of a bunch of mean Christians who sent her to answer?  A servant with heart pounding as asks through the door, “Who is it?”  Obviously she knew him, for she recognized his voice.  If Rhoda knew Peter’s voice, do you think she knew Jesus’ voice, too?  Don’t you think if she knew Peter she heard of Jesus who died, rose and ascended into heaven as the King of kings?  I think she was inspired by God’s great rescue to do a very brave thing—answer the door!  And hearing Peter’s voice on the other side inspired her even more to run and tell the others of Peter’s rescue from prison.  This underscored her faith in God who rescue her, and you, and me from the prison of hell!

There are plenty of people who have stories to tell about being rescued.  Maybe it was a chopper that flew you to the emergency room.  Maybe it was being in a terrible car crash.  Maybe it was being rescued from cancer, or danger or even a brush with death.  I know there are people here with inspiring stories of being rescued because I’m looking at you.  It’s your story and my story.  You know what it’s like to be here on Good Friday and then on Easter.  I see it in your faces because you can’t wait for worship to begin—not just for the glorious organ music, trumpet and Praise Ensemble and roof-raising voices.  But, for the chance to tell each other, “He is Risen!  He is Risen, Indeed!”  Because Christ is risen God has rescued us!  It’s an inspiring rescue story that never gets old.  It’s about you and me.  God’s Unexpected Rescue saved you and me!  God’s Inspiring Rescue is

An Enduring Rescue

 The days and weeks right after Holy Week are filled with accounts of shock.  Jesus was crucified.  Jesus rose.  Christians were persecuted.  There was genuine fear among God’s people.  Even after Pentecost the attacks against Christianity didn’t stop.  Disciples thrown into prison.  Stephen stoned to death.  Luke records this, Saul agreed with putting Stephen to death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1).  Now the heat was being turned up on Jesus’ apostles!  [Herod] had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.  James and John were there with Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration.  They were there with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus was praying.  Saw Jesus hanging on the cross from a distance.  They were in the upper room when the risen Lord appeared.  They were there was Jesus ascended into heaven.  They were there on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them with strength and courage in the gospel.  So, what do you think was running through James’ mind with his head on the chopping block?  How about this.  “God’s Enduring Rescue is for me even if Herod’s sword ends by life.  For I saw Jesus dead and rise again.  He promised to do the same for me.  My life is in God’s hands and I will live with him in heaven.”  Chop! 

I don’t expect to have my head on a chopping block any time soon.  However, I have met tons of people who say, “Pastor, don’t you think we’re in the end times?”  Yes, we are.  It isn’t just pressure around us that is no longer tolerant of Christian values.  It isn’t just the disrespect for God’s holy Word and godly virtues.  It isn’t even just the political pressure that is being considered to tell us what we have to believe even if it goes against God’s Word.  When we study the Bible we shouldn’t be surprised for God’s Word says it’s going to get worse and worse.  When the local news reports on what Ramadan is all about, but failed to the report to the world what Christmas was all about?  How will we react if the day comes that we are arrested for standing up for what God’s Word says?  How will we endure?  Here’s how!  Just like Peter, Rhoda, James and the Christians praying together we will cling to the enduring message, “God Has Rescued Me!”  May the confession of St Paul (who used to be called Saul) be our confession to the end, Indeed, if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).   

Let us always “Remember God Has Rescued you.”  This was the message that inspired the early Church, has supported the Church down through history, and will endure until the end. 16 Meanwhile, Peter kept on knocking. When they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned to them with his hand to be silent and described to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. He said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he left and went on to another place.  18 At daybreak, there was no small commotion among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod searched for him and did not find him, he questioned the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Sadly, there was no rescue story for the soldiers who were unjustly executed.  Rescue stories about Choppers and Fire-rescues will keep your attention for a while.  But, unless the rescue happens to you, you probably won’t remember their names.  However, the rescue that remains with you is the one Peter talked about and shared with others.  It is the rescue of your soul by Jesus.  The risen Lord Jesus guarantees that God Has Rescued You!  Believe it.  Remember it.  Live it!  Amen!

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