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Around this time, King Herod wanted to make trouble for the Church, so he arrested James (John’s brother) and killed him. So James was the first of the 12 special messengers to graduate to Paradise. (I bet he was excited about that.)
But it wasn’t an easy time for the rest of God’s Family. Herod could see that the people who did NOT believe in Jesus were glad that he’d killed James, so Herod grabbed Peter next, hoping to kill him too!
Herod put Peter in prison with 16 soldiers guarding him. He was bound with two chains, with a guard on both sides of him and more guards just outside his cell. (That’s a lot of guarding for one guy, huh?)
But all of the believers were reallllly praying for Peter while he was in prison. Night and day they prayed and kept on praying.
The night before Peter was supposed to go to trial (where he no doubt would have been sentenced to death), Peter was asleep in his prison cell. Suddenly there was a bright light shining in the room, and an angel appeared inside the locked-up-tight cell. The angel popped Peter on the side to wake him up. “Hey, quick! Get up.” Right then the chains just fell off Peter’s wrists. Clank! His hands were free! “Get dressed and put your shoes on.” So Peter did. “And put on your coat too and follow me.”
This is very amusing to me. The angel popped him to tell him to hurry and wake up… but then told him to take the time to put on his shoes and coat. Why? Was that really so important? What would that matter? I’m not really sure. But it’s a fun, little reminder of calm trust, poise, and orderliness. Maybe you can remember that the next time an adult is reminding you to take the time to put on your coat and shoes. If Peter had time to do it during a prison breakout (with no talking back to the angel, I might add), then you probably have time, too. Don’t ya think?
Peter followed the angel, but he thought he was seeing a vision or a dream or something. He passed by two whole sets of guards, but no one paid him any attention. And when they got to the last iron gate, the gate just cracked opened all by itself, and they walked right on through.
Peter followed the angel down one more street, and then — POOF! — the angel disappeared.
That was when Peter finally realized he wasn’t dreaming — he really WAS out of the prison. He said, “Jesus sent His angel to save me from what the evil men were going to try to do!”
Even though it was the middle of the night, Peter knew just where to go to find God’s Family. And sure enough… many believers were at the house that belonged to a woman named Mary (she was also known as John Mark’s mother).
Knock, knock, knock, knock. When Peter knocked on the door, a girl named Rhoda came to answer.
“Hey, it’s me,” Peter said.
When Rhoda heard Peter’s voice on the other side of the door, she realized, “It’s Peter! It’s Peter!”
She was so crazy-happy that she totally forgot to actually open the door and let Peter in. Instead she ran to where everyone was praying and said, “Peter’s at the door! Peter — he’s at the door!” When the others heard this, they didn’t believe her at first, but she kept saying, “It’s Peter, I know it’s him.”
Meanwhile… Peter was still waiting for somebody to let him in. Finally when they did open the door for him, they couldn’t believe their eyes. It really was Peter, safe and sound!
As you can imagine, everyone started to get a little crazy-happy then. Peter motioned to them — “Shhh, shhh we mustn’t be too loud.”
So they quieted down and listened as Peter told them the whole story of how Jesus had gotten him out of prison.
The next morning there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had happened to Peter. “Where did he go?! We never left our post! WHERE is he?”
They had no idea what had happened to him.
Herod ordered a search, but they didn’t find Peter.
God’s angel struck Herod down not too long after that… because he was being so evil and prideful.
But God’s word kept on increasing and multiplying.