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Joy and Anger

Acts 12:16-19
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. 'Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this'’ he said, and then he left for another place. In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. (NIVUK)

Having walked out of a closely guarded cell, escorted by an angel in the early hours of the morning (Acts 12:5-10), Peter made his way quickly to the large house in Jerusalem where the church often met. Initially, Rhoda the servant girl who heard Peter knocking did not open the outer door, presumably for security reasons, but joyfully reported that he was outside.

However, the church was busy praying and did not believe her (Acts 12:12-15). Eventually they heard Peter's persistent knocking and were shocked to find that the Lord had indeed answered their prayer. Peter knew that soldiers would soon be looking for him, a high-profile escapee; so having quickly told the believers what had happened, he went off to another more secure hiding place.

The joy of the church was sharply contrasted by the intense anger of the prison governor and King Herod himself. Despite careful searching, presumably house-to-house and in public places, Peter was not found; and so Herod's plan, to gain popular support by executing the apostle, was thwarted. He probably felt very frustrated and in his anger resolved that the blame be placed on the guards he considered to be incompetent. They were executed to satisfy his raging ego.

Jesus came to bring joy, but some people think they know better in their search for personal security, significance and self-worth. Herod had the power, or so he thought (Acts 12:23) to turn his frustration into legal aggression. Many others simply resent Jesus and His people with a bitter frustration which sometimes boils over into persecution. We should not be surprised; Jesus told us that would happen (John 15:18-21), proving that they do not know God, whatever they claim. Jesus did not pray that we should be isolated from the world but that we would be protected from the Evil One (John 17:14-15). It seems strange that believers can be joyful while the world hates them. Looking towards Jesus, that was Stephen's experience (Acts 6:15): it can be yours too.

God of all righteousness. Thank You for giving joy to your servants in the face of persecution. However, I confess that I have not always reacted well to the anger of others when they turn against me because I trust in Jesus. Please keep me from Satan's temptation to copy their anger and seek revenge, but help me to welcome Your Holy Spirit's inspiration to see Jesus, the Man of Sorrows in the Scriptures, and choose to be like Him because I love Him. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams