Chapter 12 starts with a shock. Persecution, which up to this point had been carried out by Temple officials, has now become official government policy. And it has claimed a victim: James, the brother of John, one of the original twelve disciples.
As the church continues to expand throughout the book of Acts, so too does persecution. Why was the early church persecuted every step of the way? No doubt because it actually accomplished the job it was created to do: it made disciples, it changed lives, and as it did so, it frightened those in power. The Gospel - the real, transformative, good-news-from-beyond-reality that transforms people from the inside out - is revolutionary. As Jesus predicted, the world hates it, because its very purpose is to do away with the world as it exists before.
It is worth remembering that Jesus did not promise His followers that our lives would be easy or problem free. In fact, He assured us that “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows...” (John 16:33 NLT) That’s in part because, prior to His return, this world is still broken by sin. It is still run by rules designed by flawed people; disease and death still ravage it. But it is also because we, as His followers, don’t fit in here. This world - at least the way it is now - is not our home. It is a house that has been condemned, and we are the construction crew. We should not be surprised if the house doesn’t appreciate our efforts.
Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison reminds us of the second part of Jesus’ message about relations between His Kingdom and the world: “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) The world may resist, but our Lord will be victorious. He was when it nailed Him to a cross, and again when Peter was locked in prison. He will be when you suffer setback and sorrow as well.
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