Acts 12:18-19 (NIV)
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. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while.
The guards knew nothing about Peter’s escape until the officers came to fetch him for execution. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they saw it all: the empty bench where Peter should have been lying or sitting, the chains dangling from their own wrists onto the floor. And they all panicked.
The officers couldn’t believe it. While these were not Roman soldiers, but royal guards, they were just as diligent, and their lives depended just as much on the faithful carrying out of their duties. No one could say what had happened. The inside guards swore that they had been alert the whole night, positive that Peter had been chained between them until the very moment that the officers had entered the cell. Those stationed at the door swore that it had been an absolutely quiet night, with no one going in or out. All the doors were still locked, and there was no sign of forced entry.
Herod himself determined to look into the matter as soon as he heard that Peter was gone. To the horror of everyone in the prison, he showed up in person within the hour to conduct a personal search and to interrogate the guards. The escape of such an important prisoner and the complete trashing of his plans was a great political loss for him and smelled to him like betrayal and treason.
He had every cell in the jail searched, every corner looked into for the slightest trace of Peter. When that turned up nothing, he interrogated the guards. The prisoner had escaped without a trace, but they were sure that they had all been vigilant all night. Those chained to the prisoner were positive that he had been right there between them all night long – until they suddenly noticed that he wasn’t!
Herod was not willing to even consider a supernatural explanation for this – his mind was closed to that. So, the only other possibility was treason among the guards, maybe even the start of a coup! So, he immediately commanded that all the guards on duty be executed at once. And he retreated to his palace in Caesarea to lick his wounds and to figure out what to do next.
Father, it’s amazing how easy it is to misunderstand basic facts when your mind is closed to supernatural explanations. The simplest most straightforward answer (in this case, that Peter had been taken out of his prison cell through Your direct intervention) is not even considered or is immediately discounted. But the fact is, You do work supernaturally in our world to rescue Your people, to move hearts and minds, to save souls. And if we’re not willing to acknowledge that, we will always have to work around the facts in our minds and come up with a far less satisfactory (and completely untrue) explanation of what we are seeing. Lord, help us today to not only keep our eyes open to Your hand working in the world, but to also point it out to all those around us, so that Your glory might be more widely seen and appreciated. Amen.
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