The past couple of days we have really focused on Saul/Paul, and for very good reason! Today, we get to highlight another very important figure in the New Testament – Peter. Peter was seen as one of the pillars of this new Christian movement in the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem served as the central hub for the Jews. Therefore, it served as a central hub for the Christians as well, as many of the Jesus followers were simply Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah they had been looking forward to for so long. Peter was instrumental to share this news with other Jews.
In chapter 11, Peter went up to Jerusalem. When he arrived to Jerusalem, he received a lot of flak for eating with and associating with the uncircumcised. Jews were circumcised, as they followed the law of Moses. Therefore, Jews did not want to be seen around those who were uncircumcised, but Peter ate with them regardless. Sounds like Peter learned some lessons from his teacher – Jesus. Peter shared how the uncircumcised Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, so who was he to stand in God’s way?
While Jerusalem was the central hub, we see in chapter 11 that many people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah dispersed because of the persecution. This was quite common as the early Jesus followers received persecution from non-believing Jews and from the Roman Empire. Some of the Jesus followers escaped to Antioch, and it was there that the disciples were first called “Christians”.
In chapter 12, we see more persecution of this Christian movement. This time, the persecution was directed against two key leaders and figures – James and Peter. James (the brother of John, not Jesus) was killed at the hands of the treacherous King Herod. While Herod was at it, he decided to arrest Peter because the Jews were pleased with Herod’s persecution of the Christians. Evil! Herod wasn’t able to persecute the Christians for much longer though, as God struck him down and killed him.
Peter, fortunately, did not spend too much time in prison, as he broke out. God sent an angel of the Lord to help Peter break out. This was a semi-common theme in the New Testament of early Christians breaking out of prison, thanks to God. After breaking out, he was then able to go meet with John, and the mother of John. What an emotional instance that must have been.
Praise God for leaders like Peter and James who were willing to suffer for the sake of God and his Son Jesus. We could see more of this attitude today in 2020. There is certainly much to take away from their relentless attitude of spreading the gospel message.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 11-12
Tomorrow we will continue with Acts 13-14.