That's when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members.
He murdered James, John's brother.
When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter - all this during Passover Week, mind you -
and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.
All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.
Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances!
Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: "Hurry!" The handcuffs fell off his wrists.
The angel said, "Get dressed. Put on your shoes." Peter did it. Then, "Grab your coat and let's get out of here."
Peter followed him, but didn't believe it was really an angel - he thought he was dreaming.
Past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate that led into the city. It swung open before them on its own, and they were out on the street, free as the breeze. At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way.
That's when Peter realized it was no dream. "I can't believe it - this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to."
Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary's house, the Mary who was John Mark's mother. The house was packed with praying friends.
When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was.
But when she recognized his voice - Peter's voice! - she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.
But they wouldn't believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. "You're crazy," they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn't believe her and said, "It must be his angel."
All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.
Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, "Tell James and the brothers what's happened." He left them and went off to another place.
At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. "Where is Peter? What's happened to Peter?"
When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: "Off with their heads!" Fed up with Judea and Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.
But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod's right-hand man, to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn't afford to let this go on too long.
On the day set for their meeting, Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled them with a lot of hot air.
The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries: "The voice of God! The voice of God!"
That was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod's arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died.
Meanwhile, the ministry of God's Word grew by leaps and bounds.
Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)