Acts 12:11
And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
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(11) When Peter was come to himself.—Here again we find the tone of a personal reminiscence. He finds himself at night, free, in the open street. It was no dream. As before (Acts 5:19), his Master had sent His angel to deliver him.



Acts 12:11

Where did Luke get his information of Peter’s thoughts in that hour? This verse sounds like first-hand knowledge. Not impossibly John Mark may have been his informant, for we know that both were in Rome together at a later period. In any case, it is clear that, through whatever channels this piece of minute knowledge reached Luke, it must have come originally from Peter himself. And what a touch of naturalness and evident truth it is! No wonder that the Apostle was half dazed as he came from his dungeon, through the prison corridors and out into the street. To be wakened by an angel, and to have such following experiences, would amaze most men.

I. The bewilderment of the released captive.

God’s mercies often come suddenly, and with a rush and a completeness that outrun our expectations and our power of immediate comprehension. And sometimes He sends us sorrows in such battalions and so overwhelming that we are dazed for the moment. A Psalmist touched a deep experience when he sang, ‘When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like unto them that dream.’

The angel has to be gone before we are sure that he was really here. The tumult of emotion in an experience needs to be calmed down before we understand the experience. Reflection discovers more of heaven and of God in the great moments of our lives than was visible to us while we were living through them,

There is one region in which this is especially true-that of the religious life. There sometimes attend its beginnings in a soul a certain excitement and perturbation which disable from calm realising of the greatness of the change which has passed. And it is well when that excitement is quieted down and succeeded by meditative reflection on the treasures that have been poured into the lap, almost as in the dark. No man understands what he has received when he first receives Christ and Christ’s gifts. It occupies a lifetime to take possession of that which we possess from the first in Him, and the oldest saint is as far from full possession of the unspeakable and infinite ‘gift of God,’ as the babes in Christ are.

But, looking more generally at this characteristic of not rightly understanding the great epochs of our lives till they are past, we may note that, while in part it is inevitable and natural, there is an element of fault in it. If we lived in closer fellowship with God, we should live in an atmosphere of continual calm, and nothing, either sorrowful or joyful, would be able so to sweep us off our feet that we should be bewildered by it. Astonishment would never so fill our souls as that we could not rightly appraise events, nor should we need any time, even in the thick of the most wonderful experiences, to ‘come to’ ourselves and discern the angel.

But if it be so that our lives disclose their meanings best, when we look back on them, how much of the understanding of them, and the drawing of all its sweetness out of each event in them, is entrusted to memory! And how negligent of a great means of happiness and strength we are, if we do not often muse on ‘all the way by which God the Lord has led us these many years in the wilderness’! It is needful for Christian progress to ‘forget the things that are behind,’ and not to let them limit our expectations nor prescribe our methods, but it is quite as needful to remember our past, or rather God’s past with us, in order to confirm our grateful faith and enlarge our boundless hope.

II. The disappearance of the angel.

Why did he leave Peter standing there, half dazed and with his deliverance incomplete? He ‘led him through one street’ only, and ‘straightway departed from him.’ The Apostle delivered by miracle has now to use his brains. One distinguishing characteristic of New Testament miracles is their economy of miraculous power. Jesus raised Lazarus, for He alone could do that, but other hands must ‘loose him and let him go,’ He gave life to Jairus’s little daughter, but He bid others ‘give her something to eat’ God does nothing for us that we can do for ourselves. That economy was valuable as a preservative of the Apostles from the possible danger of expecting or relying on miracles, and as stirring them to use their own energies. Reliance on divine power should not lead us to neglect ordinary means. Alike in the natural and in the spiritual life we have to do our part, and to be sure that God will do His.

III. The symbol here of a greater deliverance.

Fancy may legitimately employ this story as setting forth for us under a lovely image the facts of Christian death, if only we acknowledge that such a use is entirely the work of fancy. But, making that acknowledgment, may we not make the use? Is not Death, too, God’s messenger to souls that love Him, ‘mighty and beauteous, though his face be hid’? Would it not be more Christian-like, and more congruous with our eternal hope, if we pictured him thus than by the hideous emblems of our cemeteries and tombs? He comes to Christ’s servants, and his touch is gentle though his fingers are icy-cold. He removes only the chains that bind us, and we ourselves are emancipated by his touch. He leads us to ‘the iron gate that leadeth into the city,’ and it opens to us ‘of its own accord.’ But he disappears as soon as our happy feet have touched the pavement of that street of the city which is ‘pure gold, as transparent as glass,’ and in the midst of which flows the river of the crystal-bright ‘water of life proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.’ Then, when we see the Face as of the sun shining in his strength, we shall come to ourselves, and ‘know of a surety that the Lord hath sent His angel and delivered’ us from all our foes and ills for evermore.

Acts 12:11-15. When Peter was come to himself — And perceived that the extraordinary things which had been shown him were not visionary representations, but real facts; and when he saw where he was; he said, Now know I of a surety, that the Lord — In whose cause I was upon the point of suffering; hath sent his angel, and delivered me — As he formerly did, Acts 5:19. I know that my deliverance is real and effectual; out of the hand of Herod — Who not only intended my destruction, but thought he had taken effectual measures assuredly to accomplish it; and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews — Who, notwithstanding the many beneficial miracles I have wrought among them, were thirsting for my blood, and waiting impatiently to see me executed. And when he had considered the thing — How imminent his danger was, and how great his deliverance, and now what was best to be done; he came to the house of Mary — A friend’s house, which, it is likely, was near, and where many, even then, though it was midnight; were gathered together, praying — Doubtless, for his deliverance; God thus answering them while they were yet speaking, and bringing him, for whom they were so much concerned, to the very house in which they were assembled, praying for his release. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate — Of an outer gate at some distance from the house, designing, it seems, to awaken them out of sleep; a damsel came to hearken — Whether any one knocked, and if so, not to open the door till she knew who was there, a friend or foe, and what his business was at that unseasonable time of the night. This damsel was probably a Christian, and even of some note in the church, as her name is mentioned, and more zealously affected toward the cause of Christ than the generality of her age. And when she knew Peter’s voice — Having probably often heard him pray, preach, and discourse; she opened not the gate for gladness — Through surprise and an ecstasy of joy. Thus, sometimes, in a transport of affection toward our friends, we do what is unkind to them; but ran in — Instantly, to the company that were assembled in the house; and told that Peter stood before the gate — As she certainly believed, though she had not had courage or presence of mind to open the gate. And they said, Thou art mad — Surely thou art out of thy senses, to imagine so incredible and impossible a thing, for Peter is undoubtedly in prison, strongly guarded. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so — Persisted in it, that she was sure she had heard his voice. Then said they, It is his angel — His guardian angel, who has assumed his form, and imitates his voice, to bring us some tidings of him. It was a common opinion among the Jews, that every man had his particular guardian angel, who frequently assumed both his shape and voice: and Philo speaks of it as also a received notion among the Jews, that the souls of good men deceased officiate as ministering spirits. But these are points on which the Scriptures are silent. And whatever the notion of the Jews was concerning them, no argument can be drawn from it, as to the truth of either of those suppositions.

12:6-11 A peaceful conscience, a lively hope, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit, can keep men calm in the full prospect of death; even those very persons who have been most distracted with terrors on that account. God's time to help, is when things are brought to the last extremity. Peter was assured that the Lord would cause this trial to end in the way that should be most for his glory. Those who are delivered out of spiritual imprisonment must follow their Deliverer, like the Israelites when they went out of the house of bondage. They knew not whither they went, but knew whom they followed. When God will work salvation for his people, all difficulties in their way will be overcome, even gates of iron are made to open of their own accord. This deliverance of Peter represents our redemption by Christ, which not only proclaims liberty to the captives, but brings them out of the prison-house. Peter, when he recollected himself, perceived what great things God had done for him. Thus souls delivered out of spiritual bondage, are not at first aware what God has wrought in them; many have the truth of grace, that want evidence of it. But when the Comforter comes, whom the Father will send, sooner or later, he will let them know what a blessed change is wrought.And when Peter was come to himself - This expression naturally means, when he had overcome bas amazement and astonishment at the unexpected deliverance, so as to be capable of reflection. He had been amazed by the whole transaction. He thought it was a vision: and in the suddenness and rapidity with which it was done, he had no time for cool reflection. The events of divine providence often overwhelm and confound us; and such are their suddenness, and rapidity, and unexpected character in their development as to prevent calm and collected reflection.

Of a surety - Certainly, surely. He considered all the circumstances; he saw that he was actually at liberty, and he was satisfied that it could have been effected only by divine interposition.

The expectation of the people - From this it appears that the people earnestly desired his death; and it was to gratify that desire that Herod had imprisoned him.

11. when Peter was come to himself—recovered from his bewilderment, and had time to look back upon all the steps that had followed each other in such rapid succession.

Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me, &c.—another evidence that Peter expected nothing but to seal his testimony with his blood on this occasion.

When Peter was come to himself, out of that amazement which so many wonderful things had wrought in him, that he could compose himself to effect upon what he had heard and seen, he knew his deliverance was real and effectual.

Delivered me; from Herod, who had resolved to have killed him, as he had done James, Acts 12:2; and from the people’s expectation, who had heard the report of Herod’s resolution, and longed for the fulfilling of it.

And when Peter was come to himself.... For upon his being awaked out of sleep, what with the uncommon light, which shone around him, and with the appearance of the angel, and the chains dropping from his hands, and his surprising escape through the several wards, together with the iron gate opening of itself, he was so filled with amazement, that he was not himself; he could scarcely tell whether he was in the body or not, and whether he was in a dream or a trance, or whether he saw a vision or not; but upon the angel's leaving him he came to himself, the amazement wore off, and he found himself thoroughly awake, and perfectly in his senses, and that the deliverance was real: and then,

he said, now know I of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel; this was a thanksgiving to God, and an acknowledgment, that the deliverance, though it was by the ministry an angel, yet was owing to the goodness and power of God; it was God that sent his angel, and the salvation was of the Lord's doing, and it was marvellous in the eyes of Peter, and gratefully owned by him:

and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod; who intended that morning to have brought him forth, and sacrificed him to the will of the people:

and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews; not only the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but the body of the Jewish nation, who were now at Jerusalem, on account of the passover; and who before they departed into their several cities and towns, expected to have had Peter brought forth, and put to death before them; but now both Herod and they were disappointed.

And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the LORD hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
Acts 12:11. γενόμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ, cf. Luke 15:17, and compare instances of similar phrases in Greek and Latin classical writers in Wetstein and Blass.—Κύριος, see critical notes, if without the article Nösgen (so Weiss) takes it of God, Jehovah.—ἐξαπέστειλε: a compound only found in Luke and Paul; four times in Luke’s Gospel, six or seven times in Acts, and Galatians 4:4; Galatians 4:6; very frequent in LXX, and used also in active voice by Polybius.—ἐξείλετο ἐκ χ.: close parallels in LXX, cf. Exodus 3:8, 2 Samuel 22:1, Isaiah 43:13, Bar 4:18; Bar 4:21, etc.—ἐκ χειρὸς: Hebraism, cf. Luke 1:74. The expression is also classical, Blass, Gram., p. 127, for close parallel.—προσδοκία: only in Luke here and in Luke 21:26, cf. Genesis 49:10, but more allied to its sense here Psalm 119:116, Wis 17:13, Sir 40:2, and in 2 and 3 Macc. (see H. and R.), and Psalms of Solomon, Tit. 11; frequently in classics. Hobart claims as a medical word, especially as the verb προσδοκᾷν is also so frequent in Luke; so too Zahn, Didache 1 N. T., p. 436; but see Plummer on Luke 21:36. Both verb and noun are also frequent in classical use.

11. And when Peter was come to himself] This and other subjective features of the narrative shew that the account must have been derived from St Peter himself. No one else could describe the astonishment and the after realization that all was truly enacted and no vision.

all the expectation of the people of the Jews] Whose gratification at the death of James had been great, and who now hoped to see another of the Apostles put to death.

Acts 12:11. Εἶπε, he said) with a ready, grateful, pious, joyful mind.—οἶδα ἀληθῶς, I know of a truth) The antithesis is, he thought, Acts 12:9. All things externally accorded with the internal vision.—ἐξείλετό με, hath delivered me) It was not yet the time that Peter should die: John 21:18.

Verse 11. - Truth for surety, A.V.; sent forth for sent, A.V.; delivered for hath delivered, A.V. Peter's recognition of the Lord's hand in sending his angel is exactly echoed in the Collect for Michaelmas Day, "Grant that as thy holy angels always do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succor and defend us on earth." Acts 12:11
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