The fugitive who kept knocking

Published 1:08 pm Saturday, August 19, 2023

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By R.A. Tea Mathews

They prayed for the impossible—the release of a man who had been arrested and was scheduled for trial and execution.

This is a true story. 

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It didn’t happen in the United States. There was no Constitution, and prisoners had no rights—their future was determined by the king. 

And the king wanted this man dead.

The year was 44 A.D., and King Herod Agrippa ruled Judea, having been appointed in 41 A.D. The new king served at the will and pleasure of Rome, and Rome wanted someone who could appease the stubborn Jews and their religion. 

Herod decided to target the young church and executed James, one of Jesus’ closest disciples. When Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, Herod arrested another follower of Christ—Peter. 

This occurred at the Passover when Jews from all over the world would have come to Jerusalem. A city suddenly bulging at the seams. 

And Herod had big plans for Peter. He knew a trial and execution of this outspoken follower of Christ would curry even more favor with the Jews. Here’s the passage:

“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church … And he had James … executed with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter as well … intending only after the Passover to bring him before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison…” (Acts 12:1-5)

Herod wasn’t taking any chances—he was precise about the guards he wanted with Peter. “When (Herod) had arrested (Peter), he put him in prison, turning him over to four squads of soldiers…” (Acts 12:4)

Scripture then tells us the dramatic story of Peter’s escape. The apostle was chained to guards on either side of him as he slept. Moreover, there were guards at the doors to the prison. Here’s the passage:

“On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near Peter … and he struck Peter’s side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’” (Acts 12:6-7)

Scripture tells us the chains fell off and the angel led him past the guards and along the street. 

“And his chains fell off his hands … Now when (Peter and the angel) had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they … went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.” (Acts 12:7-10)

Peter then went to the house of Mary, the mother of Mark. These people were praying for Peter. 

Here’s my question: Did they believe God would answer their prayers? Put a “yes” or a “no” right here, and I’ll show you the rest of the story:

“…Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John (Mark) … where many were gathered together and were praying.” (Acts 12:12-13)

Scripture tells us Peter stood outside, knocking, and a slave woman came to the door. Hearing Peter’s voice, she was so excited that she forgot to let him in.

“When (Peter) knocked at the door of the gate, a slave woman named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 

“They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’ But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.” (Acts 12:13-16)

They were amazed. 

Did they believe God would answer their prayers? They did not. The correct answer is “no.”

Rhoda told them, and they called her crazy. She insisted, and they said, “It is his angel.” Peter couldn’t have possibly escaped the Roman guard. What they wanted from the Lord was too big. 

They didn’t believe.

When you want a great thing, it’s easy to think it won’t happen. Your doubts may say, “It’s not possible.” 

Unless God tells you to stop asking, keep praying. Remember the fugitive who kept knocking. Do not limit God as those interceding for Peter did. Believe. 

God answers prayer with a “yes” every day, even for wildly big things. 

Get right with Him, talk to Him, and believe.

The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of “Emerald Coast.” Contact her at

Copyright © 2023 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.