Last week, Rob Aldridge and I were talking about the story in Acts 12. He pointed out the undergirding exodus motif in the story. Upon further investigation, we learned that others have noticed this exodus motif as well. Still, we had fun exploring the texts and connecting the dots. (You can listen to Rob’s sermon here or here.)
To give you an idea of how the stories from Exodus 12-14 and Acts 12 work together, here are some quick and dirty notes based on our conversation and reflection.
King Herod is like Pharaoh. He mistreated God’s people and took them captive. Peter and the Church are like Moses and Israel.
Peter, James, and John are mention together with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was connected with Passover. The Passover was the time of the first Exodus. It was also the motif of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and resurrection. This is how we know: When Jesus went up on the mount and was transfigured, Peter, James, and John were with him. When Moses and Elijah appeared, they heard them talking to Jesus about his exodus. When Jesus was transfigured in the glory cloud, they heard the voice of God speak out of the cloud.
The death of James and the release of Peter at the time of Passover echo the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He was put to death by wicked rulers (so was James), then raised to life in the presence of angels (so was Peter).
In response to the king’s violent actions, the church cried out to God in prayer. Just as God heard the cries of his people Israel in Egypt, so he heard the prayers of the church in Jerusalem, which has become like Egypt.
While the church was praying, God was moving and acting, and Peter was sleeping peacefully between two guards. Like Jesus who slept on a cushion in a boat in the midst of a storm on the sea, Peter slept in the cell between two guards. Like Jesus who rested in the tomb after dying on the cross, Peter rested in peace in the prison cell awaiting his execution.
Like the children of Israel, Peter was delivered, set free, by the power of the Lord. He was led out of darkness into light, and he escaped from bondage and entered into freedom, by an angel of the Lord.
Like the children of Israel, Peter was called to prepare for his exodus by putting on his sandals and cloak and following the angel. The fact that Peter was told to dress himself and follow is significant. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus told Peter when he would die and how — when he was old he would be dressed by others, taken where he did not want to go, and finally crucified.
One reason Peter slept so peacefully in the prison is because he believed Jesus and took him at his word. He rested in the knowledge that he would not die as a young man by a sword, but as an old man on a cross. The angel’s word reassured him of Jesus’ words.
All this took place during the Passover. This is significant because it links the stories of exodus of Israel from Egypt to the exodus of Jesus Christ at the cross and the exodus of Peter from prison.
It is worth noting that, like the first passover, all this happened at night under cover of darkness. Also, an angel of the Lord came seeking and knocking on doors in both stories with various results and effects. Finally, enemy soldiers perished after the exodus / escape in both stories.
Aaron, the brother of Moses, was mentioned in the first exodus. James, the brother of Jesus (the true and better Moses), was mentioned in this “exodus”.
In both exodus stories, “god-like” kings acted in angry and aggressive ways towards the people of God. Both got struck down by plagues in different ways.
The angel that struck Peter gave him life and liberty. The angel that struck Herod put him to death by worms.
Now come the So what? Why does this matter? questions.
Granted. Each story stands on its own. It is not necessary to connect the dots or fit these stories together in order to understand them or appreciate them.
But, the fact that the Holy Spirit has revealed them to us in a way that links them together means it is necessary to play in the fields of God’s word, to explore the stories and discover the treasures hidden for us in plain sight by the Holy Spirit. This divine game is a gift of grace; it must not be passed over or set aside.
The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, not the flesh; it is living and active, not dead and lethargic. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. Every little “discovery” (like the ones above) serves to develop our faith — to deepen our confidence in the unity of the word of God and heighten our assurance in the integrity of it.
As my wife once said, “Everything is connected.” That includes the texts of Holy Scripture.