Peter Kept Knocking
by Rev. Randy Brown
Our scripture for the morning is Acts chapter 12 verses 1 through 18 and out of reverence and respect for our Lord would you stand for the reading of his word?
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some of those who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James the brother of John put to death with a sword and when He saw that this met with the approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Simon Peter. This happened during the festival of Unleaved Bread. After being arrested he was put into prison. He was handed over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each and Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. Peter was kept in prison but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before he was to be brought to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers bound with two chains and two other soldiers stood outside the entrance.
“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared and the light shown in a cell and he struck Peter on the side and woke him up and he said, “Get up quickly Peter.” The chains fell off Peters wrists and then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals” and Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening. He thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and the second guards and he came to the iron gate leading into the city and it opened for them by itself.
“They went through it and when they had walked the length of one street suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came and said to himself, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from Herod’s clutches and from everything that the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” When this had dawned on him he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked on the outer entrance and the servant named Rhoda came to the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice she was so overjoyed that she ran back without opening the door and she exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
“You must be out of your mind,” they told her and she kept insisting that it was so. They said, “It must be an angel.” Peter kept on knocking and when they opened the door they say him and they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hands for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he told them. He left for another place and in the morning there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.” This is the word of God for the people of God.
Praise be to God.
We’re going to pray together, would you be seated as we pray?
Come again oh God and rescue me from me. Hide me behind your cross that the words that are heard would be your words and not mine, the one who is seen would be you and not me. Above all else, may we hear the quiet shuffling of sandaled feet and know that it is Jesus the Christ who comes to walk in our midst. It’s in his name and for his glory I pray, amen.
I don’t know about you but all through my Christian journey I have had kind of a love/hate relationship with Simon Peter. There are times that I identify with him more then I ever wanted to. There are times that we kind of pick on Simon Peter because it could be told we find ourselves in his life. He was always impulsive. He was always acting before he talked. He would always run off with the mouth and say things that he wished he could take back. He was always impulsive and we don’t like that sometimes. He lacked understanding. He lacked judgment, sometimes he lacked value. He was always at fault. We kind of make fun of him and poke blame at him for that. But, we find that same thing about ourselves.
Sometimes we like Simon, we don’t like Simon Peter because of his humanness. There are other times when we like him. We want to be more like him. We want his boldness because he was there in Caesarea, Philippi that time and when Jesus said, “Who do people say that I am?” He gave an answer and then Jesus will said, “But who do you say that I am?” He gave that bold declaration, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” This relationship with Simon Peter we see ourselves in him a lot of times both good and bad. There’s a story though that doesn’t get much air time. It’s a humorous story. You know the Bible’s full of humor. Think about it, we don’t talk about the humor of the Bible a lot of times.
Think about Jonah when he’s in the belly of that big fish and he’s running from God. He’s running from the people of Nineveh and the fish swallows him. A few days later the fish gets indigestion and the fish comes up to the shore and spews him out. Can you imagine what he looked like? We don’t talk about the humorous part. Or that time when Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus and they lost him when he was 12 years old and it took them three days to realize he’s not with us and they both blamed the other one because he was in the temple. It took them three days to realize Jesus wasn’t there. You think you’ve got trouble with your kids? Or Zacchaeus that short guy and he’s dignified and he’s living life out on a limb. The Bible is full of humor.
This story is no different because he’s in prison, Simon Peter’s in prison and the church is praying and all of a sudden the angel visits Peter in prison. The light shines in the prison cell and he says, “Get up”. One translation says that the angel shook him. There’s another translation that said he slapped him. How would you like to have been the angel that got that assignment? I need somebody to go down and wake Simon Peter up. I’ll go. The scripture says that he slapped Simon Peter and said, “Get up, get up” and he got up and he put his clothes on. He thought he was dreaming until he got about a block away from the prison cell and he finally woke up enough to realize this is not a dream. He goes on from that point and he says, if God’s brought me this far I need to go to where they’re praying for me.
I need to go to where the church is gathered. He goes to Mary’s house the mother of John Mark where they had the upper room meal together not long ago. He knocks on the door and nobody comes. He knocks again and all of a sudden there’s a servant girl and her name’s Rhoda and she comes over and she realizes that somebody’s out there. She goes and she says, “Who is it?” He says, “It’s Simon Peter”. She got real excited. She recognized the voice and she got so excited that she left him standing there. He’s trying to get into the church and she left him standing there. She goes back into where they’re praying. Now, this is one of those things that I think is just absolutely hilarious.
Can’t you see the church is praying? They’re down on their knees and they’re meditating and “Oh God, you know our brother Simon Peter and Father, he’s in jail and he’s about to the end of his life because they’re going to kill him. Lord, just comfort him somehow, just meet his needs. Give him courage that as he leaves this earth…” All of a sudden there’s [knocking sounds] and the more they pray, he’s knocking and they keep praying and he keeps knocking. You think your cell phone going off in church is bad. What about the knock at the door on this early church? They kept praying and when Rhoda goes back there and says, “Peter’s here,” They said, “Don’t bother us, we’re praying for Peter.”
The scripture says something very strong and very encouraging but Peter kept praying. He kept praying, somebody did that on purpose. But Peter kept knocking. There are five things that we need to realize that beg to be asked of this scripture. The first is this, are you fully awake? You remember Simon Peter was in jail and he was asleep, the question is are you fully awake to what God wants you to do or have you just laid down with your chains and going to stay there? We’ve got a lot of grandparents and you grandparents can identify with this story. The grandchildren had come to visit, boy and a girl. They lived on a farm.
Grandparents doted over these grandchildren the same way you dote over yours. The boy seemed somehow to be the favorite at least of his grandfather. They get there and they begin to visit and as it gets late in the afternoon the grandson and the granddaughter were out playing in the yard and the little boy had a sling shot. He was just wearing that sling shot out. He wasn’t very good at it. He couldn’t hit anything and grandmother went to the door and she called him for supper, “Ya’ll come eat.” He said, “One more time.” He had a sling shot in his hand and he had a rock and he saw grandmother’s favorite goose walking by. He said I haven’t hit anything all day, I’ll just try to hit this goose. All of a sudden he rears back and he takes aim. Right in the back of the head, killed that goose; that goose just fell over.
He thought I’ve got to do something and I’ve got to do something quick. He gathers up the goose, he goes behind the barn and he digs a little hole and he puts that goose down there and he covers it up and he turns around and guess who’s watching. His sister, she caught him. “You’re not going to tell on me are you?” “Well, we’ll see.” They go in, they eat supper. At the end of supper the grandfather said, “I believe we’ll go out and ride in the field and I want to show Jimmy some things.” The sister said, “Well, granddad I don’t think Jimmy wants to go, do you Jimmy? I think Jimmy wants to stay here and help granny with the dishes don’t you Jimmy?” “Yeah, I guess I will” Next morning, got up they were going to go to town. “I don’t think Jimmy wants to go to town.” “Well, we’re going to get ice cream.” “I don’t think Jimmy wants any ice cream, do you Jimmy?” “No, I’ll stay here.”
This goes on and she blackmails him three or four times through the day and finally little Jimmy walks up to the grandmother and says, “Grandmother I got to tell you something. I don’t know how to say this but yesterday afternoon you called us in to eat and I had the sling shot and I had the rock and I reared back and I killed your goose.” She said, “I know you did. I just wondered how long you were going to let your sister hold you hostage.” Something holding you hostage? Are you fully awake to what God wants you to do? Have you just laid down with your chains? The second thing is this, sometimes we pray with too little expectations.
We go through the motions and we pray for too little and we wonder why God doesn’t come through. Do we pray for too little? Are we going to be bold in our praying and expectant in our prayers? Are we just going to go through the motions like the church was doing and wonder why God doesn’t change anything. Then there’s that scripture that I want to really get in your heart and mind today, but Peter kept knocking. The scripture says to ask and to seek and to knock. I doubt seriously if that means once. Are we knocking? Do we continue to knock? Sometimes we’ll get knocked down throughout the course of this week but will we get up? Will we pray more? Will we become more determined? Will we just accept the first second best that comes along and not do anything else about it? But Peter kept knocking.
I mentioned the humorous part, can you imagine? There he is, he’s been delivered out of the prison and now he can’t even get into the prayer meeting. But Peter kept knocking. He can’t be very loud because by this time they’re probably looking for him. He has to whisper in a loud whisper. I bet he’s saying to himself, God’s doing a miracle and the church is going to mess it up. But he kept knocking; Peter kept knocking. Now I want to lift you a little. Don’t ever forget this you may be the answer to somebody else’s prayers. Peter was released in answer to their prayer. He came to where they were, he stood and he knocked. Their answer is standing there on two feet. You may be the answer to somebody else’s prayer.
That ought to make you feel good; that ought to make you walk out of here just holding your head high saying, I can be the answer to somebody else’s prayer. Let me say this, don’t ever pray a prayer that you’re not willing to be part of the answer to. We pray for the church and I hope you are. We say, God please bring lost people to the church and God says to pick up the phone and invite them. God, there are hungry people in our community, please provide for them and God may be saying, go buy groceries and take it to the Good Samaritan. Don’t ever pray a pray that you’re not willing to be part of the answer to because you can be the answer to somebody else’s prayer.
The last thing I want to share this morning is this, to get the answer sometimes you have to show up. Last week a woman made worldwide news from swimming from Key West to Cuba, 153 miles I think it was. That wasn’t the first time she attempted it. Do you know when her first attempt was? 1978, I was a sophomore in college; it’s been a year or two. She kept knocking and kept knocking and kept knocking and finally she reached her goal. Her prayer was answered. She couldn’t just sit there and think about it. Sit there and think about swimming and getting bitten by jellyfish and all that other kind of stuff that she went through. She just didn’t think about it, she just showed up and kept on trying. What about you? In order to receive answer to our prayers sometimes we have to show up for duty, show up for action.
She tried time after time after time and it didn’t work. She said I’m going one more time and she made it. She never would have made it if she’d have just thought about it, she had to show up and her prayers were answered. Let me put it to you like this, you may be this week, in for some heavy blows, who knows, but don’t give up. Keep on keeping on. Let me tell you a closing story, it was about a little boy. It had rained all day and he and his mother were out for a walk. This little boy he was just typical little boy and he would walk a little while and he’d fall down and he’d walk and he’d fall down and he’d get up, walk and fall down. He went by the biggest mud puddle in the whole street and right down in the middle of the mud puddle he went. He splashed his clothes; he even splashed his mother’s disposition.
She looked down at him and she said, “Jonny, what are you going to do now?” He looked up and he said, “I’m going to get up.” If you’ve been knocked down, life happens but you don’t stay down, you get back up. That’s the word from Simon Peter to us today. He kept knocking and if you’ve been knocked down you can get back up. The scripture says, “Those who endure till the end” endurance, that’s what the scripture talks about is endurance. Simon Peter knew all about it. He kept knocking, what about us? Will we keep knocking? That’s what we’re called to do. That’s what the book says and the book never lies.
Let us pray,
Father in these moments together we’ve laughed and we’ve had an opportunity to look at ourselves through the eyes of one of the Heros of the faith. Lord, from his example help us to keep knocking so that the door will be opened as you have promised it would. In the name of Christ, amen.