Chapter twelve accounts the death of the First Apostle James and the arrest of Peter. Herod wants to be popular among the people and has many guards to guard him. The biblke states that there were four squads of four guards. Doing the math, that means sixteen guards were guarding Peter to keep him in jail. He was shakled by “double chains”. Two chains are holding Peter in place and two guards are right next to him on each side. Two guards are right outside the door and the others are about the place. Sounds like he is heavily guarded. Does this have anything to do with the resurrection of Jesus and only the two at Jesus’ tomb? Who knows. Either way, Peter getting out is not a very likely prospect.
The people pray intensely for God’s help. The Body of Christ come together for intercession for Peter. The people pray for the Pope, the children for their father. There is no way they can rescue Peter. But they know where to go for help. They need God’s help. Peter taught them that they were children of God and they knew that God would listen to them. As it ends up, prayer defeated and overcame the tyranny of a powerful man. Prayer defeated sixteen professional guards and the physical chains by which he was bound.
There are times when we are bound by an insurmountable amount of opposition. Trials may seem totally inconceivably overcome. And when trying to do things without God, it would be true. We in fact cannot overcome any obstacle without His grace. This was very apparent to the church community at the time. They were like sheep without a shepherd. So they cried out to Jesus. Notice, it was the people who cried out, not Peter. Peter did not say, “Come and help me Lord, for your servant is suffering”. No, it was the Body of Christ that cried out, and God listened. Is this surprising? That God would listen to the faithful so closely. This includes you.
Why does God call young men to be priests? What is the purpose of the Priesthood? God calls forth priests to serve God. But how does the Priest serve God? He offers the sacraments and prayers and gives due worship. But for whom? For the people. Jesus says, “the least you have done for my people, you have done it for me” (Mt 25:40). The priesthood and religious life is a striving to live this out in a very real way. It is a recognition that in the very eye of God, who is always looking at His beloved, is His people. His love is for all His people and so He sends them out to keep them and guard them. I can imagine looking into the eyes of our Savior, who cannot take His eyes off of His beautiful bride the Church and see the reflection of her in His people. You are the object of His love. You are His purpose and so that makes you the purpose of His servants. You are the apple of His eye.
So what does that mean about your prayers? What does that mean when He hears your voice? The power of your prayers is beyond any tyrant. It is especially evident in what happens next in Chapter twelve. The chains fall and Peter simply walks out. No struggle. He does not have to overcome sixteen trained soldiers. Simply walks out and finds His people. But the people do not believe it at first. Even they have a hard time grasping God’s love for them and how He would listen to their prayers. It takes Mary, the mother of Mark (Who wrote the Gospel of Mark) to convince them to see.