“Sleep in peace of God” – Summary of Sermon on September 15, 2019

This is a summary of the sermon preached on September 15, 2019.

  • Date: Sunday September 15, 2019
  • Venue: A Sunday service at Tokyo Multicultural Church
  • Title: "Sleep in peace of God"
  • Scriptures: Acts 12:1-24

    12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
    5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
    6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
    8 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. 9 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. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
    11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
    12 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. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
    15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
    16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand 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 said, and then he left for another place.
    18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
    Herod’s Death
    Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
    21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
    24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

    THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.1



Do you usually sleep well at the night before you have something important to do?

Let’s say, you have a big exam/test, or a job interview, or a very important presentation at work on Monday. Then would you sleep well Sunday night, the night before the big event?

I’d think most, if not all, of us would not be able to sleep as much as we usually do when we have something important to do the following day.

But why is it?

Well I think it’s because we get nervous or worried about what is going to happen to us. In other words, if we don’t feel secure or if we don’t feel at peace, it’d be difficult for us to sleep well.

Do you agree?

If you agree with me, then you’d be surprised in today’s story to see Peter sleeping in prison at the night before a trial, which would most likely sentence him to death.

And he was not merely sleeping. It appears that he slept so well and deeply that he thought he was seeing a vision when an angel of the Lord came to rescue him from the prison (v. 9).


why could Peter sleep so well and so deeply?

Well, this is the question I’d like us to think about today.

Peter in prison

To find out the reason, let’s see Peter’s situation at that time more closely.

First of all, we see from Acts 12:1-2 that before Peter was put in prison, King Herod had killed James, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the brother of John the apostle.

Peter, James and John often appear as a trio in the Bible (e.g. Luke 9:28-36; Matthew 26:36-46). And these three were all fishermen from Galilee (Mark 1:16-20). So they must have known one another quite well.

And ever since Jesus was ascended into the heaven, they had been working together as Jesus’ disciples to proclaim the good news to those around them.

For Peter, therefore, James was a very close friend and coworker.

So it must have been a quite shock for Peter to hear that James was killed by King Herod. What makes things worse is that Peter hadn’t done anything wrong really; all he did was to preach the gospel.

Peter was about to get killed because of his good work in Christ just like James.

So if I were Peter, I would have asked God so many questions in prayer:

Where is God in all this?

Why did God allow James to be killed?

What is God doing now?

Is God not so powerful to save His people from the persecution?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure if I’d be able to sleep like Peter in prison.

But Peter was able to sleep so well that he didn’t quite realize the fact that the angle came to rescue him until he actually came out of the prison and walked on the street for a while (Acts 12:10-11).


I think the reason has to do with his trust in God’s sovereignty. I say this because there are some words or phrases in today’s story which would point us toward the sovereignty of God.

God in control

The first one is the name “Herod” There are at least three “Herods” in the Bible: Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, and King Herod. All of them opposed Jesus and His disciples (see Matthew 2:16; Acts 4:27-28; cf. Luke 23:6-12).

In particular, in today’s passage we see “King Herod” had killed James and put Peter in prison. But his actual name was Herod Agrippa I.

So the author of Acts could have used “King Agrippa” instead of “King Herod” in order to avoid confusing the reader with other Herods. But

the author of Acts used “Herod” not “Agrippa.” Why?

Well, I’d say it would be because the author wanted to remind the reader of another passage in Acts where the name “Herod” first appears: that is Acts 4:27-28:

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:27-28)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This was a part of a prayer by Jesus’ disciples. And the prayer opens with the phrase, “Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them” (4:21; bold added).

“Herod” in 4:27 is Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, not Herod Agrippa I, and “you” there mean “Sovereign God.”

Thus the disciples are praying to God, saying that

although Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and Jewish leaders crucified Jesus for their own purposes, it was a part of God’s sovereign plan of salvation (God had decided beforehand that His only Son Jesus be crucified).

This means that

no matter how bad the situation may look, God is still sovereign and in control to carry out His plan.

And the crucifixion of Jesus is the best and the clearest example of God’s sovereignty.

This may be why the author of Acts mentions the timing of Peter’s imprisonment twice in a rather short passage in Acts 12: "the Festival of Unleavened Bread” in v. 3, and "the Passover” in v. 4 (“The Festival of Unleavened Bread” and “the Passover” are the same event.).

Now, if you know the Bible well, and if you hear “the Festival of Unleavened Bread” or “the Passover” together with “Herod,” you may remember some of the scenes in the Passion of Christ.

And the crucifixion of Christ tells us the most clearly how sovereign God is no matter how bad the situation may look.

God is in control.

Peter in peace

For Peter, the situation didn’t seem to go any worse: James, his close friend and coworker for Christ, had been killed; and now he got captured, and thrown into prison, waiting to be executed.

In such a situation it is really difficult to see whether God is really working.

Yet, Peter had been through even a worse situation than that. He had seen Jesus, his Lord and Savior, captured by the authority, thrown into prison, tried, and crucified. All his dreams and hope had gone. He was lost and desperate. He didn’t know what to do any more.

Nevertheless, it was not the end of the story.

Jesus is risen from the dead, showing that He is indeed the Son of God, and the Messiah for all the peoples.

The Sovereign God had turned the worst into the best; He had used the death of His only Son Jesus to bring the life to all who believe in Christ.


even though the situation looked so bad to Peter, he was still able to trust in God, knowing that God is in control and sovereign over everything, and His plan will be fulfilled in His way and in His timing.

And I believe that is the primary reason why Peter was able to sleep so well even at the night before the trial. Peter was sleeping in peace of God.

And you know what? There are some other characters in the Bible who are also able to sleep in peace of God like Peter.

For instance, King David wrote a psalm, which says

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

If you read Psalm 4, it appears that many people were going against David, complaining to him (vv. 2, 6). So he is asking God for relief, mercy, and joy.

Yet, at the same time, even in such a bad situation, David is acknowledging that he still has peace in God (v. 8) because he knows God is righteous and hears his prayer (vv. 1, 3).

So no matter how bad the situation may look, David can still sleep in peace of God.

I think this was also true for Jesus. One day, when Jesus and his disciples were going to the other side of the lake on a boat, they encountered a bad storm and the disciples became afraid of getting drown.

But do you remember what Jesus was doing in such a heavy storm? Yes, Jesus was sleeping (Mark 4:38)! And after calming the storm, Jesus said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

Jesus was sleeping in peace of God even in such a heavy storm.


In Japan, or in many other places in the world today, we won’t get persecuted like Peter and James.

But still we face many difficulties and problems in life. Especially, in our lives today, we live in such a fast-paced society, and we are just so busy with so many things, so many deadlines to meet, so many assignments to submit, and so many duties to complete.

Because we have so many things to do, we tend to be worried about so many things.

And if the things are getting out of control, you may not be able to sleep well at night. There are just too many uncertainties for you to deal with. You don’t know what to do any more. Or you feel like you just want to quit everything.

If you’re in such a situation,

remember God is in control, and He is sovereign over everything. He is able and powerful enough to turn something bad into something good.

But it doesn’t mean that everything is going to go the way you want or expect; rather

in many cases, things will not go the way you want or expect.

Think about the case of James the apostle. James was killed, while Peter was rescued from the prison.

Is it because they prayed more for Peter than for James? I wouldn’t think so. But God answered their prayers in different ways.


Well, to be honest, I don’t know exactly why God let James be killed, while He rescued Peter. I even wonder why God didn’t strike Herod to death before he killed James or captured Peter, or wonder why God allowed Herod to become a king in the first place.

There are many questions to ask about how God works. But we wouldn’t know why God’s answers were so different here.

In the end, all we know in the case of James and Peter is that as stated in Acts 12:24 “the word of God continued to spread and flourish.”

So God is in control and sovereign. He is able and powerful enough to turn something bad into something good. But

God works in His own way, which is much higher than our ways. And “God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Also, remember that this

God is righteous and hears your prayers. And He is always with you even though you may not feel like it from time to time.

If you don’t feel like God is with you, working in your life because the situation is getting worse and worse, remember the cross; remember how God has turned the worst of all things—the crucifixion of His only Son— into the best of all things—the eternal life for all who believe in Christ.


no matter how bad the situation may look right now, trust in God who is sovereign and righteous, and who hears your prayers and is always with you, so that you may sleep in peace of God.

Bibliography and Notes

  • Peterson, David. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Nottingham, UK; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Apollos; Eerdmans, 2009.
  • Witherington, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids; Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998.
  1. Unless otherwise noted, all the Scripture verses will be quoted from NIV.