Capitol Building, Montpelier, Vermont
Saturday, 19 November 2022
And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Acts 12:3
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
The previous verse noted the killing of James with the sword. Now, it continues, saying, “And because he saw that it pleased the Jews.” The meaning is clear. This doesn’t mean all the Jews collectively, but those who represented the nation. It is referring to the Jews who were in the powerful positions and whose favor would more fully establish his political relations with them, along with his own power within the realm. Because these leaders were happy that Agrippa had done away with one of the leading apostles, “he proceeded further to seize Peter also.”
The Greek is actually in the form of a Hebraism, saying, “he added to lay hold of Peter also.” It is a way of showing an increase in a proposition, whatever it may be. In this case, it is the proposition of eliminating the apostles for the sake of cementing political status and power.
The apostles had been a thorn in the side of the leadership for about ten years. Therefore, having the ruling governmental authority over them harass and destroy this group was a welcome occasion for the leading Jews. And because this pleased the Jews, while also solidifying his own position and power, Agrippa decided to continue with his attack against them. As Peter was a chief figure among them and one who had spoken boldly against the ruling council, he was probably personally called out by name by the Jews as the next suitable target. Ellicott agrees with this being a matter of politics, saying –
“This was throughout the ruling policy of the Herodian house. The persecution did not spring from any fanatic zeal against the new faith, but simply from motives of political expediency.”
Likewise, Cambridge further clarifies this relationship between the two by citing Josephus –
“This Josephus notices (Antiq. xix. 7. 3), for, comparing Agrippa with the Herod who ruled before him, he mentions that the latter ‘was more friendly to the Greeks than to the Jews,’ in which matter he says Agrippa ‘was not at all like him.’”
With the event explained, the timing of it is next provided, saying, “Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.”
The meaning is that this is during the time of the Passover and the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread which accompanies it. Luke unites the two in one thought as he did in his gospel. This is evident because the Passover actually precedes and leads into Unleavened Bread. Notice, however, that Luke unites them using the commonly used terminology for both that had been adopted in Israel –
“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.
3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
7 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.’” Luke 22:1-8
As it is now the time of the Passover, it would be especially pleasing to the Jews. They had crucified Jesus at this time, and it was certainly welcome that Peter had been seized at the same time of year. However, one can see the backroom dealing of the Jews and Agrippa in the words of the coming verse which will be analyzed in the next commentary.
Life application: Some people refuse to talk to others about religion and politics. Some will talk about religion but not politics, or vice versa. The fact is that Christians are obligated to speak out about Jesus in order to be considered faithful servants of the Lord. This doesn’t mean that all must be evangelists and stand on the street corner, but we should be willing to speak about Jesus when the occasion arises or when questioned about our faith.
But it is also true that we live in a world where earthly governments rule. It is the policy of some sects, such as the Roman Catholic Church, to participate in the running of governments, dictating to them what should and should not be done. It is the policy of some sects and cults to never engage in any political activity at all, not even voting. This is the policy of the cult known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Both approaches are flawed. Governments that are led by religion will inevitably become religiously tyrannical. Governments that have no representation of faithful Christians will become wholly immoral and destructive against any who are spiritually aligned with Christ.
As this is so, it is incumbent on faithful Christians to engage in voting and even in running for political office. By doing so, their views can be expressed and protected. Paul was a Roman citizen and he appealed to his citizenship unashamedly. He attempted to convert public officials, kings, and others in governmental positions. These things are undeniable as revealed in Scripture. Therefore, it is to the benefit of both the general population and the working of the government in which one lives to be active in both religious and governmental affairs.
Have a right balance in your thinking concerning these things. And above all, do not listen to those who claim an ultra-piety that says, “I am not of this world.” In this, they rip the words of Jesus (John 15:19) out of any proper context in order to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the events of life.
Rather, Paul clearly shows – both in his actions and in his writings – that we are in this world, and we must conduct our affairs in this world, but that we also have a better hope than this world. We cannot deny either without having an unbalanced approach to the lives that we live – in the here and now and in the hope of the future that lies ahead.
Lord God, how good it is to know that even though we are in this world and have lives to lead, we also have a hope that transcends this earthly life. Our true hope is not in a leader, a bank account, a form of government, or a retirement that provides a false sense of safety and security. None of these things can ever come close to the glory that lies ahead when Christ comes for His people. How we long for that day, and may that day be soon! Amen.