Peter's Report to the Church at Jerusalem
11 1 The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it - heard that the non-Jewish "outsiders" were now "in." 2 When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: 3 "What do you think you're doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?" 4 So Peter, starting from the beginning, laid it out for them step-by-step: 5 "Recently I was in the town of Joppa praying. I fell into a trance and saw a vision: Something like a huge blanket, lowered by ropes at its four corners, came down out of heaven and settled on the ground in front of me. 6 Milling around on the blanket were farm animals, wild animals, reptiles, birds - you name it, it was there. Fascinated, I took it all in. 7 "Then I heard a voice: 'Go to it, Peter - kill and eat.' 8 I said, 'Oh, no, Master. I've never so much as tasted food that wasn't kosher.' 9 The voice spoke again: 'If God says it's okay, it's okay.' 10 This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the sky. 11 "Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbor, saying, 'Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. 14 He'll tell you something that will save your life - in fact, you and everyone you care for.' 15 "So I started in, talking. Before I'd spoken half a dozen sentences, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us the first time. 16 I remembered Jesus' words: 'John baptized with water; you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 So I ask you: If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?" 18 Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. "It's really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!"
The Church at Antioch
19 Those who had been scattered by the persecution triggered by Stephen's death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but they were still only speaking and dealing with their fellow Jews. 20 Then some of the men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch started talking to Greeks, giving them the Message of the Master Jesus. 21 God was pleased with what they were doing and put his stamp of approval on it - quite a number of the Greeks believed and turned to the Master. 22 When the church in Jerusalem got wind of this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on things. 23 As soon as he arrived, he saw that God was behind and in it all. He threw himself in with them, got behind them, urging them to stay with it the rest of their lives. 24 He was a good man that way, enthusiastic and confident in the Holy Spirit's ways. The community grew large and strong in the Master. 25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 He found him and brought him back to Antioch. They were there a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching a lot of people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
27 It was about this same time that some prophets came to Antioch from Jerusalem. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up one day and, prompted by the Spirit, warned that a severe famine was about to devastate the country. (The famine eventually came during the rule of Claudius.) 29 So the disciples decided that each of them would send whatever they could to their fellow Christians in Judea to help out. 30 They sent Barnabas and Saul to deliver the collection to the leaders in Jerusalem.
James Killed and Peter Imprisoned
12 1 That's when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. 2 He murdered James, John's brother. 3 When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter - all this during Passover Week, mind you - 4 and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.
5 All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.
Peter Delivered from Prison
6 Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances! 7 Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: "Hurry!" The handcuffs fell off his wrists. 8 The angel said, "Get dressed. Put on your shoes." Peter did it. Then, "Grab your coat and let's get out of here." 9 Peter followed him, but didn't believe it was really an angel - he thought he was dreaming. 10 Past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate that led into the city. It swung open before them on its own, and they were out on the street, free as the breeze. At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way. 11 That's when Peter realized it was no dream. "I can't believe it - this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to." 12 Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary's house, the Mary who was John Mark's mother. The house was packed with praying friends. 13 When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. 14 But when she recognized his voice - Peter's voice! - she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street. 15 But they wouldn't believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. "You're crazy," they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn't believe her and said, "It must be his angel." 16 All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away. 17 Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, "Tell James and the brothers what's happened." He left them and went off to another place. 18 At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. "Where is Peter? What's happened to Peter?" 19 When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: "Off with their heads!" Fed up with Judea and Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.
The Death of Herod
20 But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod's right-hand man, to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn't afford to let this go on too long. 21 On the day set for their meeting, Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled them with a lot of hot air. 22 The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries: "The voice of God! The voice of God!" 23 That was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod's arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died. 24 Meanwhile, the ministry of God's Word grew by leaps and bounds. 25 Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.