by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Acts 12:12-17
I. In Acts 12 we learn that the persecution of the church intensified in Judea.
A. Herod had the apostle James killed - Acts 12:1-2
B. It was a popular act, and so he planned to repeat it by having Peter killed - Acts 12:3-4
C. But Peter did not remain in prison. God sent an angel to release him - Acts 12:5-11
D. After his escape, Peter went to Mary’s house.
II. Who was Mary?
A. There are several Marys mentioned in the New Testament, but this particular Mary was the mother of John Mark.
1. Mark is believed to be the young man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52, though we have no way to be certain. The conjecture comes because the account is unique to Mark and the young man is mentioned in the third person which is common by the writers of the Gospels.
2. Since John Mark was Barnabas’s cousin (Colossians 4:10), so Mary would have been an aunt of Barnabas.
B. Acts 12 is the only direct reference to Mary, but we learn several things from the account.
C. We see a woman active in serving the Lord
1. Despite the persecution, she opened her home to the disciples for meetings.
2. Thus, she wasn’t ashamed to be identified with the Lord’s people
D. She was a woman who raised a gospel preacher
1. Mark started out shaky, having abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their first trip - Acts 13:2-5; 15:37-38
2. But Barnabas encouraged him and took him with him to Cyprus - Acts 15:39
3. Eventually he grew into a solid preacher - II Timothy 4:11
4. And it was this Mark who record the gospel that bears his name.
E. Thus we see that in Mary’s house, the kingdom came first - Matthew 6:33
III. Mary’s house was gathering place for Christians
A. Disciples gather together often
1. Acts 2:42, 46 - In the temple for worship and gatherings, as well as individual homes for meals
2. Acts 9:26-28 - Coming in and going out. In other words gathering with the disciples on many occasions.
3. Acts 11:26 - The church assembled in Antioch
4. Acts 14:27 - They gathered for reports
5. Acts 20:7 - They gathered for worship
6. I Corinthians 11:18; 14:23 - Come together as a church
B. The reason for the frequent assembles (which is what the word translated as “church” means) - Hebrews 10:23-25
C. To be a part of the church means to be assembling with others of the “called out” in an area. It cannot be labeled as unimportant.
D. It is interesting that Peter knew that he would find Christians in Mary’s house.
1. It indicates that this must occur frequently and regularly
2. He went there first to let the brethren know he was free.
IV. Disciples came to Mary’s house to pray
A. We are not told what they were gathered to pray for, but it is important to note that they were people who saw the importance of prayer
B. Jesus taught his disciples to pray
1. Luke 11:1-13 - God answers when we seek Him in prayer
2. Jesus promised to answer - John 14:13-14
3. God listens to the prayers of the righteous - I Peter 3:12
C. Jesus exemplified the importance of prayer in his own life - Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12
D. The disciples understood the power and importance of prayer
1. Prayers of thanksgiving - Acts 4:23-31
2. The apostles made it a priority - Acts 6:2-4
3. Prayers were made for Peter while in prison - Acts 12:5
a. And perhaps this was the reason for the gathering at Mary’s house.
4. Prayers before important work - Acts 13:2-3
5. Prayers while in prison - Acts 16:25
E. The need for prayer is emphasized - Philippians 4:6-7
F. Prayer is our method for telling God what we desire - James 5:16-18
G. And God answers - I John 5:14-15
H. The song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” reminds us of the importance of prayer (#730)
I. The disciples understood this; do you?
V. We admire the strength of faith and the growth shown by the early church
A. But too often we do not follow their example. We place importance to trivial matters, things that fade quickly and really will not make a bit of difference in the long run.
B. God wants His children to be strong and courageous, as He asked of Joshua - Joshua 1:6-9
1. Physical strength comes from effort and steadfast exercise
2. The disciples’ spiritual strength came from their reliance on God and each other. They exercised their faith in coming together, praying for each other and with each other.
C. Abraham was a man of strong faith - Romans 4:13-22
1. It times of trial, Abraham’s faith, though already strong, was strengthened
2. We establish faith through our knowledge of God’s word - Romans 10:17
3. We increase our faith when we endure - James 1:2-4
4. And thus we grow stronger as we turn to God in prayer - Ephesians 3:14-21
D. Is your house like Mary’s?
1. A place disciples like to come and gather
2. A place where Christians are nurtured
3. A place where Christians can pray
[Based on a lesson by Wayne Walker]