God’s Word for You
Acts 12:17b Go tell James
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, May 4, 2020
17b He added, “Go, tell this to James and the brothers.” Then he left and went to another place.
This is just about the last time we hear anything about Peter in Acts apart from a statement in chapter 15. We know that Peter and Paul had an encounter in Antioch at some point (Galatians 2:11-14), and we believe that it was sometime later when Peter wrote his two epistles.
Why does Peter tell the people at Mary’s house to tell “James”? Who was this James? We know from earlier in this chapter that James the son of Zebedee (also known as James the Greater) had been killed by Herod (Acts 12:2). By saying only “James,” Luke seems to rule out the other apostle, James “the Less,” the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15 ). The other James who was so well-known that we would require no other description is James the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19), who became the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem. It would make sense that Peter would want him to be informed.
Where did Peter go? The only real answer is that we don’t know. As long as Herod lived, Peter’s life would be in danger. Since James was not threatened at this time, it made sense for Peter to leave and let the Christians be fed by “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). His ministry among the Jews of Jerusalem was a ministry of patience and peace. He wrote to Jews who “condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you” (James 5:6), and he called them to repentance and faith in Christ.
As for Peter, there are traditions that place him at this time at Antioch, or Rome, or Asia Minor, or even Corinth. It would be best not to produce and argument from silence and insist on any one of these. In context, Luke effectively writes Peter out of the book at this time except for the one speech in Acts 15:7-11. As far as we are concerned, his destination is unimportant. Peter continued to serve God’s people until his death. We know from 1 Corinthians 9:5 that his wife went with him as he preached and taught and encouraged the saints. Tradition says that they had a daughter, perhaps named Petronilla. An apocryphal story called the Acts of Peter relates that when this daughter was carried away by a man who was captivated by her beauty (the text echoes 2 Samuel 11:2 and the Apocryphal Susanna 1:15-22), Peter prayed for his daughter and she became paralyzed on one side, and was therefore unable to marry the man. The suitor, Ptolemaeus, was said to repent and convert to Christianity, but died soon after, and Petronilla remained paralyzed and happy until the end of her days. The various traditions of Peter’s death are not based upon Scripture apart from John 18:22. That Peter was crucified is probable. That he was likewise crucified is likely. That he was perhaps reluctant is possible. That Jesus appeared to him in order to shame him into accepting his death is more than unlikely.
As Peter passes from the scene, we remember that each of us finally passes out of life’s path to enter our eternal rest. For many Christians, there is a kind of preparation period as illness or age puts us on hold for a time. When this happens, we can thank God for time to reflect on his blessings to us in life, and to the way he has used us to bless many people. If there is need, it can also be a time for quiet repentance with the assurance of forgiveness in Jesus, who loves us and who gave himself for us to give us comfort and everlasting peace.
Pastor Timothy Smith