At the Grace London women’s day recently, I did a very brief session on why we should read the Old Testament. While preparing it, the story of Peter’s escape from prison came up in my regular Bible reading. I noticed for the first time that the story took place at Passover.
The proximity of the words ‘Passover’ and ‘bring him out’ made a connection in my brain, and I read it with new attention.
Passover was the night when God’s people celebrated being brought out of captivity. Was this just coincidence?
Next clue: Peter was told to put on his sandals and wrap his cloak around himself. The Israelites were told to eat the Passover meal with their sandals on, and also to fasten their belts – this seems like an obvious echo of Exodus 12:
The Israelites were about to embark on 40 years of wandering until they reached the Promised Land. But why were these journey preparations mentioned for Peter?
Peter was the one on whom Jesus said he would build his Church. So he’s symbolic of the new people of God. Was the Church about to start a journey?
I’d never noticed before that Peter didn’t stay at John Mark’s mum’s house. “Tell James,” he said, and went out – we don’t know where, or when he stopped. The Church-man was on a journey…
And yet, the persecution of the Christians had begun to spread them across the world already – the Church was already on a journey. Did God get things in the wrong order?
Or could it be that the ordering of the events was to provide reassurance for the early Christians? They were gathered together in prayer behind locked doors out of fear of the authorities. Some of their friends had already been martyred. It would be natural for them to be wondering what was going on – was Christianity going to fizzle out before it had really got started?
No, on the very day when God’s people were remembering the time God brought them out of captivity to start the journey to the Promised Land, God gave them a clear picture to help them understand and to see his hand at work: He brought the symbol of his new people out of captivity and with him began the journey to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, so we could reach the true Promised Land.
Without knowing the Old Testament, the New Testament story makes sense – a man was in prison, people prayed, God got him out. But when you see the OT parallels, it adds such extra richness and depth. It links the narrative with both Israel’s past and our future. And that’s just one reason why you should read the Old Testament!
I’ve written a post with 4 more reasons on Think Theology today, if you’re interested…