Peter Freed from Prison

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the Peter Freed from Prison rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·        A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·        A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·        The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



            Acts 12:1-19

Memory verse for this rotation:

            “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.” — Philippians 4:6 CEV           


¨     Sometimes people may mistreat you just because you believe in God/Jesus.

¨     God wants us to pray, and when we do God answers us.

¨     God provides help to those who serve and love God.

¨     Peter, who once denied knowing Jesus, went on to become an important preacher of the Gospel and an important follower of Christ.

¨     The church community prays for and takes care of its members.

Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·        If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·        Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud. Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts




In the book of Acts we find the “story of the church’s beginnings” (Wall, 3).  The book is considered to be the second volume following the Gospel of Luke and is attributed to the same author.  Luke is believed to have been an educated Greek who may even have been a traveling companion of Paul’s.  The book was most likely written sometime between 70 and 100 AD (Willimon, 1).



            Acts has aspects of many genres – history, biography, homily and apology – and so “is best regarded under the general category of theological narrative” (Gaventa, 2056).  Acts is a story that proclaims to its readers the mighty acts of God in the life of the church and in the life of Christ’s disciples.



In his commentary Will Willimon offers the following outline of Acts:

1:1-26             Prologue

2:1-9:43          Part One:  Witness in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria

10:1-19:20      Part Two:  Witness to the Gentiles

19:21-28:31    Part Three: The Final Journey          



The theological themes of Acts are woven into a “master story about what God has done to bring salvation to the world.”  The “themes are introduced into Acts by the story of the first Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit and are then developed within the rest of Acts” (Wall, 18).  The following themes offer an outline of this master story:


ACTS 12:1-19



Interesting Words/Phrases/Ideas

·       Herod Agrippa I – third in a line of Herods – “his reign was characterized by violence and caprice” (Wall, 178).

·       With the death of James and the imprisoning of Peter, the authority of the Twelve apostles seems threatened.  Important to speak about who will take over leadership (Wall, 178-9)

·       Allusions to Jesus:  circumstances of Peter’s arrest and threatened execution including cooperation of the political and religious authorities (v.3).  Peter’s arrest “during the festival of Unleavened Bread” (v.3)

·       V. 5:  “The church prayed fervently to God”!!

·       Luke takes great care to emphasize how heavily guarded Peter is – four squads of soldiers (v.4), “bound with two chains, sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door” kept watch (v.6)

·       V. 7:  Angel arrives and we are told in careful detail of his rescue of Peter.

·       Gates in v. 10 and v.13 play with words  - “Going in through one gate and then out another marks not only Peter’s escape route but also the triumph of God over the community’s enemies” (Wall, 179).

·       v.12 – Note that the believers are gathered in prayer

·       Mary – “an independent woman and is sufficiently wealthy to employ a maidservant” (Wall, 180).  This maidservant, Rhoda, plays an important role too – note that she is named and she speaks.

·       Allusion to Jesus in this exchange between Peter and Rhoda and the other disciples who do not believe it could be Peter. (Wall, 180)

·       v. 15:  There apparently was a belief in Judaism that a person’s guardian angel was a “’celestial double’ who could imitate a person’s appearance and voice” (Wall, footnote, 180).

·       v. 17 James is introduced (a different James than the one who was executed) – he will be the one to follow Peter as leader.  Peter leaves and goes “to another place”.  Where?  “Ancient tradition tells us that peter went to Rome and established a faith community there prior to Paul’s arrival” (Wall, footnote, 180).

·       Allusion to Jesus – Peter’s leaving brings to mind Jesus ascension where Jesus passes along the God’s mission and calling to the disciples.  According to Wall, “the implied meaning is that the reins of spiritual authority have been transferred from Peter to James” (180).


In this story we can see reflections of the following themes:


Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.


Anitoch Arcade:  The children will play Freedom Bingo to reinforce the details of the story.  Then they will think about their own prayer concerns, choose someone or something to pray for, and make prayer ribbons.

Creation Station:  The children will create a moving scene of Peter’s chains breaking away.  They will learn how Peter went on to become an important follower of Jesus even though he struggled with his faith at first.


Holywood:  The children will view either Adventures in Odyssey – Shadows of Doubt for grades 1-3 or Stephens’s Test of Faith for grades 4-5.  The children will discuss how prayer should be a first step when we are afraid or need extra help and will learn that believing in our friends and family is important.


Praising Puppets:  The children will hear from “Peter” about his amazing escape from prison.  As he talks, all of the concepts will be mentioned and discussion questions will reinforce some of the concepts.



Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


Gaventa, Beverly Roberts. “Acts” The HarperCollins Study Bible NRSV.

Wayne A. Meeks et al. editors. (New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993).

Wall, Robert W. “Acts of the Apostles.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. X. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2002). (pp.3-36 and 172-183).

Willimon, William H. “Acts.” Interpretation. James Luther Mays, et al. editors. (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1988). (pp. 1-17 and 73-80).