Broken Chains

“What happened to his chains?”

I looked into the big brown eyes of the 3rd grader asking the question. I was teaching Sunday school and the lesson was from Acts 12: 1-19. It’s a potent portion of scripture, 19 verses showing God’s sovereignty amidst persecution, the faithfulness of the early church in prayer, and the unwavering trust Peter had in his Lord and Savior.

As we read together about God’s angel rescuing Peter from prison and imminent death, the little boy reached his hand across the table and tapped mine, a question tumbling out his youthful mouth.

“But…what happened to the chains? Did they break or fall off?”

“Well, it says they fell off.”

Now behold an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise quickly!’ And his chains fell off his hands. ~ Acts 12:7 

“But don’t the chains have to break first?” The little boy’s question was logical. 

“Yes, I think you’re right. God must have broken the chains first, then they fell off Peter.”

One of the blessings of teaching Sunday school is the discovery of the many beautiful diamonds of Truth in the rich, deep mine of God’s Word. Our church teaches expositionally (through the Bible), as do the Sunday school lessons. Our class is about half-way through the books of Acts, and I’ve learned as much as the kids about the early church and God’s Word.

That Sunday I was excited to teach about Peter’s miraculous escape from Herod’s chain-happy clutches. After all, Peter was chained to two guards with two more standing watch at his cell door. Herod assigned him four squads of soldiers. That’s four companies of four men each – 16 armed men.

Talk about tight security!

King Herod was taking no chances on Peter escaping again, and the situation looked hopeless. Peter was surrounded and outnumbered. But with God, all things are possible.

The night before Peter’s trial, an angel of the Lord was sent into the dark cell, and “a light shone in the prison…” Though I’ve never been shackled inside prison walls, I have been surrounded by darkness. What I learned was that – like with Peter – even in our darkest time, God is there. He never leaves us or forsakes us, and His light obliterates the darkness we might otherwise drown in.

We also talked about Peter’s strong faith and trust in God because “that night Peter was sleeping.” (6)  The angel arrived to find Peter sound asleep. Seven heads shook an emphatic ‘NO’ when I asked if they could’ve slept chained to two guards the night before a trial for their life. 

Despite the grim situation he faced, Peter had to be woken up by the angel. He had faith in God’s hand in his life. Shackled inside the walls of King Herod’s prison, did Peter pray David’s beautiful 23rd Psalm to quiet his soul?

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me…”

And Peter wasn’t alone. Nearby, his brothers and sisters in Christ – the early church – were interceeding on his behalf through prayer. Not a quick, “please keep Peter safe, Lord” prayer, but instead they were in constant prayer.

Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. ~ Acts 12:5

After the angel lead Peter out of the prison and through the iron gates of the city, Peter went immediately to his friends’ house, “where many were gathered together praying” (12). Our first and last response to life emergencies and the trials we face is to give everything to our Heavenly Father in prayer. The early church was faithfully living out 1 Thessalonians 5:17, to “pray without ceasing.”

We finished the lesson, prayed, and the kids started a craft with praying hands and a paper chain. After they finished coloring, I stapled the chains to the paper praying hands, thankful that through faith in Jesus, the chains of this life are broken. 


13 thoughts on “Broken Chains

  1. What a wonderful teaching experience. Teaching is a blessing that flows both ways! I love that story, too. It makes me wonder, though, how often God makes our chains fall off and we don’t even realize it. I love that he walked away from those chains, led by an angel! You always serve such awesome spiritual meals! Thanks Kerry!

  2. Wow – this is really great! I was looking for a graphic of broken chains for a blog i am writing, and came across your post. I love this story, and i love the way kids take us to new places in God.

    May I borrow your chain image for my blog?


    Ben Nelson

    1. Hi Ben,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You’re welcome to borrow this image, but just so you’re aware, I did find it online, so it’s not technically mine.

      Thanks & God Bless!

  3. Like Ben, my son was online looking for a picture of chains for a school project (on slavery, I believe). He asked me to print the image you used.

    Of course, I saw the quote at the top of the page and started softly singing “thy word is a lamp unto our feet . . . ”

    Then I recalled that a couple of weeks ago we were talking about Christ being the light in my 3rd grade Faith Formation (like Sunday School on Tuesday) class. I asked the kids what that meant to them. One girl stood and replied that the light chases away the shadows that the devil puts in our way and then we can see where the sin is and stay away from it.

  4. wonderful post. was looking for a picture of a chain and stumbled unto your blog. I am a text artist, I create Christian text art and I would like to use the pictures of the chains for my next work hope u don’t mind.

    pls mail me your reply. thanks and God bless

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