This chapter is centered on Acts 12, verses 1-5. It reminds me of how tenderly God knows, and holds, my heart (and yours). Bare facts are laid out about the persecution of the early Good News teachers, in this case about the imprisonment of Peter, and the death by the sword of James (the elder brother of John, the beloved disciple for whom the book is named).
Since this book is about John, the event of his brother's death is significant. The death of anyone's sibling is significant, and this pair of brothers had left their family business (they were fishermen, with their father) to follow Jesus together. They were a team within a team.
Can you imagine the shock, bewilderment, survivor's guilt, confusion, grief, fear, remorse and questioning of purpose that must have assaulted John's heart and mind after his brother's murder? They had embarked upon this adventure together, not knowing where it would lead, but answering a clear call from Jesus himself. They had journeyed with Jesus during his ministry, sharing in his presence, hearing his teaching, watching him perform miracles and watching him die, seeing his risen body and accepting his further call to continue to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
What could the death of one of the chosen disciples possibly mean - about their calling, about their mission, about the one who died, about each survivor, and (perhaps most importantly), about their Father, who Jesus had fleshed out and described for them?
How could a Father call His children, give them a mission, start a movement, and then allow this to happen?
I could feel myself enter this story as I never had before - as the mother of a bereaved sibling - and it brought me back to the earliest days after Katie's passing, of sitting on our yellow couch, wrestling with God - and with the image of God which I held. It reminded me of David's suffering at his sister's death - his best friend! - and how he may have felt. It reminded me of how I felt, too.
Some of Beth's reflections which brought this to light again:
"...these were men with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit to heal diseases and cast out demons...the disciples were promised power and were told they would be Christ's witnesses all over Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. His ministry had just begun! No, this couldn't be the end. He [James] would surely be delivered!
"Then they killed him.
"...When you grapple with questions like, 'Why did God let the blood of my brother spill..?' the explanations of others only frustrate you more.
"Solitude is not so much the place we find answers. It's the place we find our own square foot of earth from which to grapple with heaven and decide if we're going on--possibly alone--without our answers. And many of us will. Why? Because the privilege of wrestling with such a holy and mysterious God still beats the numbness--the pitiful mediocrity--of an otherwise life. Sometimes we don't realize how real He is until we've experienced the awesomeness of His answerless Presence. He knows that what we crave far more than explanations is the unshakable conviction that He is utterly, supremely God." - p. 139-141