I wonder if John ever asked: “Why was James taken and Peter delivered – why does my heart grieve even as Andrew rejoices in his brother’s deliverance?”
Peter was taken out of prison. James was simply taken out. Surely the disciples prayed for James as they did Peter? Surely their faith was as strong for one as for the other? Yet James was dead and Peter was free. Sometimes God says no. We don’t want to hear it – we close our eyes to it – but it’s true. Hezekiah pleaded for his own life, and God relented. David pleaded for the life of a newborn son, and God said no. What can we say when a missionary buries a life partner on a desolate field – and then a son? A frothy, sound-bite theology holds no answer when a faithful servant wonders, “Did someone fail God?” The eleventh chapter of Hebrews speaks in one verse of those who escaped the sword, and in the next of those who were martyred by it. Where can we find rest in the matter?
For everything there is a time and a season, and God never loses track of anybody’s time. He does all things well. He never makes a mistake – and when He says no, it is ultimately for the best. While Peter was messing with people problems, James was resting at the Master’s feet.