About that time…
Have you been there before? Are you there now? When about that time, things start changing suddenly and you react rather than act? Who I really want to tell you about is Rhoda. She is found later in this same passage. But, before you can fully appreciate what she did and why she did it, I think we should be more familiar with what was happening all around her. Here are the first five verses of Acts 12.
“About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration. ) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:1-5
Murderous treachery! Misuse of political power! Injustice! Persecution! Terror!
This evil ruler has just had the apostle James killed with a sword and that has been met with so much ‘approval’ he decides to give them an encore performance. Let me just point out this good example here that popular public opinion does not necessarily mean something is good or right or just. As is often the case when we face hard times and terrible crisis’, they began to pray. They prayed earnestly. They prayed without ceasing. They weren’t just going though the motions. They needed a miracle, a divine intervention and they were asking for it.
The next verses that follow are an amazing account of how Peter is released from prison. It was so amazing that it says in verse 9 that Peter himself didn’t realize it was really happening and it was happening to him! By verse 11 he had come to his senses and headed for a safe place, to the very place where faithful friends had been praying and praying earnestly well into the night.
“When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.” Acts 12:12
It is in verse 13 that we meet Rhoda, a servant girl or as some translations say, a damsel.
“He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. ” Acts 12:13
How she reacted is what I really want to focus on.
“When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” Acts 12:14
She was apparently familiar with Peter, familiar enough that she recognized his voice. Had she sat under his teaching or stood nearby while he spoke to the Church? Surely she knew what was being prayed about there in that very house even now, during the dark of night. Perhaps she too had added her prayers. I think we can safely assume she was keenly aware of the present danger that believers were facing, especially the Christian leaders.
So, what does she do when she realizes the answer to the earnestly prayed prayers was standing on the other side of the gate door? Well, she gets excited! She was overjoyed! And then, she left him standing there, in the dark, outside the door of the safe place he was seeking refuge in.
Oh, sure, we can easily chide Rhoda! Silly girl, we might say, what are you doing running off and leaving the answered prayer knocking at your door. But, most of us will be cautious to criticize because many of us have been just as curious in our reaction to answered prayer. Some of us have been down right suspicious. Could this really be? Even though we have prayed earnestly, even though the answer is knocking at our door, we hesitate or stop to evaluate or rush to share the good news without doing the obvious, answering the call, opening the door to what God is doing.
Poor Rhoda! I’m telling you, I can relate. If you know me at all you know, that I can get excited! I’ve been known to get the cart before the horses and in the moment of exuberance forget a few important details. This is why Siri is my BFF. There are many moments that I will ‘come to myself’ like Peter and realize I need some direction! When she gets to the group who is praying earnestly, to share the good news, they think she has lost her mind. There may have been a few that felt that way about me at times as well. I can remember when we announced that we had heard the voice calling out our heart’s door and were adopting a sibling group of three when we had already adopted four, a few of those…”Have you lost your mind?” comments. But, I knew what I heard.
“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Acts 12:15
They all begin to discuss how Rhoda has come to this wrong conclusion and how they know it can’t be Peter! After all, Peter is in prison and that’s the very reason for this all night prayer vigil. Let’s go ahead and resist the temptation to criticize them and call them something like, “Dimwits!”. After all, haven’t we been in just a place? A place where what we have asked God for is staring us in the face and we just can’t accept it. Lord knows I have. And let’s give Rhoda some credit here. She insisted. She persisted. Go Rhoda Go!
I’m sure they felt like this was an unnecessary interruption. Some of the most astounding interruptions in my life have led me to the EXACT place I needed to be. Here’s a prime example. About 13 years ago, Henry and I found ourselves in a big mess. Oh, what a mess it was. As a result of this terrible mess, we moved to Alexander City. I remember at one point thinking, we would never recover from what appeared to be one disastrous decision after another. I was so angry at myself. I felt responsible. I felt I should have known better. There we were, away from any family, Henry commuting well over an hour each way, every day. Frankly, I saw no sense in it at the time.
But, here’s the thing, not only did we make life long friends there during our five years of what seemed like the dark of the night, we adopted our four youngest children from that county. A county where we had never lived before nor ever intended to live at all. I know now, that what looked like an interruption, not at all the place we wanted to be, was an intentional push in the right direction towards completing our family.
Now, let’s not forget Peter. He’s been imprisoned unfairly, released miraculously and now can’t get in the door. What does he do? He keeps on knocking of course and so must we!
“Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. ” Acts 12:16
I’m not sure which part of our story squeezed your heart. Was it the fear of betrayal? Or are you at the earnestly praying place? Has your miracle come knocking? Are you excited? Hesitant? Trying to make sense of it all? Just coming to yourself?
Wherever you find yourself at this moment, don’t leave that door unopened when you recognize the voice you know you can trust. Fling that gate wide and let in what you’ve been waiting for and be amazed!