It’s November – the start of a new month, and the end of my week of podcasts. It has been great to reflect on the word of God with you over the past 5 days. Next week we’ll be taking a break from the Book of Acts, as Mick focuses on unpacking key Bible passages that link to our vision for the year ahead. Be sure not to miss them!
For now, our Bible reading is Acts Chapter 12 v6-19, and I’m going to be looking at Rhoda – the servant girl who answers the door to Peter, following his miraculous release from prison.
In both the Old and the New Testament we find promises in Scripture that God knows us personally and calls us by name.
Isaiah 43: 1 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.”
And in John 10: 3 we read, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
Given the context and culture of the New Testament, it is particularly significant when women are named or identified, and in Acts we hear of Tabitha, Mary, Lydia, Priscilla and Damaris, as well as a group of Greek women of high standing, the daughters of Philip the Evangelist…..and then Rhoda.
The fact that Rhoda and others are named shows us how women were important, central figures to the growth of the church, and always seen as a key part to what God was doing. In this way the Gospel continually speaks of, and illustrates how, God’s kingdom will turn the cultural and societal norms of earth on their head.
In today’s Bible passage Rhoda is the first person to realise that Peter has been rescued from prison. She is the one who announces the miracle to the waiting, praying church inside the house. It’s not difficult to see parallels with the way in which the risen Christ appeared to Mary in the garden, and she then told the news of the resurrection to the other disciples.
The second thing to note about Rhoda was that she was a servant girl, or maid. She was of lowly position, possibly even a slave. So again, we see how God chose to challenge pre-conceived ideas of status and position when it came to choosing who would be first to hear good news. It reminds us of the fact that when Jesus was born, angels appeared first to lowly shepherds to tell them of the Saviour’s birth.
The arrival of Jesus heralded a complete change to the status quo, but despite his consistent, radical approach of turning the old order of things on its head; the fledgling church was sometimes a little slow on the uptake.
When Rhoda rushes in to tell them that Peter is at the door, they first tell her that she is mad, and then they suggest that she has made a mistake. It is not a real person at the door, it is an angel. Mad or mistaken, the followers of Jesus in the house that night did not believe that Rhoda, a female maidservant, could possibly be speaking the truth. She did not have the authority or importance to have her message taken seriously.
Rhoda, however, perseveres and insists that Peter himself really is at the door; that there has been a miraculous answer to their prayers. She shows courage and faith to not only continue sharing the message, but also to challenge those who are dismissive of her.
But what does the story of Rhoda have to teach us today?
Firstly, some of us may need to be reminded of our heavenly status, rather than our earthly position. As Christians, we are sons and daughters of the king, heirs to his kingdom, members of his family. And we need to remember that our Heavenly Father, the King of Kings, knows us by name, and has a purpose for our lives. Whether we are a man or a woman, a road sweeper or the CEO of a multi-national, we all have a role to play in God’s kingdom, and we are all called to announce the good news of Jesus to those that we live and work with.
If you have ever felt insignificant, not important enough, or lacking in influence or position – remember the story of Rhoda; the maidservant who was the first to see that God had done a miracle and the person who was given the role of telling others that their prayers had been answered.
Secondly, the story of Rhoda is a fantastic encouragement for those who are called to be witnesses in their workplace. Rhoda was working on the evening that Peter came to the door. That is why she went to the gate. So, how do we see Rhoda operating in her workplace? Well, she was joyful, and she wanted to share that joy with those around her. How can we bring joy into the place that we work?
Rhoda also showed courage in speaking to others in her workplace. It probably took a good degree of boldness to carry on insisting that Peter was actually at the door – she was after all implying that her employer had got it wrong! However, she carried on and kept speaking the truth. She didn’t stop, give up, or let one knock back keep her from trying again.
The story of Rhoda reminds us to be faithful and persistent in our witness to those in our workplace, and to keep persevering in this, even when challenges or difficulties arise. Because of Rhoda, the door was eventually opened. What does it look like for us to be courageous, bold, faith-filled and persistent in our workplace, so that others have the opportunity to open the door to Jesus, and welcome him into their lives?
Heavenly Father, thank you that you call each of us by name and that you have given each one of us an important role to play in the extension of your kingdom. Help us to bring joy into the places where we live and work, and to have the courage to share the Good News of Jesus with our friends, neighbours and colleagues. Amen.
READING: Acts 12:6-19
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognised Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’
‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, ‘It must be his angel.’
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. ‘Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,’ he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.