The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists.
Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent His angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”
When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 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!”
“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”
* Time for coffee before we keep praying *
Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.
At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. [Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.]Acts 12:6-19
Today is a very significant day for Bible Gems. This is the 1600th Gems I have written since the 9th of September 2009. So in 2,498 days I have written 1,600 Gems. I astounds me. I never conceived that I would carry on with this idea that I had back in August / September 2009 and continue to write Gems over the last ten+ years. Those Gems have spread to an uncountable number of people around the world. Well over 15,000 and have spawned groups of people or individuals who continue to dig into the Word of God at a deeper level than ever they have before. I am so pleased. I get responses from all sorts of people from all walks of life and from different countries around the world telling me they follow the Gems and how much they have helped them to go deeper into the Word of God. There are groups of people who study the Bible deeper using Gems as the catalyst in churches, schools, universities, Bible colleges and privately. It astounds me. Thank you God. That’s all I wish to say in this significant 1600th Gem on the matter. Except with this new website, the Gems and Nuggets will be live again and searchable. Many people have asked me lately to share these insights with them. So I plan to make them public. I will begin a new series of Bible Gems on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Now let’s get back to Peter standing outside the door. Best we don’t keep him there for too long. They said to Rhoda: You are mad, maniacal, off your head, raving like a maniac, delirious, insane, out of your mind crazy! But she kept persisting, strongly, confidently, obstinately, insistently, sticking to her story, affirming that it was true that Peter was at the door. They still wouldn’t believe her; they decided, “It must be his angel.”
What does that even mean, “it must be his angel”?
Just to sum up for you: Peter escapes death in a rather spectacular way. He wakes in a daze and simply does what the angel tells him to do. I don’t know that Peter would have had the awareness to even question the angel about putting on his sandals and clomping out of the prison. I added that back a few gems ago as it seems crazy, better to leave the sandals off and just tippy toe out of there as quietly as you can. But as I told you, there was no haste, no concern for the guards, no thought about making noise or running as fast they can. They simply sauntered out. Left to his own decision making powers Peter works out where to go after the angel has left him. It is clear that Peter knows a church meets in Mary’s house. I am sure Peter was a regular visitor, hence Rhoda knows his distinct voice. She has no doubt that it’s Peter, whether she has caught a glimpse of him through the gate or not.
After my years of telling God stories on Radio Rhema, I would travel NZ and get in conversation with others who had introduced me to a new person only to have that new acquaintance looking at me strangely for a while before declaring, “I know how I know you. Ah, it’s the voice, not the face. You tell those stories on Radio Rhema.” One woman said to me, “I have a bone to pick with you Ian Vail. Those Rhema stories are so infuriating.”
I said, “That’s sad, most people find them inspiring and exciting and look forward to them.”
She laughed and said, “My problem is that I live in Wellington and head to work at the right to hear your stories. But then often along the journey I reach one of the tunnels and the Rhema reception fades and I lose the end of the story.” Then she added, “And those tear-jerking stories are a problem too. I arrive at work with a tear stained face and all of my make-up run.”
To which I replied, “But that is not my fault. All you have to do is leave for work earlier and don’t wear make-up.”
I am sure it was like that for Rhoda. The sound of Peter’s voice was so familiar to her from all the times he came to preach God’s Word at Mary’s house church that Rhoda recognised his voice instantly. Peter goes to the place he knows he will be safe and where he is probably convinced the people will be praying through the night for him in prison. He heads to Mary’s House Church. What a surprise when Rhoda, whom he knows well, comes to the door in the gate, probably calls, “Who is there?” given the time in the wee small hours of the morning that it is. When Peter tells her, “Rhoda, it’s me! Peter!” she doesn’t open the door in the gate to him but runs off to tell the others.
What was going through Rhoda’s mind at that moment? It is like she loses it with excitement. Why did she not simply open door in the gate to the street and let him into the courtyard? Where were the others gathered? How many of them were there in this house church prayer meeting at that time of the morning? A story like this makes my mind come up with a myriad of questions wanting to know the details which are unspoken. Some day I will seek out Rhoda, Mary and Peter and ask them about the details of this encounter. But for now I have to be content with speculation. I assume that Rhoda was just so excited as to what she was experiencing: the church praying, hearing Peter’s voice at the door, the one they were praying for IN PRISON, was standing at the door to the courtyard. Unbelievable! In her joy and excitement she leaves him there and races off to tell the pray-ers. But what happens? They don’t believe her despite her persistent insistence that she is right and it is indeed Peter is left at the gate.
- “No!” They say, “It can’t be. He is in prison; he is the one we are praying for.”
- “No I swear to you.” Rhoda says, “It is him. He is out of prison and he is at the gate.”
- “But he can’t be out of prison. It’s impossible. He is in prison and likely to die. So stop interrupting our prayer meeting Rhoda. We have to get back to praying for him.”
How bizarre and ironic that the people in the house church Peter has gone to for refuge, whom he knows will be up late at night praying for him, don’t believe God has answered their prayers. It is such a funny story in many ways. I love this story of God’s intervention and the reaction of those praying. Isn’t that typical of us, the church. We pray for grand things we actually deep down inside don’t believe will happen. It is almost like saying ”we are just praying.” We are asking things of God that we know haven’t a chance of happening but we ask them anyway, while never believing we will have the answer that we ask for. Isn’t that what prayer is like for many of us? Asking impossible things from a distant and aloof God who sometimes answers but mostly doesn’t. Therefore we say things in prayer, or ask for things we don’t expect to come to pass. We are merely praying. It is something that we do without actually believing it will happen. Maybe it is time for a reality check regarding our expectations in prayer and of God.
I used to tell people in God’s Awesome Book seminars around New Zealand and in Indonesia, if we really caught the importance of praying, believed the Word of God and realised Who it is that we are praying to, we would equip our churches with seat belts. Praying is dangerous. Believing God has the potential to shake your world and everyone around you. Don’t allow yourself to get trapped in the dulling sedative of routine and stop looking for God’s intervention in human affairs. It can happen quicker that you realise and without a warning.Always be prepared for the miraculous and make sure you fasten your seat belt at church.
This one of my favourite Bible stories. It is delightful in its simplicity. It is so funny in the way Luke has told it and it is staggering in the irony of this small house church who pray for Peter, little expecting their prayers will be answered.
- My next question for you is to what degree does this house church / home group of Mary’s mirror your church or cell group?
- Can you identify with the major players in this story?
- What would your reaction have been?
Would your reaction have been Rhoda-like or would it have been more Mary-like? I am assuming Mary was one who agreed with the sentiment: you are crazy Rhoda. It is not possible. If anything, it must be his angel. I am only picking on Mary because I only know two people who were likely a part of this church prayer group. Mary and Rhoda.
Was Mark there at his mother’s house? If he was he may have been more open to the supernatural as he was likely present when Jesus walked through the wall and appeared among the disciples. But if he was there, he didn’t speak up because Luke doesn’t record his positive reaction. No, unfortunately there appears to be no one who supported Rhoda in what she had claimed she had seen or heard. All are putting her down and saying she is crazy for telling them that Peter is at the door. It appears no one among them has put two and two together and suggested that just maybe it was Peter at the door because after all “we have been praying for his release.”
Notice what Luke then writes for us:
- Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking.
- When they finally opened the door and saw him,
- they were amazed.
- He motioned for them to quiet down
- and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison.
I have deliberately slowed this story down and broken it up into its component parts so we can get a handle on exactly what happened. Then I have dared to do what I so often do.
That is to put myself in the situation and fill in the details and ask my questions.
- What would you do if you could visit this house church group after this incident took place?
- What would you ask them if you could interview them?
It is time now for you to take in the details of the story Luke has told for us. This is not a fictitious story made up to encourage people to be bolder and pray more believing prayers. It is not a myth, it had happened. It exposes much of what we call prayer which is not prayer at all but rather wishful thinking without a mustard seed portion of faith that we will have what we ask of Him.
Make room in your prayers for the impossible.Ian Vail
Don’t allow your trust in God to act in response to your prayer be dulled by routine or lowered expectation.Ian Vail
Isn’t that typical of us? We pray for grand things we actually deep down inside don’t believe will happen.Ian Vail
Isn’t that what prayer is like for many of us? Asking impossible things from a distant and aloof God who sometimes answers but mostly doesn’t.Ian Vail
God can do in a moment what normally would take years. Keep the faith!Evelinne Lumongga
I pray today you may have a God-breathed idea that leads to a God-given opportunity!Brian Houston
May the size of your prayers and your faith to hold on, lead you to belief in a God who is so much greater than ever you could ask or imagine.Ian Vail
The hairs on your head are numbered, the cares in your heart are too.Ian Vail