Doors of the Bible, Part Nine, Rhoda’s Door

The last door we are looking at in our series “Doors of the Bible” is what I call Rhoda’s door. The text comes from Acts 12:5-14:

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. [6] Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. [7] And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. [8] And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” [9] And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. [10] When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. [11] When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”[12] When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [13] And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. [14] Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. [15] They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” [16] But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. [17] But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. (ESV)

This story fits in well with the story of Doubting Thomas in John 20:24–29:

[24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

[26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (ESV)

Just as Thomas would not believe the other disciples when they told him that Jesus had arisen, the other people at Mary’s house would not believe Rhoda when she told them that Peter was at the door.

Fortunately, in both cases the truth finally came out. Thomas got to see Jesus and realize that what his fellow disciples had been telling him was true and the people at Mary’s house finally came to the door and let Peter in.

This story teaches an important lesson about prayer. The people were praying for Peter but they didn’t exactly believe God would answer. It does not specifically say so but there is no doubt in my mind that they were praying for him to be released from prison. Yet when it actually happened they did not believe it.

When Peter showed up at Rhoda’s door they should have been expecting him. That is what they had been praying for. Instead they wouldn’t believe Rhoda.

Don’t we sometimes pray that way? We pray for things, not totally expecting that God will give them to us. Fortunately, God knows what’s best and will always answer our prayers according to what is best for us. As Luther put it, He is a great God so we should ask great things of him.

This story also illustrates the limited importance of miracles. God miraculously let Peter out of prison but then he did not miraculously open the doors to Mary’s house. Peter had to knock to get in.

That’s how we should approach miracles. We should not expect that God will always intervene miraculously in our lives.

What we should always focus on is his word. Acts 5 describes what was happening shortly after the Day of Pentecost. I call it “miracles on steroids”:

[12] Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. [13] None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. [14] And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, [15] so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. [16] The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

[17] But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy [18] they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. [19] But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, [20] “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” [21] And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. (ESV)

As it says, there were so many miracles happening that even Peter’s shadow was healing people. But then the apostles got thrown in prison. When the angel let them out, he did not say, “Now go stand in the temple and do some more miracles.” The angel said, “Go stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” So the apostles entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach about eternal life through faith in Jesus.

And as he wraps up the story about Thomas, John writes, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Miracles are great and God still works them every day but our primary focus always is on the spoken and written Word of God.

So Rhoda’s door teaches us to have confidence when we pray and to focus more on God’s Word than on miracles. As we have seen throughout this series, the most important thing to believe is that Jesus is the one door to eternal life.


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