I hurry to the door to welcome another guest. How many now, I wonder to myself…40…50? I make a mental note to count when I get back to the main room. I have a strange thing for numbers.
“Greetings, Rhoda!” I wrack my brain…what is his name? Why am I so forgetful? I force a smile, hoping he won’t notice.
“What did I miss? I’ve just returned this morning,” he says.
“Come, the brothers will fill you in.” He looks past me, clearly shaken by my trembling voice. I follow him to the main room. So many people, but only whispers can be heard as various side conversations fill the heavy air.
“Steven!” Mark is the first to acknowledge him. “Have you heard the terrible news? James has been beheaded by Herod and now Peter is in prison awaiting the same. We must pray.”
I let it sink in again, even though I am well aware of the current situation. Just when things seemed to be going perfectly. Good report after good report of brothers and sisters hearing the good news and being baptized. The church is growing like crazy. It seemed nothing could stop us. And now this. It feels like the bad guys are winning. Is this how it will all go down? Will this be the fate of all of us? Will Christianity die with the death of more and more of our leaders? I find an open space in the corner close to the door so I can quickly let any latecomers in.
The room goes eerily quiet as prayer after prayer saturated with thanksgiving and request is lifted up. Some heads bowed low and some hands up high. Words, psalms, Scripture rolls off the tongues of these men I have come to love. Several women in the far corner are huddled together tightly as they murmur, “Yes, Lord” as the disciples’ passionate and desperate intercessory prayers for Peter are lifted up to God. My heart feels at ease. It’s strange to me that I can be scared and at peace in the same body. The beautiful echo of prayers fills the space and fills my heart. I am safe and loved here, that I know.
I jump to the sound of banging. I quietly tip toe to the front of the house to get the door. I’m stunned by what I hear. It can’t be. But it is! It is Peter’s voice. I know it! I would know it anywhere. I rush back to the main room to tell the others.
“You are out of your mind!” they say. “It must be his angel,” another voice chimes in over the continued sound of the banging. OH NO…I’ve just left him out there knocking. What is wrong with me?
“Come…come with me and see!” I shout as I quickly turn toward the front of the house again. Together we open the door and Peter is there. Not an angel. Not a ghost. Not a vision. Peter. He has to motion with his hands for us to be quiet because the buzz is so loud as all of the guests are in shock at the sight of him. Why are we surprised when God graciously answers our prayers?
It is several weeks later and I still can’t believe I get to be a part of this group. The love, the fellowship, the shared meals, the prayers, the compassion, the passion to tell of our Lord. I’ve never been loved like this. And I still can’t believe the account Peter told us that day…the angel that made the shackles fall from his hands, escorted him past a total of 16 guards, and then opened the iron gate leading into the city. Incredible. And then the fate of Herod…eaten by worms as he breathed his last breath. You can oppose God, but you will ultimately lose. Just ask Herod. I rehearse the story of God’s faithfulness over and over in my head this day, like every day before. I never want to forget. I don’t know why James died and Peter was miraculously rescued, but I do know God is good. I know God has a plan. I know James is with Jesus today looking out for those of us persevering. God, thank you for your provision and protection. Thank you for this community. Thank you for letting us be a part of your glorious work. - Rhoda
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus