Last time we left Rhoda as she was trying to convince her fellow believers Peter really was outside. The group gathered at Mary’s house for a prayer meeting had difficulty believing her story. After all, Peter had been arrested, thrown in prison, and was awaiting trial (see Acts 12:1-6). “You are beside yourself!” they told Rhoda (v. 15). When she wouldn’t give up, they tried to calm her down by telling her, “It is his angel.” They must have imagined Peter was dead.
God sometimes acts in dramatic and unexpected ways, even in those situations where He gives believers the things they want most and pray for fervently. We don’t know what the believers specifically were praying for in relation to Peter, but probably they were asking God to give the apostle boldness and strength as he testified at his trial. Some may have asked the Lord to spare his life. Since Herod already had killed James (see v. 2) and arrested Peter (see v. 4), they knew Peter was next on Herod’s list. Yet, as the apostle Paul later would affirm in Ephesians 3:20, the Lord “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Note that the “power that works in” believers’ lives is the same power that sent an angel to lead Peter out of jail.
Whatever the early believers were praying for in specific terms, it’s clear that the Lord responded to their prayers in a way they didn’t expect. This challenges us to pray with expectant hearts and to not be blown away when God shows up dramatically. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego provide a model for us in this regard (see Dan. 3:17-18). Always, we need to let God be God, and when He manifests Himself as God, we never should be surprised—although it is quite natural for us to be amazed. God, after all, is God!
Rhoda was convinced Peter was outside, for she “kept insisting that it was so” (v. 15). The Greek word indicates she boldly affirmed her story. Peter kept on knocking, so eventually they opened the door and saw him standing before them. Luke tells us that the group was “astonished” (v. 16). This is the same word used to describe the response of the everyone at the temple when they heard Jesus, as a boy of 12, talk with the teachers there. They were “astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47). It’s the same word used to describe the response of the people to miracle after miracle Jesus performed. It appears in several places, including Matthew 12:23, Mark 2:12; 5:42; 6:51; and Luke 8:56. It’s also used to describe the response to news of Jesus’ resurrection in Luke 24:22; the miracle of tongues at Pentecost in Acts 2:7,12; and the news that salvation was for Gentiles as well as Jews in Acts 10:45. God truly does some amazing, astonishing things.
After cautioning them to keep what had happened to themselves—it is wise to be discrete in situations like this—Peter shared with his brothers and sisters in Christ how God had delivered him out of prison. He didn’t want them to keep it a secret from everyone, though; he said, “Go, tell these things to James and the brethren” (v. 17). Then he left, going to an undisclosed location.
One lesson for us here is that God’s family always should be “tight,” with relationship bonds that know no parallel on earth in strength or in brotherly love. These persecuted believers were a true family. The strength they derived from their relationships was not only an encouragement to them but also a testimony to the watching world.
Daybreak revealed Peter’s absence, and “there was no small stir among the soldiers about” his whereabouts. Little wonder the soldiers were upset—Herod had them executed and then departed “from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there” (v. 18).
God would use Peter for many more years to come. Peter continued to provide leadership in the early church and would write the epistles of First and Second Peter, which we read in our copies of God’s Word today.
Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved
Unless otherwise marked, Scripture quotations have been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.