Posted by: jevcat | July 14, 2011

The Rhoda Home

A couple of days ago, one of my all-time favorite Bible stories came up in the daily lectionary:  the story of Peter and Rhoda.  I love this story – maybe because it’s one I have no trouble at all picturing myself in.  It’s also one of the funniest stories in the Bible – worthy of a sitcom, really (one of the better ones).

We’re in Acts 12 here, and if Saul’s story from last week starts in comedy and ends in tragedy, this story starts with potential tragedy and ends in laughter and joy.  Peter has been imprisoned by Herod, but the night before he is to be brought before the king, an angel comes in the night and leads him to freedom.  As Luke (or whoever wrote Acts) tells it, at first Peter thinks his deliverance is a vision – which may be a nicer way of saying he thinks he’s dreaming.  Only after he is well and truly out does he realize it’s real.

Probably more than a bit dazed, he heads for a friendly place, the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, where folks have gathered to pray for him.  He knocks at the outer gate, and Rhoda, who comes to the door, gets so excited when she realizes it’s Peter, free, she forgets to open the gate and, instead, runs back to tell the others.  This is where I see myself, doing exactly what Rhoda did – although I do think halfway down the hall I’d’ve realized and remembered to run back and open the gate (however, when I related this to my Beloved, there was a significant pause, followed by “Um … yeah.  Maybe.”).

In its blundering enthusiasm, Rhoda’s gaffe is almost something Peter himself might have done (and, in the back of my mind, there’s a little voice that’s going, “Hmmm … I wonder if they were an item?”).

Poor Peter, though.  What a night for him!  And wouldn’t you love to have had a look at the expression on his face when he heard her running feet – in the wrong direction – and her receding voice.  Oh for a first century security cam on that door for a video of the scene and Peter’s patient (and/or weary) sigh, as he resumes knocking.

Peter does eventually get in.  Acts doesn’t say anything about how embarrassed Rhoda must have been, or if she ever lived it down (I suspect not).  I’ve done some pretty embarrassing things, myself, over the years, but none – as far as I know – likely to still be remembered and talked about millennia from now.  I’m grateful for that (and hope to keep things that way).  I can’t help wondering, though, if somewhere Rhoda still cringes every time we hit this section of the lectionary.

If this part of the story has any purpose – other than comic relief – it may be to remind us that God has a sense of humor, and that laughter is not just enjoyable and healing, but a gift we share with our Creator (or that the  Creator has shared with us).


  1. I don’t believe I’ve ever read all the way through Acts. I am told it will be this year’s BSF study…and am considering joining in…we’ll see.

    what a funny, very human story!
    here’s The Message’s take on it:

    -14Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter’s voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.

    15-16But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, “It must be his angel.” All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.

    16-17Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” He left them and went off to another place.


  2. I’ve always loved this story (and identified with silly, happy Rhoda, too). I think there should be a St. Rhoda’s Church in her honor.

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