The name Rhoda means “rose.” It was not uncommon for Hebrew parents to name their children after flowers and plants. Other such names are Susanna (lily), Hadessa (myrtle), Chloe (green herb), and Tamar (palm tree). So what can we learn from this little rose? Let’s find out.
And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, “Thou art mad.” But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, “It is his angel.” But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. —Acts 12:13-16
King Herod (the Roman ruler) was coming down hard on the Christians. He killed James, the brother of John, and then had Peter put into prison with the intention of killing him too. Easter was coming, so Herod was going to wait until after the holiday to do his dirty work, but in the meantime, Peter was placed under the guard of sixteen soldiers.
It looked like the end was near for Peter, but the believers in the church at Rome gathered together to pray earnestly, day and night, for God to intervene. The day came when Herod was ready to bring Peter out of the prison and make an example of him. What do you suppose Peter was doing at the time? What would you have been doing? Would you have been worried? Peter wasn’t. He was sleeping, and sleeping hard. He was bound with chains. A guard was on either side of him, and more guards stood at the door. Remember, sixteen guards had been assigned to keep watch over this one man. But none of this mattered to God. He wasn’t done with Peter yet, and He had heard the prayers of the believers on his behalf. So He sent an angel to rescue Peter from the prison.
The angel appeared next to Peter in the cell, a bright light shining all around him. The angel struck him in the side to wake him up. Dazed, Peter opened his eyes, shielding them from the light. But the angel lifted Peter to his feet and the shackles fell off his hands. He told Peter to put on his shoes and his coat and follow him. Peter did as he was told but thought he must be dreaming. The two of them walked right past the guards as though they were invisible. When they reached the iron gate, it opened of its own accord, Peter walked out a free man, and the angel disappeared. Peter came to himself and realized what had just happened, then excitedly ran to the house where the believers were gathered to pray.
Rhoda Comes to the Door
The Bible says Peter knocked at “the door of the gate.” Some translations call it the “entry door,” and the Spanish Bible calls it “the door of the patio.” Indeed, when I read this, I imagine a house like the one I lived in while in Bolivia. Many of the houses there were surrounded by a high stone wall with chunks of broken glass fixed along the top to ward off thieves, and the entry was guarded by a strong gate. This is where you would greet your guests, not at the door to the house. Regardless, Peter stood at the outer door, knocking loudly, taking for granted the folks inside would be asleep. Rhoda, a young girl, perhaps a servant in the house, heard him knocking and went to answer the door. When she saw that it was Peter, she was so excited that she forgot to open the door. Instead, she turned and ran into the house to tell the others that their prayers had been answered and Peter was out of prison. At first they did not believe her, but she pressed them until they finally went to the door to see for themselves.
A Few Observations about This Account
Apparently Rhoda was not able to see through the gate, so perhaps it was a solid structure, maybe made of wood, and not like the wrought iron gates that I often think of, such as what we had in Bolivia. But she knew Peter’s voice. This means she had heard him preach and speak, most likely on numerous occasions.
As I read this account, I wonder, “Who had more faith? Those who were inside praying for Peter? Or Rhoda, this little girl? The vehement denial of the others could not shake her certainty that the man standing at the door was none other than Peter. She knew it for a fact, and she was not going to back down.
Jesus loved children. In fact, on more than one occasion He affirmed that the faith of a child was necessary for salvation.
But Jesus called [the children] unto Him, and said, “Allow little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).
“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15).
A child trusts without questioning. A little child will jump into his daddy’s arms without the slightest fear that he may drop him. He does not stop to consider how strong his daddy is, how far away he is standing, whether or not he truly loves him, or any such thing. He just jumps. That is the kind of faith that is necessary for salvation.
Rhoda is not the only rose is the Bible. The flower itself is mentioned twice.
In the Song of Solomon, the bridge-groom, a picture of Christ, describes himself as “the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys” (Song 2:1). Matthew Henry puts it this way in his Whole Bible Commentary:
He that is the Son of the Highest, the bright and morning star, calls and owns himself the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys, to express his presence with his people in this world, the easiness of their access to him, and the beauty and sweetness which they find in him, and to teach them to adorn themselves with him, as shepherds and shepherdesses, when they appeared gay, were decked with roses and lilies, garlands and chaplets of flowers. The rose, for beauty and fragrance, is the chief of flowers…. Christ is the rose of Sharon, where probably the best roses grew and in most plenty, the rose of the field (so some), denoting that the gospel salvation is a common salvation; it lies open to all; whoever will may come and gather the rose-buds of privileges and comforts that grow in the covenant of grace. He is not a rose locked up in a garden, but all may come and receive benefit by him and comfort in him.
The only other mention of the rose is found in Isaiah 35:1, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah has been prophesying of the destruction of the enemies of Israel, and now the time of peace that ensues is described as a desert blossoming with the beauty of the rose. The entire chapter of Isaiah 35 is prophetic of the Messiah, who came to earth to defeat the great enemy, the devil. One day He will reign again over this earth, and all will be filled with beauty, joy, and peace. But even now, in the midst of the chaos that is so typical of the age in which we live, God puts the beauty of His love, peace, and joy in the hearts of His believers. We have victory in Jesus over sin and Satan. We have peace, and His loveliness shines out of us as rays of hope in this dark world.
In His Time
He has made everything beautiful in His time (Eccl. 3:11a).
There is one more thing I’d like to point out here, although it really has nothing to do with Rhoda, and that is the matter of God’s timing. Folks, God is never late. He is always right on time. Often he chooses to delay, at least in our opinions. But God’s timing is always perfect.
I was thinking of this as I read the passage. Peter was arrested during Passover and held until after Easter. I don’t know how many days had passed, but I do know that God did not release Him until just before Herod was ready to kill him. He could have sent the angel at any time, but He chose to wait so the believers could experience a miraculous answer to prayer.
Consider when God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac on the altar. Abraham trusted that God would provide Himself a lamb for the burnt offering, but he obeyed God all the way to the point of binding his son, laying him on the altar, and raising the knife. He knew that if he had to take the life of his son, God had the power to bring him back again. But the Lord stopped him, and then Abraham heard a ram bleating behind him, his horns caught in the brambles of a bush. God had indeed provided the sacrifice.
Consider also when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Twenty long years passed while Joseph endured one hardship after another, before his dreams came true and he was reunited with his family. But God was bringing both him and his brothers to the place where they needed to be. God was working all this time, even though it seemed as though He did not see.
And remember when Mary and Martha sent for Jesus because their brother Lazarus was sick? They knew He had the power to heal Lazarus, but Jesus delayed His coming because He wanted to show them that He also had the power to raise men from the dead.
There are many more examples of God’s perfect timing that I could mention, but I will close with this one. Perhaps the greatest example of God’s patience was when the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s sinless Son, was arrested, unjustly accused of crimes He did not commit, beaten without mercy, then hung in shame on a Roman cross. At any time He could have delivered Himself from His attackers. After all, He had escaped from the throngs before, walking right through their midst. They even taunted Him as He hung there suffering for us, saying, “If You are the Son of God, come down off the cross.” When He did not do it, they said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” It wasn’t true. He could have saved Himself, but He loved us far too much—He loved them far too much—to think of Himself. So He stayed on the cross and finished the work that He came to do, the work of redemption. When the time was right, Jesus let go of His earthly life, then three days later He reclaimed His body of flesh when He rose up from the dead.
Jesus is the Rose and the Lily of my soul.
Next week: Jochebed
Photo taken just off the road in Newmarket, VA, 2014.