Late into the night, the prayers of the church rose to the Lord like the aroma of incense.
Their hearts were opened to God as tender sacrifices, and they pleaded for His mercy.
James, the feisty disciple and brother of John, had been put to death by Herod as a statement of power over the growing church. To further his growing popularity with the Jews, Herod imprisoned their shepherd, the beloved Peter, whom he planned to put to death after the Passover. (Acts 12:1-3)
Mourning the death of one brother and facing the possible execution of another, the church fervently interceded. Rhoda observed her station as a Gentile servant and stayed on the outskirts of the meeting though her petitions were equally impassioned. She had come to be well-acquainted with the church members that met in Marys large house, and she regularly stood at the door to welcome believers to fellowship.
This was supposed to have been a joyful season for the church. They were beginning the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the festival which celebrated the Lords opening the way for His people to escape the oppression of Pharaoh. How they prayed that He would provide an avenue of deliverance for Peter! Just as the Lord had set their ancestors free from Egypt, so they hoped He also would spare Peter from Herods wrath. Yet, it seemed inevitable that by morning the life of their leader would end. Sadness permeated the gathering.
Rhodas prayer was interrupted by rapping at the door. She stopped as she approached the entrance and listened. (Acts 12:12-13) Who could it be so late at night? Could Herod have sent soldiers to persecute the church?
Then she heard a voice beckoning to her. She immediately knew who it was. It was the familiar voice of one who often spoke of the Savior. At the gate was the Lords answer to their prayers.
With unencumbered delight, she ran to inform the praying brethren that God had heard and responded to their pleas. Peter had been set free! So overwhelmed was she that she forgot to let him in. She exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" Yet they did not believe the young maid. It was not until Peter was standing in their midst, recounting his deliverance, that they jubilantly acknowledged the Lords provision. (Acts 12:14-16)
Twenty years later, Peter wrote, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation" (I Peter 12:4-13).
Undoubtedly, Peter and the church members remembered the trial and the exuberant joy that Rhoda displayed at his return. This letter likely would have reached the household of John Marks mother and encouraged those who had suffered with Peter to persevere. They were to keep on rejoicing. They were to express the overwhelming gladness they had witnessed when the young servant heard Peters voice at the gate.
The church was able to continue faithfully even after Peters death because they had crossed through the eternal gate of gladness provided by Jesus. The pure joy of answered prayer, the blessedness of Gods provision would continually beckon the brethren to hope in the everlasting life supplied by Christ.
This call goes out to you as well. It is the joy of Christ that sustains you when the future appears impossible. It is the delight of your salvation that will help you endure when the most difficult issues and disappointments assail you. Rhoda was mighty in Spirit because she witnessed answered prayer and she attributed it to the Lord. It was that gladness that sustained her heart when life became painful.
Keep on rejoicing and believing that God will help you. As you face the fiery trials of life, you, too, will be empowered upon entering the gate of gladness.