And when he had realized this, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people were gathered together praying.
by the apostles as agents, and sometimes for them as teachers whose ministry it was important to preserve. And yet, when God would secure the deliverance of his imperiled servants, he did not always employ miraculous agencies. Paul and Sirius were imprisoned at Philippi, but they were rescued by natural means; an earthquake proved effective to the loosening of their bonds, and the jolting open of the prison doors. There must have been some special reasons for the miraculous form in which St. Peter's deliverance was effected. Two things require attention, as introductory to this subject.
1. The nature of New Testament miracles, and their particular mission to the age in which they were wrought.
2. The ideas of angelic ministry which had passed over to the apostles from Judaic associations. The intervention of angels had occurred again and again in the earlier history, and such an event as St. Peter's rescue would not start doubts in a Jewish mind. God's revelations to men, "in sundry ways and in divers manners," were better apprehended by Jews then than by Christians now. From this incident we may be led to consider -
I. THE EMPLOYMENT OF THE MIRACULOUS. Here should be given an historical review of Divine interventions, with some classification of their character and of the circumstances under which the miracles were wrought. It will be found that there are cases in which
(1) natural agencies sufficed, under the ordering of Divine providence, to remove the difficulty;
(2) in which miraculous intervention did not come when we might reasonably have expected;
(3) and in which miraculous agencies were used when we did not expect them. These points may be illustrated to show that the employment of the miraculous is
(a) a matter of Divine sovereignty, and never offered in response to any compulsion of man or of circumstances; and
(b) that it is therefore still a Divine reserve, and we dare not affirm that the age of miracles is past, because the employment of them is to be regarded as entirely dependent on the Divine judgment and will; and as that will acts upon considerations of the higher and spiritual well-being of man, it may quite conceivably be that in some of man's moral states the miraculous may be the most efficient moral force. It is true that miracles may not be wisely employed in a characteristically scientific age such as ours may be called; but the scientific is only a passing feature, and from it there may conceivably come a rebound to a characteristically imaginative, or as some might call it superstitious, age, to which miracle might again make efficient appeal. The incident of St. Peter's release is a peculiar case of employment of the miraculous - peculiar in that
(1) it differs materially from all the other apostolic miracles; and
(2) in that it carries the style of Old Testament miracles over into the New, and is to be classed with the deliverance of the three Hebrew youths from the furnace, and of Daniel from the lions.
II. THE LIMITATIONS OF THE MIRACULOUS. These are even more striking than the uses. In the case of our Lord's miracles the general principle of the limitation is indicated. Miracles he never wrought for the supply of his own needs, only for the exertion of a gracious moral influence on others. These two limitations may be illustrated.
1. A miracle is never wrought unless it can be made the enforcement or illustration of some moral truth.
2. A miracle is never wrought unless those in whose behalf it is wrought are in a duly receptive state of mind and feeling, and so can be benefited by the miracle. It does not affect this principle of limitation that some of those who are related to a miracle may be rather hardened by it than taught and blessed. St. Peter was not miraculously delivered for his own sake, but for the sake of the confidence which the praying Church might gain from such a proof of the Divine defense and care.
III. THE ADAPTATIONS OF THE MIRACULOUS.
1. To the particular occasion.
2. To the tone and sentiment of the age.
3. To the Divine dispensation, with which it has to be in harmony.
4. To the precise underlying purpose for the sake of which it is wrought.
On these principles we may even discern miraculous workings in these our times, though they take forms of adaptation to our thought anti associations, and are not after the precise Old Testament or New Testament patterns. We look for direct Divine agencies in the moral and spiritual rather than in the physical and material world.
IV. THE RESULTS ATTAINED BY THE MIRACULOUS. How far it can be used as evidence or proof needs to be carefully considered. Wiser men only use miracles as auxiliary evidence of the truth of Christianity. And for this use the character of the miracle rather than the power in the miracle are of chief importance. In connection with our text we find one result on which it may be profitable to dwell in conclusion. The Divine rescue of St. Peter brought to the praying and persecuted Church a sense of God's protective presence. So suddenly had persecution burst upon them, so over-whelming did it seem, that they were for the moment paralyzed with fear - just as the servant of Elisha was when the Syrian army surrounded the house - and nothing could so immediately and efficiently recall them to calmness and trust as this wonderful rescue of St. Peter, convincing them, as it did, how tenderly near to them was their living and almighty Lord. Such a moral result will in every age suffice to explain a Divine miraculous revelation or intervention. - R.T.
And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark.1. Two names are here, one Jewish, the other Roman; the latter adopted at first as a secondary one, and gradually superseding the former, just as "Joses" grew into "Barnabas," and "Saul" became universally known as "Paul." Thus we have "John, whose surname was Mark"; but later always "Mark" or "Marcus," the Jewish name being entirely gone.
2. The scenes of this man's youth are not difficult to imagine. His father is never mentioned, but his mother is of note in the Christian community. She has a house commodious enough to receive a number of its members when they desire to meet. She has servants; the name of one of them we know, "Rhoda," or "Rose." There would meet, on various occasions, the choicest spirits of the early Church. Barnabas was Mary's nephew, and would often be her guest. Peter must have been an intimate friend. We find traces of these connections in the Epistles. "Marcus, sister's son" (or rather cousin) "to Barnabas," is the designation given to him in Colossians, and in Peter's first Epistle he is called "Marcus my son," no doubt in the spiritual sense, as Timothy stood related to Paul. Mary was a devout and courageous woman, ready, even when Herod's sword was loose, with a welcome for all who loved the Lord. It was a fine moral atmosphere for a youth to breathe: a godly mother, praying friends, missionaries and martyrs and apostles coming and going there; and a bracing one withal, with frequent winds of fierce opposition raging around. something it must have been to be a son in the house to which Peter came that night, and to have been in the company when cousin Barnabas introduced Saul of Tarsus. But, so far, we have proceeded mainly on conjecture. Mark's recorded history begins about the year A.D. 44, the era of the earliest mission to the heathen.
3. When Barnabas and Saul were set apart for this work, it was settled that Mark should accompany them as their "minister," or servant. It was the excellent custom of the older evangelists to associate the younger with them; just as Moses chose Joshua for his assistant, and Elisha "poured water on the hands of Elijah." The design was to inure them to the discipline of the missionary life, and to instruct them in its duties. It was the squire learning to win his spurs in the Christian chivalry by attendance on the knight who had won them already. And what could be more suitable, or full of promise, than that Mark should serve his first campaign under Barnabas.
4. But what sudden change is this, occurring when that missionary journey has been but a little while begun? "John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem." Short words, but how significant and disappointing! After witnessing the awful judgment on Elymas, and the glorious conversion of Sergius Paulus; after seeing how Paul could smite, and how Barnabas could heal; after feeling some thrill of holy emulation in his own bosom, does he now give up the Christian work? What motive can have turned him back? Matthew Henry says, "Either he did not like the work, or he wanted to go see his mother." A fit of homesickness, in fact! Perhaps also Paul, himself so hardy and self-sacrificing, was a little impatient with the young man, and treated him with an outspoken severity not pleasant to endure. Mark was no traitor, for his heart was true at bottom; but he was at present a coward, too soft to suffer hardship, and he had forgotten to count the cost. A failure, it would seem; a hand taken from the plough; a ship, scarcely out of dock, and already stranded on the shore! What a sorrow to that noble mother to see her son return like this; better he had been borne home dead upon his shield than have cast it away in dishonourable flight.
5. Five years must be supposed to pass. Barnabas and Paul have accomplished their journey, and returned. The great conflict with the Pharisaic party at Jerusalem has been fought out. The two missionaries are panting to be at work again. And of all men, who should appear, applying to accompany them, but the deserter Mark? Paul has never seen him since that unhappy parting at Perga; and he does not mean to be deceived a second time. Barnabas must do as he thinks right, but Paul will rather break their own old companionship, and go by himself. Then Barnabas will break it too. Barnabas takes the more hopeful, more indulgent view; he has probably heard better things of his young cousin. The decision of the "son of consolation" is to give him another chance. "And so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus." How often has that "other chance" been the making of a man!
6. Another blank occurs here. We lose sight for ten years of Barnabas and Mark. Barnabas may be dead; and Mark appears again, and, singularly enough, in the Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon. But can it be the same man? Another stamp is set now upon his name by the very hand that was once ready to brand "deserter." Surely our stranded ship floats again! Our fallen brother has lifted himself up, with heaven's help, and is on his own feet, pressing forward with as stout a heart as the bravest. Barnabas was right; there was a true heart in the man after all.
7. We turn to the first Epistle of Peter, and Mark is now at Babylon; what an indefatigable traveller he has grown, and what a heart has he for labour! And he is found with aged Peter, his father in the faith. Presently Paul is writing again; it is the last of all his letters, the second to Timothy. His friends have left him; he is cold, and he is ill, and, with all his steadfast faith in the Divine support, he craves for a little human sympathy. Therefore let Timothy, if it may be, come quickly from Ephesus, where he is, bringing cloak and parchments, and his own filial care; and let him bring also some other tried and trusty brother, as a second source of consolation. Who, then, shall the chosen one be? "Take Mark, and bring him with thee"; a "profitable man," the very man for a minister, a servant, a friend! Mark, the runaway? Even him; for years have passed since then, and the timid stripling has become the resolute and energetic veteran.
8. One further reference remains, a large and a long one; for it is a whole book of Scripture — "the Gospel according to Mark." All the early traditions agree in attributing this to Mark, as the scribe and interpreter of Peter. And thus the image which remains is not that of the fugitive youth, but of the missionary, the faithful companion of the chief apostles, and one among the four evangelists.
9. On the northern coast of Devon there spreads a bay, along which the sea comes tide after tide, washing a broad beach of tiny shells; but you may search the shore for hours, and find no perfect specimen: the shells are broken. I can conceive many a disheartened traveller in life's hard journey sitting down on that beach, and saying, "Behold the image of my own experience, of my broken resolutions, unaccomplished purposes, and perpetual failures!" Even in the Christian Church there are not a few who feel that they have failed of the high aims, the noble impulses, which warmed and quickened them at first! To any such disheartened souls this story of Mark's recovery should come like a trumpet call of hope. Never too late, while life lasts. Once more to the front! If Paul does not trust you, Barnabas will. If Paul does not care for you now, he may come to lean on you with all his strength. And One, of whom you know, clearer-sighted by far than that shrewd apostle, tenderer of heart than that "son of consolation," marks your struggles, and prays for your success; and He, as you arise, will breathe into your ear those words of unutterable hope and encouragement, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more."
And many were gathered together praying.
I. THE IMPORTANCE WHICH THE EARLY CHURCH ATTRIBUTED TO PRAYER MEETINGS.
1. As soon as we begin to read in the Acts, and continually as we read on we note that meetings for prayer had become a standing institution in the Church. They were not met to hear a sermon, although that is proper, but praying was the business on hand. The eminent speaking brethren seem to have been all away, and perhaps the Church was too much engrossed in intercession. There is a serious flaw in the arrangements of a Church when such gatherings are omitted or placed in a secondary position. The private Christian will read, and hear, and meditate, but none of these can be a substitute for prayer: the same truth holds good upon the larger scale.
2. It appears, however, that while prayer meetings were a regular institution, the prayer was sometimes made special. It adds greatly to the interest and fervency of prayer when there is some great object to pray for. Here the special object was Peter. They prized the man, for they saw what wonders God had wrought by his ministry, and they could not let him die if prayer would save him. Why not pray for a certain missionary, or some chosen district, or class of persons, or order of agencies? We should do well to turn the grand artillery of supplication against some special point of the enemy's walls.
3. These friends fully believed that there was power in prayer; for, Peter being in prison, they did not meet together to arrange a plan for getting him out. It looked as if they could do nothing, but they felt they could do everything by prayer. They thought little of the fact that sixteen soldiers had him in charge. If there had been sixteen thousand these believing men and women would still have prayed Peter out. Let it never be insinuated in the Christian Church that prayer is a good and useful exercise to ourselves, but that it would be superstition to suppose that it affects the mind of God. As surely as any law of nature can be proven, we know both by observation and experiment that God assuredly hears prayer.
4. This prayer was industriously continued. As soon as Herod had put Peter into prison the Church began to pray. As in times of war, when two armies lie near each other they both set their sentries, so in this case Herod had his sentries, and the church had its pickets too. As soon as one little company were compelled to separate they were relieved by another, and when some were forced to take rest in sleep, others were ready to take up the work. Some mercies are not given to us except in answer to importunate prayer. There are blessings which, like ripe fruit, drop into your hand the moment you touch the bough; but there are others which require you to shake the tree again and again, until you make it rock with the vehemence of your exercise, for then only will the fruit fall down. I would pause here, and urge my brethren to attach as much importance to prayer as the early Church did. Some prize active agencies, but prayer is the steam engine which makes the wheels revolve, and really does the work, and therefore we cannot do without it. Suppose a foreman were employed by some great builder to manage works at a distance. He has to pay the men their wages weekly, but he forgets to write for cash to go on with. Is this wise? Keep up a constant communication with heaven, or your communications with earth will be of little worth. You may go on preaching and teaching, and giving away tracts, and what you like, but nothing can possibly come of it when the power of Almighty God has ceased to be with you.
II. THE NUMBER ASSEMBLED.
1. This is a rebuke to some here present. The text says, "Many were gathered." Somebody said that two or three thousand people had no more power in prayer than two or three. That is a grave mistake in many ways; but clearly so in reference to each other; for have you never noticed that when many meet together praying, warmth of desire and glow of earnestness are greatly increased. Have you not observed how one brother suggests to another to increase his petition, and so the petitions grow by the mingling of heart with heart, and the communion of spirit with spirit? Besides, faith is a cumulative force. "According to thy faith so be it done unto thee" is true to one, to two, to twenty, to twenty thousand.
2. This is not a very common occurrence, and why is it that so many prayer meetings are so very thin? Gentlemen who do not get home from the city and have their dinner till seven o'clock, cannot be expected to go out to a prayer meeting. They work all the day, so much harder than working men. Some of you who have your delightful villas are very careful of your health, and never venture out into the evening air at prayer meetings, though I rather suspect that your parties and soirees are still kept up. After all, this is a personal matter. How are we to increase the number? Not by complaining of those who stay away, but by coming yourself. The largest numbers are made up of units.
3. I am not sure that quite so many would have been gathered together that night if it had not been that Peter was in prison. Ministers laid aside by illness find their people pray better, and perhaps one reason for his being afflicted was God's desire to stir the hearts of His people to intercede. Now, the best way to do good to your pastor is to pray to be kept in a right condition, and not need his sickness as a stimulus to prayer.
III. THE PLACE OF ASSEMBLY. A private house, and I want to urge my brethren to consecrate their houses by frequently using them for prayer meetings. There was a meetness in their meeting in this particular house, for the family stood in a very dear relationship to Peter. Peter in his First Epistle refers to "Marcus, my son." Mark would be sure to pray for his spiritual father. There is sure to be prayer for the pastor in the house where the pastor has been blessed to the family. Mark was not all we should like him to have been, but he might have been a useless Christian, and never have used his graphic pen for the Lord had not the good people come to his house. The house received a blessing, and so will you, too, if your house shall be every now and then opened for special prayer. Prayer meetings at private houses are very useful, because friends who would be afraid to pray before a large assembly are able to feel free and easy in a smaller company in a private house. Sometimes, too, the social element is consecrated by God to promote a greater warmth and fervour, so that prayer will often burn in the family when perhaps it might have declined in the public assembly.
IV. THE TIME OF THIS PRAYER MEETING. At dead of night. Now, if the time for prayer meetings be an inconvenient hour, and I should think the dead of night was rather inconvenient, nevertheless go. Better hold prayer meetings at twelve o'clock at night than not at all. But the dead of the night was chosen for safety. Let the time fixed for modern prayer meetings be an hour suited to the habits of the people.
V. THE SUCCESS OF THE PRAYER MEETINGS AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO US. The answer came so speedily that they were themselves surprised. It has sometimes been said that their astonishment was the result of unbelief. I doubt that, for their prayer did set Peter free, and therefore it could not have been unbelieving prayer. I trace their surprise to their probable expectation that Peter would be delivered at a different time and manner. And God can send us surprises quite as great as this. We may pray for some sinner, and while we are yet praying we may hear him cry, "What must I do to be saved?" We may offer our prayers for the sleeping Church, and while we pray it may be answered.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda
I. We may notice in THE RELATIONS OF RHODA TO THE ASSEMBLED BELIEVERS A STRIKING ILLUSTRATION OF THE NEW BOND OF UNION SUPPLIED BY THE GOSPEL. Rhoda was a slave. The word rendered in our version "damsel" means a female slave. Her name being a Gentile name, and her servile condition, make it probable that she was not a Jewess. If one might venture to indulge in a guess, it is not at all unlikely that her mistress, Mary, John Mark's mother, Barnabas' sister, a well-to-do woman of Jerusalem, who had a house big enough to take in the members of the Church in great numbers, and to keep up a considerable establishment, had brought this slave girl from the island of Cyprus. At all events, she was a slave. In the time of our Lord, and long after, these relations of slavery brought an element of suspicion, fear, and jealous espionage into almost every Roman household, because every master knew that he passed his days and nights among men and women who wanted nothing better than to wreak their vengeance upon him. And now here this child slave, this Gentile, has been touched by the same mighty love as her mistress; and Mary and Rhoda were kneeling together in the prayer meeting when Peter began to hammer at the door. In God's good time, and by the slow process of leavening society with Christian ideas, that diabolical institution perished in Christian lands. Violent reformation of immoralities is always a blunder. "Raw haste" is "half-sister to Delay." Settlers in forest lands have found that it is endless work to grub up the trees, or even to fell them. "Root and branch" reform seldom answers. The true way is to girdle the tree by taking off a ring of bark round the trunk, and letting nature do the rest. Dead trees are easily dealt with; living ones blunt many axes and tire many arms, and are alive after all. Thus the gospel waged no direct war with slavery, but laid down principles which, once they are wrought into Christian consciousness, made its continuance impossible. But, pending that consummation, the immediate action of Christianity was to ameliorate the condition of the slave. The whole aspect of the ugly thing was changed as soon as master and slave together became the slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. That slight, girlish figure, standing at the door of Mary, her slave, and yet her sister in Christ, may be taken as pointing symbolically the way by which the social and civic evils of this day are to be healed, and the war of classes to cease.
II. Note how we get here a very striking picture of THE SACREDNESS AND GREATNESS OF SMALL COMMON DUTIES. Rhoda came out from the prayer meeting to open the gate. It was her business, as we say, "to answer the door," and so she left off praying to go and do it. So doing, she was the means of delivering the apostle from the danger which still dogged him. It was of little use to be praying on one side of the shut door, when on the other he was standing in the street, and the day was beginning to dawn; Herod's men would be after him as soon as daylight disclosed his escape. It is not unnecessary to insist that no heights or delights of devotion and secret communion are sufficient excuses for neglecting or delaying the doing of the smallest and most menial task which is our duty. If your business is to keep the door, you will not be leaving, but abiding in the secret place of the Most High, if you get up from your knees in the middle of your prayer, and go down to open it. The smallest, commonest acts of daily life are truer worship than is rapt and solitary communion, or united prayer, if the latter can only be secured by the neglect of the former. Let us remember how we may find here an illustration of another great truth, that the smallest things, done in the course of the quiet discharge of recognised duty, and being, therefore, truly worship of God, have in them a certain quality of immortality, and may be eternally commemorated.
III. The same figure of the damsel named Rhoda may give us a warning as to THE POSSIBILITY OF FORGETTING VERY PLAIN DUTIES UNDER THE PRESSURE OF VERY LEGITIMATE EXCITEMENT. "She opened not the door for gladness," but ran in and told them, Yes! And if, whilst she was running in with her message, Herod's quaternions of soldiers had come down the street, there would have been "no small stir" in the Church as to "what had become of Peter." Now joy and sorrow are equally apt to make us forget plain and pressing duties, and we may learn from this little incident the old-fashioned but always necessary advice, to keep feeling well under control, to use it as impulse, not as guide, and never to let emotion, which should be down in the engine room, come on deck and take the helm. It is dangerous to obey feeling, unless its degrees are countersigned by calm common sense illuminated by Scripture. Sorrow is apt to obscure duty by its darkness, and joy by its dazzle. It is hard to see the road at midnight, or at midday when the sun is in our eyes. Both need to be controlled. Duty remains the same, whether my heart be beating like a sledge hammer, or whether my "bosom lord sits lightly on its throne." Whether I am sad or glad, the door that God has given me to watch has to be opened and shut by me.
IV. Lastly, we have here an instance of A VERY MODEST BUT POSITIVE AND FULLY WARRANTED TRUST IN ONE'S OWN EXPERIENCE, IN SPITE OF OPPOSITION. They had been praying, as has often been remarked, for Peter's deliverance, and now that he is delivered they will not believe it. Nobody ever seems to have thought of going to the door to see whether it was he or not, but they went arguing with Rhoda as to whether she was right or wrong. The unbelief that alloys even golden faith is taught us in this incident. Rhoda "constantly affirmed that it was so." The lesson is — trust your own experience whatever people may have to say against it. If you have found that Jesus Christ can help you, and has loved you, and that your sins have been forgiven, because you have trusted in Him, do not let anybody laugh or talk you out of that conviction. If you cannot argue, do like Rhoda, "constantly affirm that it is so."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. HER NAME. Miriam and Rhoda are the only two girls of the Bible whose names we know. A learned German has written a book on "the names of women taken from flowers." He shows that these names mark the qualities which we expect to find in girls. Now Rhoda is the Greek name for a rose. It is the first part of the word "rhododendron," which means "rose tree." In the olden times, as nowadays, people hoped that girls would be in the home what the rose is in the garden: that they would add a charm, a beauty, and a sweet perfume to life. I have read somewhere that a rose is carved on a girl's tombstone in France, with these words underneath, "She was just like that." The rose, however, is as famed for its speedy decay as for its sweetness and beauty. But when the ancients gave this name to their girls, they meant that, as they would wear, so they would justify and deserve their name all their days. Some, however, grow like the rose that has shed its leaves, and kept only its bare thorns. Others resemble the autumn flower, whose leaves are highly coloured while its sweet savour is gone. Some are like the rose into whose bud the cankerworm has crept; some are like the rose planted among thorns, which shows its wounds as well as its beauty; and some are even like the rose that is soiled and trampled in the dust of the highway. But Rhoda was a girl who deserved her beautiful name, and wore it well. For she was good; and to be good is to be beautiful with the best beauty. In old languages they used to call the bad ugly, and they do so in some parts of the world at this day. The good and the beautiful are really the same, when the matter is rightly understood. The grace of God is the grand beautifier. It makes people graceful, that is both good and beautiful.
II. HER COMPANY. It is the very best in the world; she is among the Christians. Whether she was the slave or the daughter of Mary, we know not; but it is plain that she was among the Christians not by chance, but by choice, or else she would have gone to bed, or fallen asleep, like Eutychus. But Peter had hardly done knocking when she was at the keyhole, asking who was there. She knew his voice at once in the dark, and so must have been intimate with him. She was like the blind girl who, unexpectedly hearing her old minister at a meeting, shook with excitement, and said aloud, "Oh, that's my minister!" And Rhoda's gladness shows where her heart was. What efforts many make to get into what they call "good society"! This restlessness to be something which we are not, causes a world of misery. But Rhoda easily gained admittance to the very flower of human kind. They who come to Christ at once enter into the most splendid society in the world. Who would be foolish enough to shut herself out from that glorious band which embraces the best of every age and nation, all God's heroes, and the noble army of the apostles and martyrs?
III. HER COURAGE. Every Christian then was a hero for God; for he ran the risk of poverty, prison, and death. It was so in this land two hundred years ago. In Rhoda's days it needed double courage to be a Christian in Jerusalem, for the maddest of the Jews lived there, and Herod's sword was smoking with the blood of the saints. James, one of their leaders, had just been slain; and Peter was in prison, ready to be offered up. Rhoda, who shared the dangers, must have also shared the courage of the apostles. It was as much as her life was worth to attend that prayer meeting. One small touch in her story gives us a hint of her dangers. When Peter knocked, she did not open the door till she knew who was knocking: they were afraid of Herod's soldiers. Persecution has passed away, but none the less on that account do you need the courage you admire in Rhoda. For mean, false shame is one of the worst of your snares. Pray that you may have the free and fearless spirit of those bold hymns which you love to sing: "Dare to be a Daniel"; "Stand up for Jesus." Be ready with a round, rousing No, when sinners entice you.
IV. HER SERVICE. Though only a girl, we see her here doing service. It was very humble; for she was as one who keeps a door in the house o! God. But she did her part, and did it right heartily. And God asks no more of you. Angels are perfect servants of God, and this chapter gives us a specimen of their way of serving. Watch the angel delivering Peter from prison, and take him as your model in doing God's work. How swiftly he works! Most pictures give angels wings, to denote the swiftness of a willing mind. Thus when Rhoda's heart was full of joy, she ran on her errand. Be this your resolve, "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart." Gratitude makes wings grow on the feet of life. And how humbly the angel does his work! He does not even mention his name, but hastens back to God, to whom he gives all the glory. An old minister was once preaching a funeral sermon upon the death of an "elect lady," who had been his helper in Christ. She was angel-like in humility; and he compared her to a fair taper in a room, which is bright to others, but is itself hid in the shade made by its own light. You, too, may have an angel's spirit in doing the work God has put into your hands.
(J. Wells, M. A.)
And they said unto her, Thou art mad.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. HAD A BEAUTIFUL NAME. Many Jewish and other parents gave to their children the names of certain plants, trees, and flowers. Hadassa, a myrtle; Susanna, a lily; Tamar, a palm tree; Rhoda, a rose. That is beautiful, because it leads us to think of the garden in summer, and one of the prettiest flowers there. Have you such a name? Be thankful. Have you not such a name? Be content. It was given to you by others. They, and not you, are responsible. Besides, to grumble about it is to do no good. The time may come when it will be your duty to give names to children. Select those only that are associated with lovely things. Let all the words which you employ in writing and speaking be of the same description.
II. WAS A DOMESTIC SERVANT. Her duty was to open the door when anyone knocked. In this respect she has advantages over those in other situations. She is more free from —
1. Care. Nothing to pay for except her clothing.
2. Danger. Has not to go out in all kinds of weather. Sheltered from rains and storms.
3. Temptations. Others may have greater liberty. This often leads to temptations which do not come to the domestic servant.
4. Risk of losing her situation. Her class not so numerous as others. Masters and mistresses value a good servant, and will keep her as long as she does her duty. Nothing degrading about such a situation. To serve in a good family is exceedingly honourable. To show this the Bible has recorded some of the names and doings of domestic servants.
III. WAS A CHRISTIAN.
1. She was serving in a Christian home.
2. There was a prayer meeting in that home, and she loved to be there.
3. She was quite familiar with the voice of one of the apostles. Your parents, teachers, and, above all, Jesus, wish you to be Christians.
IV. WAS VERY CAUTIOUS. It was night. All around lonely and still. Some one knocking at the door. Instead of opening it at once, she said, "Who is there?" Never open the door at night till you know who is on the outside. Be cautious in all other things — in writing to, speaking about, and acting in the presence of others.
V. WAS ACCUSED OF MADNESS. When she heard Peter's voice, she was so glad that she could not open the door. The same thing has often happened; and the praying company, instead of believing her, said she was mad. This did not make her angry, for she knew that she was right. If you know you are right, and others say you are wrong, be not angry, but calm. The truth sooner or later will appear to others as it does to you.
(A. McAuslane, D. D.)
But Peter continued knocking.
(H. C. Trumbull.)
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