God Loves Little Servant Girls Too!
Acts 12:1-18 - as Retold by Mike Lockett, The Normal Storyteller Special Note:
Rhoda had heard about Peter's situation, and what she heard was not good. Peter was in Herod's jail, and most people who went there did NOT come out alive.
King Herod lived up to his family name. His Grandfather was Herod the Great, who tried to kill the baby Jesus by executing all the little boys around Bethlehem. King Herod's father was Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist and put Jesus on trial. Yes, he lived up to the family name. He was called Herod Agrippa.
He had gained some popularity among the Jewish leaders by killing James, the brother of John. He wanted to please them even more, so he had Peter arrested and placed in prison. His plan was to put him on trial the day after Passover, and then execute him.
Rhoda was a servant girl and most people ignored her, unless of course, they wanted something. Christian friends had been invited over to her master's house to celebrate Passover. Afterwards they would pray for Peter. She helped serve the meal, but she listened carefully to what was being said. She knew Peter had only one more night to live. He was to go on trial the next morning and be killed before the day was done.
One guest was a rabbi who explained to everyone how angry the Jewish leaders were with Peter. They knew he was a disciple of Christ and taught people that Jesus had died to save people from sin. This made them mad, but they put up with it. They had learned to tolerate the teachings of Christians as long as they followed Jewish law.
But that was before Peter started telling people Christ had come to save everyone from sin, including the Gentiles! To most of the Jewish people, Gentiles were dogs! They were to be hated and despised! The leaders knew that Gentiles were not God's chosen people, so how could He love them and care about their eternal soul?
After the meal, the women went to another room to visit while the men continued to recline at the table. A few belched loudly to let their host know they had appreciated the food. Rhoda stood quietly to the side in case anyone needed her service.
The rabbi was talking, "Peter went to see a man named Cornelius, who now claims to be a Christian, even though he isn't Jewish. He's an officer in the Roman army - a centurion. Oh, its true people love him. That's because he keeps giving money to the poor and using his wealth to help the unfortunate. But the simply fact is, his isn't Jewish!"
"As I heard it, he invited Peter to come and eat with him. Can you imagine that? How could a good Jew like Peter go eat dinner with someone who is unclean?"
Rhoda wondered if the rabbi would consider her unclean since she was a servant, even though she was Jewish. He didn't even look at her as if she were a person. The family treated her nicely when no one else was around, but they would never invite her to eat with them. Was she unclean?
The rabbi went on. I told Peter he should absolutely refuse the invitation. I said, "It will look bad if you go to a Gentile's home! It would disgrace us all if you ate with him." He said he agreed with that, but God had given him a vision and personally told him to go to this Roman's house.
The rabbi took a sip from his cup and then looked at it for a long time. No one else said a word, knowing the rabbi was not done telling his story. "Well, Peter said he could not argue with what God wanted. So he went to that Gentile's house - and sure enough - ate dinner with him! Then he told Cornelius all about the teachings of Jesus."
The rabbi grew a little red in the face. "Well of course, Cornelius accepted Christ into his heart, not to mention all of his family and friends. I could have told Peter that would happen if he didn't watch out. To make things worse, Peter came back and told us God wanted everyone - including the Gentiles - to learn of His love and salvation through Jesus."
Rhoda noticed that several of the men looked shocked, while others were holding back a smile. She could see her master wanted to rejoice at what God had done in the lives of these Gentiles. Everyone contained themselves and let the rabbi continue.
"This upset many of us who know Christ as our Messiah and Savior. You can imagine how it upset the Jewish leaders. They were so mad they complained about Peter to Herod Agrippa. Now Herod has arrested Peter and will condemn him to die tomorrow. I wish he had listened to me."
One of the men spoke up. "What if God should work a miracle and release him?"
The rabbi smiled for the first time in this conversation. "Yes, of course God could set him free if He wanted to. But you must understand. Peter is in a cell - bound with chains, in-between two soldiers. On top of that, there are two more guards at the entrance of the cell. Four squads of four men take turns watching him. If Peter got away, Herod would put all 16 men to death. No, no. We will not see Peter alive again. Let this be a warning to us all. We should be careful about where we say God is leading us."
Rhoda didn't even want to think about that. She closed her eyes and ignored the rest of the conversation and started praying for Peter. "Oh God, work a miracle and let Peter escape that awful jail." She paused and thought. "God, is it true you love everyone? Does that include a servant girl?"
Finally it was time for the group to pray for Peter. The room was made ready and Rhoda's master gathered everyone together. To her surprise, he turned to her and said, "You heard about Peter. Didn't you Rhoda?"
"Heard what?" she answered, pretending she did not know what he was talking about.
"Peter has been arrested."
She looked at the sadness in his eyes, and finally ventured to ask, "Is it because he said God loves everyone, not just the Jews?"
He was surprised by her question, and glanced at the rabbi who was visiting with someone on the other side of the room. Looking back at Rhoda, he said, "That is exactly what it means."
She looked at him, and wondered if she dare ask another question. Finally she said, "Does that mean God loves servant girls too?"
Now her master was no longer concerned about what the rabbi heard. He totally focused on her and looked deep into her eyes. "Haven't we treated you like our own child? God loves us all, and God loves you! Come join us. Everyone in our household is going to pray for Peter's safe release from prison." At this, Rhoda suddenly felt more like a part of the family, and knew they didn't consider her unclean.
Everyone started to pray for Peter, but Rhoda prayed extra hard. "Dear God, please let Peter out of jail. Thank you for loving everyone - even servant girls like me."
As they prayed, an angel appeared in the jail cell and tapped Peter him on the side to wake him up. "Get up," he said. As soon as Peter did, his chains dropped off.
Peter looked at the two guards standing next to him. They didn't move, but stood there as if in a spell. The angel spoke again, "Put on your clothes and sandals. Wrap your robe around you and follow me."
Peter thought he was dreaming as he followed the angel passed the first and second guards. He glanced at each one, but they didn't notice him. The angel led him to a iron gate leading to the city. It opened by itself! After they had walked the length of one street, the angel suddenly disappeared.
As Peter stood there in the cool night air, he realized he wasn't dreaming. He wondered what to do next. Something inside him make him decided to go to the house where the mother of John lived - the home where the Christians were praying for him.
Once there, he knocked at the door. The knocking interrupted the group's prayer time. The master glanced at Rhoda, who quickly went to see who was at the door. She hesitated, not wanting Herod's solders to arrest them for praying. To her surprise, Peter said something on the other side of the door, and she recognized his voice. She became so excited she forgot to open the door. Instead, she ran back to where the people were praying.
"Peter is at the door!"
Her master looked over at her, but this time did not have a sympathetic expression on his face. The rabbi smiled, "I think your servant girl is given to imagining things."
Her master spoke up, "Rhoda, I know you really want to see the great man of God released from prison, but ?"
Rhoda looked back at the door and then at the group. "It's true. He is at the door. Come and see!"
Again there was a knocking at the door. They all looked at Rhoda. The rabbi finally spoke up. "I can explain this. Every person has an angel assigned to him. This is possibly Peter's angel."
They all looked at the rabbi and then at the door, which had just received a louder knocking. Rhoda finally gave up on the group and turned to go back to the door. This time she was determined to open it! By the time she got there, the whole group was gather around waiting to see who or what was on the other side.
Rhoda reached out to open the door, but her master took over that responsibility. Once the door was open, they all stared at Peter standing outside. The few seconds of silence seem like an hour. Suddenly everyone started talking at once. Everyone, that is, except the rabbi. For the first time that evening, he was speechless.
Peter waived his hand for them to be quiet. "Your prayers were heard by God, and He sent an angel to free me." He told them all what had happened, and concluded with, "Tell the brothers what has happened." He then left to continue God's work.
As he exited the house and disappeared into the darkness, Rhoda thought to herself. "This is proof. God did send Peter to tell the Gentiles God loved them." She then smiled, "And God loves little servant girls too!"
This story was featured as the story of the month on www.Christianstorytelling.com website for the National Christian Storytelling Network.
Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to Mike@mikelockett.com in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs. More stories and information about storytelling can be found at www.mikelockett.com