Acts 12:1-18

Would the curse of Herod ever break?

Rhoda shivered slightly in the midnight chill and tugged at her wrap with one hand while the other clutched a water pitcher. She navigated the room, stepping around the friends and family of her mistress who had gathered in the house to pray for Peter – the latest Herodian target. With the memory of John’s beheading at the hand of another Herod still painfully fresh, many wore expressions of resignation and defeat even as they interceded on Peter’s behalf. The last time a follower of Jesus was imprisoned, death had followed soon after.

Placing the water pitcher on the low shelf, Rhoda scanned the room to see if there was anything else that needed attending. She caught sight of a woman kneeling in a corner, lips moving fervently with her eyes shut tight. From whispered conversations Rhoda overheard while performing her chores, she’d learned that the woman’s only son had been one of many killed several years ago at the command of yet another Herod. I wonder if she’s thinking of the child now, Rhoda wondered to herself. She shook her head. Could a mother ever forget?

A sound caught Rhoda’s attention. She turned as she realized it was an urgent knock coming from the outer door. Heart leaping, she wondered if soldiers had come after the gathering of believers. But no, this wasn’t their usual pounding. Since no-one else seemed to have noticed the sound, Rhoda made her way to the door. The knocking got louder as she approached, and she now heard that it was accompanied by a muffled voice.

“Open up. It’s me, Peter.”

Peter! Rhoda froze for a moment, then bolted into the house. “Peter’s outside!” she yelled. “He’s at the door right now!”

People stopped praying to watch her in disbelief. “Hush, child!” scolded a man. “You’re out of your mind.” Others murmured at the interruption, while her mistress gave her a reproving look.

“It’s true!” Rhoda insisted. “I’m not making this up.”

Someone else started to chastise her, but the knocking suddenly sounded loud in the silence of the room.

A group rushed towards the door, but John Mark got there first. He yanked it open to find Peter standing outside with a broad smile on his face. In hushed whispers, he explained that God had sent an angel to break him out of jail. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” Peter said before disappearing into the night.

The believers returned to the room and lifted up voices in songs of praise and adoration. Duties forgotten, Rhoda found a corner and bowed her head in reverence. God had heard the prayers of his people. In the face of almost certain defeat, He had granted victory and deliverance. Like the chains which divinely fell off Peter’s wrists, the curse of Herod was shattered forever.

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