Rhoda. The Mad Woman of Acts 12

And they said unto her, “Thou art mad!” But she constantly affirmed that it was even so.” Acts 12:15

c. 45 AD

Imagine this young servant, perhaps a teenage girl really, maybe 14 years-old: She’s a pagan with a gentile name, Rhoda. She is probably from Cyprus, a Greek island devoted to Apollo and Aphrodite, but now lives in the Jewish city of Jerusalem. We don’t know why or how this came to be.

In fact, we only know about one night in Rhoda’s life.

This maiden Rhoda is employed by a wealthy Jewish widow named Maryam. Maryam has a son called John Mark, very young like Rhoda, who works as an assistant to the apostles Paul and Barnabas in their mission work. Like them, Maryam believes that Yeshua is the Mashiach, the Messiah, and has opened her home to mission-weary apostles for respite between journeys, and as a safe place for the persecuted believers to gather in fellowship and prayer. Tonight they are praying for the apostle Peter’s release from prison before King Herod executes him as he has James.

It becomes clear in Acts 12 that Rhoda has heard Peter preach often and that she is with those praying. We have every reason to believe that Rhoda, too, is a believer and likely is praying with the others until there is a knock on the door.

She slips away from the group to answer the door. These were dangerous times for believers, however, so before opening it she shouts from inside, “Who is it?”

“It’s me, Peter,” the man’s voice is urgent because the Roman guards will be searching the streets for him. “Hurry up and open the door!”

Rhoda recognizes his voice but, overwhelmed by her own pure, youthful, joy-filled excitement, she doesn’t open the door. Instead, she spins on her heels and runs back to the others. “Oh my God! It’s Peter, everyone! Peter is at the door! God has freed him from prison just as we prayed and he’s here! He’s here!”

Rather than praising God and rushing to let Peter in the house, they don’t believe her and call her manais, “mad woman.” Imagine this young servant facing a room full of her elders calling her mad.

But Rhoda doesn’t back down. She knows what she knows is right. She is not intimidated into silence. She is persistent. “It is Peter!”

“It’s probably his ghost,” someone says. Which would mean, of course, that Peter is dead.

So it appears that it is easier for these folks to believe in ghosts knocking on doors than it is to believe that God in fact just answered their prayers.

Nevertheless, Rhoda persists.

For another persistent woman, read Nevertheless, She Persisted.