RHODA THE SERVANT GIRL (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

Rhoda is a Greek name meaning rose. She is a minor character in the New Testament. We get to know only one incident of her life in The Acts of the Apostles. In chapter 12 of the Acts we read:

Aware of his situation, he (Peter) went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outside door, and a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer it. She recognized Peters voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door, and announced that Peter was standing outside. You are mad! they told her. But she insisted that it was true. So they answered, It is his angel. (Acts 12, 12-15)

As the Acts clearly says, Rhoda is a servant-girl in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. It was she who went to open the door when Peter knocked after he has been freed miraculously from Herods prison. Before opening the door Rhoda recognized the voice of Peter. She was so delighted to hear and recognize Peters voice that she rushed to the congregation which was praying for Peter that it was Peter knocking at the door.

The congregation in the home of John Mark did not believe Rhoda and they told her that she was mad to announce such impossible news even though they were praying for it! But she was proved right when Peter kept on knocking at the door and they finally opened the door to let Peter in.

We can guess and note a number of important things about Rhoda and the whole event. There is no other information about Rhoda except her name and her status as a servant-girl. There is no other information about her because of the fact that she is a woman and that she is a slave-girl. The Jewish people did not give any weight to the testimony of a woman and much less to the testimony of a slave-girl.

Rhoda was serving in the big house of Mary, a rich lady in Jerusalem where the believers in Jesus and his disciples often congregated to pray and to break bread. Rhoda must have opened the door umpteen times for the disciples of Jesus and the ever-growing number of believers. So it was natural for her to recognize the voice of Peter who knocked at the door requesting the people inside to open the door.

When Rhoda reached the door she recognized Peters voice at once and in her delight, she forgot to open the door, and she rushed to give the news to the congregation praying for Peters release!

Though Rhoda was a servant-girl she must have been part of the congregation praying for Peters release. She must have already experienced that among the followers of Jesus, there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus (Gal 3, 28). So she must have felt one not only with Marys household but also with the congregation praying for Peters release. That is why she was not only awake late at night but also went to answer the door.

Rhoda must have listened to Peter many times speaking about Jesus and his message of love, forgiveness, equality of all, etc. So as an intelligent and alert person she recognized the voice of Peter who stood outside the door. If Rhoda was merely a servant-girl and nothing more, she would not have felt the great joy and excitement which she experienced at hearing Peters voice. Rhoda was stunned and excited with great joy that she rushed to share the news of Peters release instead of first opening the door and letting Peter into the house.

The congregation refused to believe Rhoda. But she was firm in her belief that it was Peter knocking at the door in answer to their prayers. So she did not mind that the unbelieving people in the congregation told her, You are mad! On the contrary, She insisted that it was true that it was Peter who knocked at the door. The opposition to her testimony did not matter to her because she knew for sure that it was Peter who knocked at the door.

In spite of her true testimony, Rhoda did not mind that the people in the congregation called her mad; perhaps because, she knew for sure that she was in the company of Jesus, the Truth. Mark has recorded about Jesus that people were saying He has gone mad! (Mk 3, 21). (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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