During the Grassroots Gospel series, we looked at this one passage that just perplexed me. I struggled with it for awhile. It was such an odd passage. It was a story of a simple prison break.
Now, I realize that miraculous get-out-of-jail-free-cards sound like story enough, but with the Bible, there’s usually a deeper meaning behind it. I read the passage many times and then it hit me. This wasn’t a story about getting out. This was a story about getting in.
The story opens up with this line:
So Peter was kept in prison…
Things are not going so well for Peter. He’s been thrown into prison and likely will be killed after a public trial. These aren’t his best days.
But the above sentence wasn’t over. It continues:
… but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
And there are amazing things that happen when a church is earnestly in prayer.
[Let me stop here for a hot minute and say that if you’re not praying for your family, for our community, and for Restoration I’m going to beg you to do so. Things happen when the Church prays.]
Peter is sleeping and he’s bound to two soldiers with chains. Then this angel shows up and literally hits Peter to wake him up. He’s not the nicest angel. The angel tells Peter to get up and Peter’s chains immediately fall off.
Then the angel tells him to put on his clothes and get going. Peter thinks this is all a dream so he just kinda follows along.
They get past the guards and come to the iron gate leading to the city. This iron gate was something huge. It was the main route into and out of the town. The gates were enormous. Then the Bible says “It opened for them by itself” as if the gate had a will of its own. The word that’s used there is a similar word to the word automated. So, these gates were willed to just open right up like an automatic door. Like you’re strolling out of a very secure Walgreens.
Now that he’s out, Peter runs to a house. He finds the house of Mary the mother of Mark. This was a time where the church was gathering in homes and Mary’s house was a gathering place for this early church.
So, Peter goes to the church and knocks on the door. A servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. She didn’t open the door and there wasn’t a peephole, but she heard Peter’s voice and instantly recognized it. She knew it was him. Then, she promptly left him there. She didn’t open the door, she instantly ran to tell the others.
Rhoda tells the church that Peter is at the door. They didn’t believe her.
I mean, really they were probably in this very house, gathered together specifically to pray for Peter’s release and now they don’t believe it when it’s happened.
“But Peter kept on knocking…”
Poor dude just got out of prison and no one will let him in.
“…and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.”
See, this verse is about doors. And it’s a little concerning. We pray for open doors. We pray for God to make a way. There are times where God opens up entire iron gates for us, but it’s us who won’t open the small door to Him. (And if you’re thinking this story is a picture of the Gospel, you’d be right. God moves heaven and earth to bring His Son and opens up those iron gates. But, Jesus still stands at the door and knocks until we let him in.)
The thing that pains me here is that God is out opening huge gates for the Church. He’s paving huge paths and doing miracles all over the place. But, it’s the Church who is too fearful, too faithless or just too oblivious to open the door.
We’ve been given a huge open door to our community. And, really there are doors open all over the place if we just look for them.
One of my favorites right now is our partnership with the Verizon Event Center in New Port Richey. They’ve been kind enough to allow Restoration to join with them in some of their biggest events of the year.
On October 29th we volunteered with their Fall Fest event. The event is primarily a vendor expo where businesses from all over the area come to sell products and make connections. We just happen to be in the whole Jesus business thing. So, where people are – that’s where we want to be.
Restoration showed up in full force and made a huge impact on the day. Restoration handled the parking and greeting to the event. We had folks who made booths outside with pumpkin corn hole, pumpkin tic-tac-toe, pumpkin bowling and pumpkin decorating. Inside, our people did our free family photos and gave out candy. The event brought in more than 1,000 people nearly every one of them had interactions with someone from the church before the day was over.
The thing I love about days like that is not the immediate impact. We’re not there to sell the church. We’re not there to try to get every person to show up the next morning. But, our hope is that when we meet the community where they are we show them that the Church cares about them. Our hope is that we make a good impression, that they have a positive interaction with the church – not just Restoration – but the Church at large.
We’ve got more events scheduled with the Event Center coming up including Winter Fest. We are excited for this valuable partnership and for all of the community connections we’ve been making. We feel this is another gate that God swung open for us and now it’s our responsibility to faithfully open the door.
KEVIN STAMPER | LEAD PASTOR | @KEVINSTAMPER