Safe House– Acts 12:12-17, I Peter 3-4
A young woman opened the door of Mary’s home and greeted me with a shy smile. She led me into a large courtyard to wait, and the first thing I noticed was size of the courtyard and of the property beyond. Several two-story buildings surrounded the courtyard. A large upstairs room at the back of the property with a covered patio in front of the entrance caught my eye. Potted plants on the patio with benches among them made an inviting scene. It was serene, like an oasis above the busyness around me. I wondered if it was the upper room, where Jesus and his disciples had met for the last supper. From what I could see, fifty to seventy-five people could easily meet here.
I was also surprised at the people and the activity all around me, mostly women. Some were busy around what seemed like a kitchen area and the delicious aroma of baking bread filled the air. Through an archway, I could see gardens of olive trees, fig trees. An herb garden grew near the kitchen area.
Soon a woman came through the archway and greeted me with a smile. “Welcome to our home. Please join me for a refreshment,” she said as she led me up the stairway to the patio I had seen in front of the upper room. When we were seated comfortably with cups of tea and a plate of figs, she waved her hand in front of her to indicate the scene in front of us. “God has blessed our family. We have done nothing to deserve what he has given. It all belongs to Him now…”
“Now? I asked.
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Since Jesus. Nothing has been the same, even this home. Since Jesus, it all belongs to him.” Her smile was engaging and it seemed like we had been friends for a long time, even though we had just met.
“John Mark, my son, heard him teach one day. He was an impetuous young man at that time so he knew we would scoff at his new ‘discovery’. So, he told my nephew Barnabas about Jesus and they followed him for a time when he was teaching near Jerusalem. When they came to believe he was the Messiah, they told the rest of us about him.”
“We thought it was blasphemy…until they brought him here. We sat right where we are sitting now, and he taught us from the scriptures.” She pointed to the fig tree, and the olive trees in the garden below. “He even taught us from the things around us. I went with the women to hear him teach whenever I could. It was not long before we believed. Not just because of his miracles either. What he taught from the scriptures convinced us and we knew that God had sent the savior that he had promised. The prophets’ words were coming true.”
“We feared for him because naturally his teachings, and even his presence, infuriated the Jewish leaders. We wanted to protect him and we hoped he would find this to be a safe place for him and his followers. John Mark took it upon himself to shadow him. That is how we discovered that he had been arrested.” She stopped for a moment. Speaking the words, remembering the scenes of Jesus’ death were painful.
Ever the engaging hostess, she looked up with that beautiful smile again and continued. “After he arose, and his Spirit came upon the apostles, we did all we could to help them. When the Sanhedrin learned that Jesus arose they tried their best to blame his followers. But Jerusalem knew the truth. So many people saw him it became a joke. So, the apostles were the next target. Many of the believers began to meet here to worship and pray. I remember the night when we were praying for our dear brother, Peter. They had put him in jail for preaching Christ and we knew he would not receive justice.”
“But an angel released him from jail while he slept and then led him to our street! When he knocked on the door our sweet little maid, Rhoda, was so shocked she ran up here to tell us and left him standing in the street! You met Rhoda. Thankfully she had more presence of mind when she greeted you,” she said with a laugh.
I asked Mary if she ever felt they and their family were in danger since she the church met in her home. “Oh, we may have taken a few precautions, but we were not afraid. We are a large family and we knew we could count on each other for help. We just praise God that Mark happened to hear Jesus teach. It was an honor to be a part of his life when he was on earth, and we are even more honored to be a part of his Kingdom today.”
“We trust him because he won the victory and proved his authority over all other powers. He rose again and he is alive! It is hard to explain, but He is alive in us…not just as a memory, but our helper, our Lord. Now he is our safe place. How can we not give our lives and all we have to him, after he gave his perfect life for us?”