In the earliest days of Christianity, there were no church buildings. Believers met in each other’s homes. And one of the first house churches recorded in the Bible gathered under the hospitality of a woman named Mary.
Mary was the mother of Mark, sometimes called John, who later became one of Paul’s traveling companions and the author of the second Gospel. She was also the aunt of Barnabas, one of Paul’s other ministry partners.
Evidently, Mary was a woman of some means, wealthy enough to employ a servant named Rhoda. Mary graciously opened her house to members of Jerusalem’s Christian community—perhaps at great personal risk, since it was around this time that Herod Agrippa began persecuting the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:1).
After executing James, the brother of John, Herod moved against Peter, throwing the apostle in jail with the intent of putting him on trial during Passover. God, however, intervened, making possible Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. Mary’s house was the first place Peter went—a strong indication that it was already a well-established gathering place for Christians.
Peter lingered only long enough to tell Mary and the other believers what had happened. Apparently not wanting to put Mary and her family in greater jeopardy, Peter then left for “another place” (Acts 12:17).
Mary’s house provided the backdrop for one of the truly comedic moments in the Bible. When Peter arrived at her home, he knocked on the door, only to be answered by Rhoda, Mary’s servant. Rhoda was so excited at the sound of Peter’s voice, she ran to tell the others who were gathered there—without bothering to let Peter in!