Monday, October 01, 2007

Acts 10

While Peter was in Joppa, a Roman centurion named Cornelius was in his home in Caesarea (40 miles north of Joppa). It was the ninth hour (3:00), and so he was praying (devout Jews, as well as God-fearing Gentiles prayed three times a day: 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and sunset). Here's what we know about Cornelius:
  • He and his entire household feared God
  • He gave generously
  • He prayed continually to God
  • He belonged to a group known as the Italian Cohort (for some reason I think of Tony Soprano when I hear that)
During his prayer time he saw a vision. An angel told him to send for a man named Simon Peter. He didn't tell him why and he didn't give him any more information. He just vanished. Nonetheless, Cornelius had never experienced anything like this, so he obeyed. He sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa to find this man known as Simon Peter.

The next day, while the three men were traveling to Joppa, Peter was on the roof praying (I guess he was a little more devout than Cornelius, because he was praying at noon as well). He became hungry, and while he was praying he too saw a vision. The vision was of a great sheet descending from heaven. The sheet was filled with all kinds of animals, and a voice spoke, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." It doesn't sound like a big deal to us, but to Peter, this was ridiculous. Never before had Peter eaten any animal that God had called unclean (for a description of what God called clean and unclean, see Leviticus 11). He of course made this known to the voice. The voice said it again. Peter responded again. The voice said it a third time, and this time Peter hesitated before responding.

Remember the night Jesus was crucified? Peter denied his Lord three times. And then, after Jesus was raised from the dead, His restoration process for Peter involved asking him the question, "Do you love me?" three times. The "voice" now has his attention, but Peter is utterly perplexed. He acknowledges that the voice he has heard is God's, but it makes no sense. It is as if everything he has ever known is being challenged.

At that moment there was a knock on the door. The three men had found Peter. Peter came down and said, "I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?" They explained what had happened to Cornelius, and asked him to come with them back to Caesarea. He agreed, so the next day they began their travel back to Caesarea.

Cornelius was waiting for them, and he had invited his oikos (his friends and family). When Peter arrived, he explained to them that three days ago, he wouldn't have been caught dead in a Gentile's home, but now God had revealed to him that He shows no partiality, and accepts all who come to Him, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Peter went straight to proclaiming Jesus, and as he did this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening. The Jewish believers who had been traveled to Caesarea with Peter were dumbfounded. They never expected the Holy Spirit to fall on Gentiles! Peter, who had gotten it by now, commanded that they should be baptized.

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