January 29, 2021
Acts 10:1-6 NIV
1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.
2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.
6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
Moving backwards in Acts today as a result of Thursday night Bible study where we covered most of chapter 10. One very interesting question during the study was why did the angel instruct Cornelius to send men to Joppa to get Simon Peter when Philip was already in Caesarea? We learned that in 8:40 where Philip … traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. It appears Philip remained there evangelizing as Paul and those with him (21:8) reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.
So why Simon Peter, in Joppa 30-40 miles from Caesarea, when Philip was in or near the city? We never got to a full or complete answer. But one consideration was the port of Joppa was important. It was used by Jonah in the Old Testament when he did his best to avoid the task God has set before him of bringing an offer of mercy to the Nineveh people. Simon Peter, on the other hand, overcame current bias and customs, for his time, to obey God and meet with the Centurion Cornelius.
What instructions did Simon Peter receive? Before those sent by Cornelius arrived Peter had a vision where (v11-16) He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
While Peter was still trying to understand the vision, the visitors arrived at the gate to his property. That was when (v19-20) the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
The problem was the men were Gentiles and considered to be impure, unclean, and unholy. Yet when Peter arrived inside Cornelius’ home he said, You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. He had come to an understanding of the vision he had been given. He overcame all the biases and cultural racism against Gentiles and simply did as God had instructed him to do.
From this, if we look back at the book and story of Jonah, we are given a great contrast between the actions of the two men. Jonah almost died trying to avoid God’s directions for him while Peter, with the message of the vision in mind, did as God had requested and shared the good news of Jesus the Christ. While Peter was still speaking the Gentiles, who were listening (and believing), had the Holy Spirit come upon them. Peter and those who came with him were astonished the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.
What a difference between Jonah’s resentful delivery of a message of God’s mercy and Peter’s desire to do God’s will even if it meant overcoming so much of his cultural biases well placing him well outside of his comfort zone. We should be willing to do the same.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – Help me to always seek to do your will, not matter how far outside of my comfort zone it may take me. – In Jesus name. Amen.