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Friday, November 2, 2012

Cornelius, Peter, and the Holy Spirit, Scene 2

Yesterday our story ended with the dispatch of Cornelius’ delegation to find Peter in Joppa. Cornelius was a military man and not a Jew; but did worship God, pray often throughout the day, and was generous in his giving to the poor. One mid-afternoon, while Cornelius was praying, God sent an angel to speak to Cornelius. The angel told Cornelius God wanted him to send for Peter, who was currently in Joppa. God had given Peter a message to share with Cornelius and his household.

Without hesitation, Cornelius shared what the angel had said to three men he had chosen to fetch Peter and off they went.

The distance between Caesarea and Joppa would, most likely, be covered on foot by the travelers. It is believed that the actual walking time would be about fourteen and a half hours. Since the delegation didn’t find out about the trip until sometime past three o’clock, they would need to spend the night along the way to Joppa. This is what they did, arriving at the outskirts of Joppa around Noon of Day Two.

While Cornelius’ delegation was being instructed by the locals as to the location of Simon’s house, the tanner who lived by the sea, Peter climbed the outside steps to the roof to pray. The flat surface on top of their homes was the common place folks prayed and meditated in those days. Peter’s stomach began to growl. It doesn’t say if the cook heard it or not but they began preparing food for Peter. Maybe he just leaned over the edge of the roof and asked if it was about lunchtime?

Peter stayed on the roof to continue praying, ending with a surprising instruction from the Almighty. God had a message for Peter, a devout Jewish man, concerning the strict observance of food prep and intake. Their law was very clear on what animals they were not to eat and Peter had never broken the rules. As was mentioned in yesterday’s first scene, the law included associations. The Jewish people were never to cross the threshold of a non-Jewish home nor eat the food of non-Jewish folks. Everyone knew that so no one invited them over. Everything not Jewish was considered “unclean.”

Here’s what happened at Noon on the second day, as recorded in Acts Chapter Ten:

Verses 9-16:  About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 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.

What a shock for Peter! His first reaction was that it was some kind of a test. Would he do it or would he refuse to eat the unclean animals? When the incident happened three times, though, Peter began to wonder what God was trying to tell him through the vision.

Meanwhile at the gate of this very house, the delegation from Cornelius had arrived. Talk about timing!

Verses 17-18:  While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

Okay, pull back cameras and focus on the roof again. The Holy Spirit is about to speak to Simon Peter.

Verses 19-20:  While Peter was still thinking about the vision; 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.”

That must have been a surprise to Peter, who was waiting for revelation of what he had seen on the roof. Maybe God had sent some new Believers to take him to share the Gospel in another home? But, if God had sent the men…? Could the men be connected with the appearance of the sheet and animals? Only one way to find out; Peter started down the steps.

Verses 21-22: Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”

An “Ah-ha moment” for Peter. So that’s what its’ all about, Lord. Cornelius is a gentile and, therefore, he and his household are “unclean” to me. But, for some reason, they aren’t “unclean” to You? Interesting. Peter obeyed the Lord and did the only thing a hospitable Jew could do, he invited them in. It was too late to start out such a long journey right then. They’d get an early start in the morning.

Verses 23-24: Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea.

So Peter and the delegation with him, as well as the delegation from Cornelius traveled for the entire day. No doubt it was too dangerous to be on the road after dark. They still had some miles to cover the next day; but, at last, they were at the home of Cornelius.

An experience Peter never could have imagined followed, in the Gentile home, of all places!

****Cornelius, Peter, and the Holy Spirit, Scene 3, Next Post

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