† In Jesus Name †
May you be encouraged, and rejoice as God shows you the love and mercy He has given you, as you witness it given to others.
I wonder if Peter was reading from the prophet Jonah?
As Peter starts to describe the way in which salvation had come to the Gentiles, I’ve wondered something. What was it he was praying about? What had he been meditating upon?
Was Peter working through the lessons he had been taught over and over and even a third time by Jesus? Was he considering the incredible grace of God that restored him each time he sinned, each time he tried to play God?
I wonder if he was reading the book of the Old Testament prophet Jonah…who would likewise be called to a place, to bring word of God’s love? Was he being sent to bring the blessed gift of repentance to a place his upbringing said wasn’t eligible or worth God’s mercy. Was he going to a people that his culture said was beyond God’s love.
Peter as always, struggled with where God was leading him to serve. It seemed that the third time God gave him the message; he actually “got” it. That is the story of chapter 10, which he recounts to those who were struggling with what he did here. This chapter isn’t really about what Peter did, to share God’s love with the Gentiles, it is what he did to help his fellow Jews to grasp how deep that love of God was, for every person of every ethnicity in the world.
It is amazing to me that Peter didn’t take on the criticism directly, nor did he take it personally. Instead, he simply focused on what God had done, and laid out the story as it happened. As Peter did this, led by the Holy Spirit, people changed.
Two Groups to Win…
Peter Is summoned to talk with those concerned about “those people” receiving the word of God. They are concerned about Peter compromising the gospel by fellowshipping with them. There will be a conversion here, a needed one, as people are reconciled to God’s will.
It is not the obvious one though, though that too is marvelous! The work of God is so incredibly evident there, as those who were far from God, and in bondage to sin. It is amazing and yet unexpected to hear that God was already working in them, that an angel miraculously intervened in Cornelius’s life, and he sent officials to bring Peter to him, for Peter was to bring them the message that would save him, and all of His household.
How amazing! That God work so bluntly, so clearly, so undeniably! By the time the vision is over, the words of God were burned into Peter’s heart. “What God has made clean, do not declare common!”
How incredible that this became true – not just about bacon and lobster, but about Cornelius and all his family! How amazing that those who were thought to have no hope, were given hope, were given life… were given the presence of God in their lives.
Which leads us to the second “conversion”, the second group that needs to be reconciled to God. They weren’t as far off, these who wanted this issue examined thoroughly. It was a foreign idea to them that God would work with these foreigners. It would be a difficult transition – they needed to see more than just information about God, they needed to see His heart, they needed to understand His will that no one should perish in bondage to sin. They needed to be reconciled to God, to come in line with His will….
And the Holy Spirit did that – again through the God’s love shared patiently through Peter.
The Critics Silenced…
God’s consistent will seen
In the midst of Peter sharing what God had done, as he explains that the men where there, that will of God is hinted at – when he says “And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. That word is the same as the word criticize above – again it means to thoroughly examine things – except in this case, no examination, no criticism. Peter, inspired directly by God’s Spirit, fully reconciled to God’s word by the vision goes…to bring words of life
He starts sharing about God’s love – He starts to lay out the gospel, to share with them the incredible love of God demonstrated through the incarnation, through the life, death, resurrection. He didn’t even get to the part about baptism, before it was evident that this was a God moment, a time when the Holy Spirit was creating life and faith and transforming them, bringing them to repentance. The very same things that happened at Pentecost – with the Spirit falling on the people of God, with the word being proclaimed, with people’s heart’s being opened and healed as they were washed and cleansed, as they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God’s consistent love – showing a depth and dimension unforeseen despite the prophecies, despite the promises that foreigners and immigrants would be welcome. God’s consistent love – so praised in the Old Testament, made evident even for those who were wrongly considered “far off”.
They realized God meant it when he said the Messiah would be a light to all nations,
They realized God meant it when He promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed by his descendant,
They realized Jesus meant it when He said that His blood would be shed on behalf of many, for the forgiveness of sins.
I love the way Paul would describe it,
19 you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian – you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you in the foundation, God’s messengers and prophets, the actual foundation-stone being Jesus Christ himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbour, grows together into a temple consecrated to God. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his spirit. Ephesians 2:19 (Phillips NT)
Peter, the one who was a bit too quick to speak, who overreacted, took his time, laid out what God had done, and when it was complete, there was silence. The doubt dropped to the floor. No one could object to God’s work. They had neither the strength, nor the desire. Just as Peter realized, when he sad,
17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
and the party began began.
The Reason for Praise
I have to admit – I love the spontaneous praising and glorifying of God, as these circumcised Jews realize that God loves the long time nemesis – the people of the world. The barriers are down, we are one…
That is what they are realizing, it is what we need to realize. It is what can and should break down every barrier between people – this idea that God has made us one, that God has granted to us “the repentance that leads to life.”
You see, there is something special in watching a brother or sister become part of the Body of Christ, as we did last week. There is something incredible about seeing that – or those “aha’ moments as we gain a little in understanding more about the depth of the Lord’s passionate love for us.
This is the work God does in both Jews and Gentiles. The change is what Luke describes with the word repentance here – this transformation of both our heart and will, redeeming us from our being oppressed by sin, and reconciling us with the will of God. That is the work of repentance – a total transformation of our heart and mind, both are used in the prophecies to describe God’s work.
And God has transformed, He has granted this repentance – this change to living a transformed life in Christ.
We see it here, when a child, or a youth, or even someone who has lived 8 decades comes – and is given the promise of that change as they are baptized into Christ!
We are witnesses to it happening here as well! As we gather at the family feast – where God our Father provides us with the Body and Blood of Chris! As He again grants us the power of the transformation, He has promised. For it is here that He reconciles us with His will, as He reconciles us together as one people – no matter our place of birth or whether the times since can be easily measured in days, years, or decades. He reconciles us together no matter the language we speak, or have spoken, no matter our height or weight or anything else.
We are One, in Christ.
And that is something so glorious – for God has transformed us all into His people. To Him be all the praise, all the glory and honor.