A Significant Change
Over the last two blogs, we have looked at Philip, who led by the Holy Spirit carried the gospel of Jesus Christ first into the area of Samaria, and then attached himself to the Ethiopian eunuch and led this man to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of the gospel promise that salvation should go to all nations. One of the things that we need to know for sure is that our God is a God who is interested in breaking through barriers of prejudice and pride in our lives. In Acts 10 God works on Peter’s heart to bring Peter to a point of confronting his prejudice against Gentiles. As I have stated earlier in our blog I believe the first followers of Jesus heard Jesus’s challenge in Acts 1:8 as a challenge limited to reaching out to the Jewish population in the designated areas where Jesus had commanded them to be witnesses. Jesus had no intention of limiting the gospel message to just a Jewish audience. That is going to be a hard lesson for Peter and the other disciples to understand and accept.
In the early verses of Acts 10 Cornelius, a God-fearing and devout centurion, receives a message from God to send for a man named Peter who was staying in Joppa. Let us be very clear that it is God who is directing Cornelius’ steps. While they’re on their way to gather Peter (by the way Peter’s never been in the home of a Gentile) an interesting event occurs in the life of Peter that will result in a major change in Peter’s attitude. We read beginning in verse nine, “About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up to 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 open 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 of the earth and birds of the air. 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,” (Acts 10:9-16 NIV). In this passage, Cornelius’ servants are on their way to retrieve Peter and take him back with them to Caesarea. In the meantime, Peter is looking for a quiet place of meditation and prayer. He goes up onto the roof to enjoy the sea breeze and a few minutes of peace and quiet in which to commune with God. Maybe there was some food cooking nearby and Peter’s thoughts were diverted from a prayer by his feelings of being hungry. I don’t know about you, but I find being distracted in prayer is a very common situation for me. It is a constant battle to keep my mind on prayer and focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. The body and its constant physical demands make this part of our spiritual challenge. Far from being put off by Peter’s wandering thoughts, God uses them as the basis for a revelation that would change Peter’s whole life and outlook.
When Peter falls into a trance he is about to be confronted with one of the most significant challenges to his spiritual life, and he’s had some pretty serious challenges already. Peter’s hunger shaped the nature of the revelation he was about to receive. There was the appearance of a large sheet with the four corners corresponding to the four points on the compass – North, South, East, and West. The sheet contains all sorts of unclean Old Testament animals, unfit for eating under the terms of the Old Testament law. Maybe there was a pig, lobster, crabs, and an assortment of other animals forbidden under the law. Peter may have been hungry, but he wasn’t that hungry. To Peter, this is a revolting command and to eat such things would be a great horror to him. So, he responds to this unholy smorgasbord by rejecting the very thought of this peculiar trance. Peter was pretty confident of his ability to abstain from such an unappealing menu.
But the trance was just the lead in to the next thing that was about to happen in Peter’s life. We read, “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. Get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the man, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” (Acts 10:19-21 NIV). It’s so interesting to me that God chose the simple object of food to begin to change Peter’s heart as it related to ministering to Gentiles. When the Spirit spoke to Peter in verse 15 we read, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”, He really wasn’t talking about food at all, God was challenging Peter’s prejudice against Gentiles. I think it’s so important that we allow God to speak into our lives and especially as it relates to bad attitudes that we may have about certain people groups. I wonder if there are in fact people or groups to which you have told the Lord, “no way Lord, I’m not witnessing them”,? God is all about breaking through barriers that would keep us from being all that He has called us to be. The Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates in his death and resurrection God’s deep desire to save all people. It is our privilege to be part of the family of God and when we get to heaven there will be no racial, ethnic, or religious divisions, just brothers and sisters in Christ rejoicing in our Savior who has paid the price so that we could all be part of His family. No grounds for personal pride or boasting will be present there. So, let us do all we can today to look for ways to break through racial and ethnic barriers that keep us from being all that God has called us to be. As for Peter’s response to the Spirit’s leading in his life, we will consider that further next week in our blog, Lord willing.
Rejoicing in our Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo