Summary: Sometimes the person we judge in front of us may be Jesus
Dodie Gadient, a schoolteacher for thirteen years, decided to travel across America and see the sights she had taught about. Traveling alone in a truck with a camper in tow, she launched out. One afternoon, rounding a curve on 1-5 near Sacramento in rush hour traffic, a water pump blew on her truck.
She was tired, exasperated, scared, and alone. In spite of the traffic jam she caused, no one seemed interested in helping. Leaning up against the trailer, she prayed, “Please God, send me an angel, preferably one with mechanical experience.” Within four minutes, a huge Harley drove up, ridden by an enormous man sporting long black hair, a beard, and tattoos.
With an incredible air of confidence, he jumped off and without even glancing at Dodie, went to work on the truck. Within another few minutes, he flagged down a larger truck, attached a tow chain to the frame of the disabled Chevy and whisked the whole 56-foot rig off the freeway onto a side street, where he calmly continued to work on the water pump. The intimidated schoolteacher was too dumbfounded to talk, especially when she read the words on the back of his leather jacket: “Hell's Angels —California.”
As he finished the task, she finally got up the courage to say, “Thanks so much,” and carry on a brief conversation. Noticing her surprise at the whole ordeal, he looked her straight in the eye and mumbled, “Don't judge a book by its cover. You may not know who you're talking to.” (1) With that, he smiled, closed the hood of the truck, and straddled his Harley. With a wave, he was gone as fast as he had appeared.
My first response on reading this story was that when people pray for an angel they should be more specific. Then I thought about a story that comes from the Scriptures. Cornelius was an officer of the Roman government, with the command of one hundred soldiers. The scripture, in Acts, states that he was a “God-Fearing” man, although he was not yet a believer in Christ.
He sincerely and fervently sought God and God's ways, but Cornelius had some unanswered questions. This is when the Disciple Peter enters the story. We must remember that Peter, although a Christian, was one who still practiced the Jewish tradition. He had accepted Jesus as the Christ, but after being raised in the Jewish tradition, much of his perspective was still Jewish-oriented.
In fact, it is entirely possible that Peter saw the Christian religion as a religion reserved for the Jews, since they were the chosen people of God. You do not tend to forget a tradition such as Judaism so quickly. Peter had been on a journey, and Acts tells us that he came to rest at the house of one called Simon the Tanner. About lunchtime, Peter went to the top of the house to pray, where he fell into a trance.
As we read this story, remember that the Jewish people had very strict dietary guidelines. Peter saw the heavens open, and something like a large sheet descended from the heavens that contained all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice from the heavens said to Peter, “Get up, kill and eat.”
Peter responded in shock and disbelief. He shouted, “I cannot eat anything which is unclean!” The voice came to Peter again, “What God has created, do not call unclean.” This happened three times and then the vision ended. Peter probably wondered what this mysterious vision was all about. About this time, the Scriptures tells us that three men representing Cornelius approached the Tanner's house and requested to see Peter.
The representatives told Peter about their leader. Remember, at this point, Cornelius had not been introduced to Christ. He was a Gentile (a non-Jew) but was searching for the truth. The men wanted Peter to journey with them to meet their leader, Cornelius, who was a man of prayer and righteousness, God-fearing, and respected by many of the Jewish people.
Just as God prepared Peter by sending him a vision, he prepares us for situations. We may wonder what all this preparation is all about, and then the AHA moment comes. It begins to fit together. How often we miss the benefits of God's preparation, either because we are impatient or because we allow our own will to get in the way.
Peter, as of yet, has not had the AHA experience, but it was about to fit together. Because Peter was willing to listen to God's voice and act patiently, a new era was about to be ushered in for the Christian faith. The next morning, Peter and the men journeyed to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them. He had gathered his family and friends for the occasion, and as they greeted, Peter began to feel uncomfortable.