Summary: In Acts 11:1-18; Luke reminds us 1. Our God loves to surprise His People 2. Our God is passionately bringing about His Kingdom of Heaven here on earth 3. Our God is cleansing, tranforming and guiding His People through His Holy Spirit
Title: God's Wonderful Surprises
Proposition and Theme: In Acts 11:1-18; Luke reminds us 1. Our God loves to surprise His People 2. Our God is passionately bringing about His Kingdom of Heaven here on earth 3. Our God is cleansing, tranforming and guiding His People through His Holy Spirit
INTRO: Grace and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world!
Have you started reading something and found yourself completely captured by it? You couldn't put it down? You had to put everything to the side and finish reading it as soon as possible. The author's words captured your heart and your imagination. It's amazing when that happens.
We know that the person who wrote the story deeply enjoyed writing it. We know that they were "in the moment" as a writer. We can sense their passion and their inspiration. We know that their mind and heart were totally engaged and that the thoughts they want to share simply spilled onto the page.
If we close our eyes while we are reading Luke's books, I believe we can see St. Luke that way. He first tells us that everything he will share has been painstakingly investigated and is accurate. Each passage we read drips of Luke's passion, his joy and his enthusiasm. He writes in the flow and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You know that the Holy Spirit was guiding his mind, his heart and his pen. It's all rather amazing.
Our passage this morning focuses on the events that Luke shared with us earlier in chapter 10. The Apostle Peter had been led by the Holy Spirit to share the Good News with a Gentile soldier named Cornelius and his family. Acts 10:44ff tells us that as soon as they accepted Jesus as their Savior and LORD, the Holy Spirit fell on all of them in the same manner in which He had fallen on the Jews at Pentecost. All the Jewish believers with Peter were astonished. This was a miracle beyond anything they could imagine No Jew at that time could even have imagined that God's Holy Spirit would ever fall on a Gentile much less his whole family. Cornelius and his household had become the first bonafide non-Jews to join the Early Church and all of this was causing quite a stir.
Coupled with all of this were some recent reports that the Apostle Peter had gone further and was actually having fellowship with Gentiles. At that time no true Jew would have ever entertained the notion of sharing a meal with a Gentile. No orthodox Jew would have allowed himself to be a guest in a Gentile house or have had a Gentile in their own home. If by some random event that a Jew had to allow a Gentile into their home they were always watched to see what they touched. Whatever a Gentile touched had to be thoroughly cleansed and purified before it could be used again by the family.
Even the dirt from Gentile land was considered unclean. According to scribal law, everyone traveling into Gentile lands had to be extra careful not to track that dirt back into the Promise Land. Before stepping back onto Promise Land they were to dust off all the unholy dirt from their feet. Otherwise the Gentile dirt would contaminate the Promise Land. Anything and everything that had to do with Gentiles was seen as unholy and unclean.
If a Jewish cow was milked by Gentile hands, the milk could not be used by a Jewish family. It had to thrown out or sold to a Gentile family. Bread made by Gentiles could be sold by a Jewish merchant but never to a Jewish family. A Jewish woman could buy cooking utensils made by a Gentile but before she could use them she would have to purify them with water and fire.
All of these rules came about because it was believed that all Gentiles were idolaters. It was believed that since Gentiles worshipped false gods and bowed down to false idols they had rejected Jehovah as the One and Only God. For orthodox Jews, idolatry was a deal breaker. They would have nothing to do with anyone who rejected Jehovah as the One and Only True God. Gentiles were disparaged not because they weren’t Jewish, but because they were assumed to be morally and spiritually deficient. They were considered to be a race of people outside of God's law and favor. Subsequently, that meant orthodox Jews would have nothing to do with them.
All of these beliefs, rules and restrictions over time had created a great deal of friction between Jews and Gentiles. Each looked at one another with scorn and malice. Even in the 2nd-century AD. we see sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai: writing about how he felt about Gentiles stating that “The best of the Gentiles should be killed.” His statements pretty much summed up the common feelings that existed between Jews and Gentiles during that time. For Peter to reach out with the Gospel of Jesus to a Gentile was seen as unbelievable. In our passage the Apostle Peter is coming to explain his actions to the Early Church leaders in Jerusalem.