Summary: A look at the first Gentile to become Christians.
WORSHIPPING STORIES 2
PETER AND THE GENTILES
-alright, so if you missed it last week, we have been having story time here at Drink Deep. Last week was the story of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant and how David returned the Ark to it’s rightful place among Its people.
-today we’re doing the same thing, no powerpoints, no notes, no bells and whistles, just plain old story time. But this story of worship comes from the New Testament.
-this story is about a man many of you have heard of, a guy named Peter, but first the story starts with someone different. A man named Cornelius.
-it’s been over ten years since Jesus had been crucified and risen and ascended. Stephen had been killed and the Church was scattered all through the land. As part of this, Peter was away from Jerusalem, he was living in the town of Joppa.
-back to Cornelius. This guy was a Roman army officer, the centurion of the Italian Regiment. The Italian Regiment is 600 soldiers working in an area divided into centuries, or 100’s. The centurion is the captain of one of these centuries. So Cornelius is a Roman who is captain of 100 of the 600 men stationed in a town known as Caesarea.
-it’s commonly thought that centurions were held in a really good light. They had earned their respect as captains of 100 soldiers, but in the Bible wherever a centurion is mentioned, it’s always good. Either they're always good people, or the guys who God inspired to write the Bible would not anything bad about them. Either way, just being a centurion, we can assume Cornelius is a good guy.
-but we know even more he’s a good guy. The Bible says he was a God-fearing man, and so was everyone in His household. He also gave to the poor and prayed regularly. So this guy, especially for a Roman centurion, really, really nice guy and someone who loved God, practicing Jewish faith traditions like reading the Old Testament, going to the synagogue, etc.
-the story starts with him performing the afternoon prayer, every day at three in the afternoon Jewish people prayed (they prayed in the morning too). As he’s praying an angel appears to him in a vision.
-the angel tells him that God has seen how he has prayed and helped the poor and now has a job for him. The angel instructs him to send men to Joppa to the house of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore. There he will find a man named Simon Peter. He’s to have the men bring Peter to Cornelius’ house in Caesarea.
-as soon as the angel is gone, like the next second, Cornelius goes downstairs, gets two of his servants and one of his best soldiers, the soldier who was basically his right-hand man, and sent them to Joppa to find Peter. Joppa was around 33 miles away, so they wouldn’t be able to make it that day, it was a two day trip.
-we pick up the story in Joppa the next day. It’s about noon and Peter is up on the roof praying. Notice, this is outside the normal time for Jewish prayer, so Peter, really a good Jew here.
-the story says that he was hungry, but lunch was still being prepared, so he stayed up to pray and fell into a trance. He saw the sky open before him and a large sheet or blanket came down from heaven by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, birds, all sorts of things. Peter sees these things and hears a voice say to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat them.”
-now Peter, even though he’s a Christian and following Jesus, he’s still a Jew. In fact, at this time, all Christians are Jews. Jesus came to Jewish people, had Jewish followers, all the disciples were Jews, the Christians met at the Temple and synagogues, everything at this time that’s Christian, is still kind of Jewish. And as a good Jew, Peter is kosher. He can only eat what the Law allowed him to eat, no bacon, no reptiles, no birds, no shellfish, Peter can only eat kosher food.
-so Peter calls back up to God, “No Lord. I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have called impure or unclean.” But the voice answers back, “Don’t call something unclean if God has made it clean.”
-this same vision, this same conversation, it happens three times. “Eat” “No” “Yes”. Suddenly the sheet was pulled up to heaven, disappears and Peter comes out of his trance.
-obviously, Peter’s a little confused. What was that? What did it mean? As he’s waking up and processing this, the people in the house are scurrying around. It seems there are three guys at the door, one of them a Roman soldier and they’re asking for Peter.