Last week Paul took us through chapter 9 and Saul’s encounter with Jesus that immediately changed the entire course of his life forever. God’s ways are most perfect making Saul blind so that he was unable to do anything EXCEPT pray and mediate, fast and reflect. For three days Saul re-adjusts to what he has now discovered and we also know that in these three days God speaks with Saul – he receives the vision of Ananias coming to heal him.
We also saw the faith of Ananias and his wonderful relationship with God – his faithfulness in going to the house to pray for his ‘brother’ Saul.
Saul’s transformation is immediate – baptized and then witnessing – no transition – Saul’s passion was the truth and he goes and confounds the Jews. This man who once sought Christians to imprison and kill is now sought by the Jews to be killed.
Then we saw another amazing disciple – Barnabas. Saul’s conversion was a bit too much for the disciples to stomach – they did not believe he was genuine – but Barnabas lives out Jesus’ teaching – he is not afraid but reaches out his hand of friendship, forgiveness and love to a man who may be his enemy.
The shock waves of Saul’s conversion lead to his life being in danger straight from the get go and so the disciples send his to Tarsus.
Luke now shifts focus away from Saul and onto Peter.
What is Peter doing?
He is evangelizing, speaking, ministering.
Who does he visit in Lydda?
Saints. Believers. Converts. Probably from Philip’s ministry in the area.
And Peter continues to exercise his healing ministry.
At this time a disciple dies in Joppa. Tabitha or Dorcas – I know which name I would prefer.
What were the believers in Joppa’s intention in sending for Peter?
They did not send messengers to Lydda for Peter to come and preside over a funeral. They sent for Peter TO RAISE HER FROM THE DEAD. What faith these believers had. What expectation of the power of God.
Do you notice anything interesting in how Peter approaches this situation?
He kneels and prays. He does not walk in and say “Tabitha get up.” He prays to God. This has nothing to do with Peter. This has nothing to do with his power. This is a demonstration of the Living God’s authority over life and death.
Also, Peter does not touch Tabitha at all – until she awakens. To touch a dead body would be an unclean thing for a Jew.
Where does Peter end up staying. Do you see any significance in what we have just seen with Peter?
Peter ends up at Simon the Tanner’s place. He traveled to Lydda to minister and meet the saints, and there he heals a paralyzed man. That event spreads to Joppa and the believers there realize, just as Tabitha is dying that Peter is only 10 miles away. So they send for him. He goes and prays and Tabitha is raised from the dead. Peter is now in Joppa and so he needs a place to stay – Simon the Tanner.
This is God’s incredible sovereignty in view. Two people healed and Peter’s travels land him in exactly the right place so that Cornelius is able to send for him.
All this is simply setting the scene for the next movement of the spirit and the church – the encounter between Cornelius and Peter.
What do we know about Cornelius?[i]
A God fearer – not a convert to Judaism – hence not circumcised or baptized. Believed in a coming messiah.
And God speaks to him – a gentile – and affirms that his gentile prayers have come before the throne of God.
It’s a wonderful piece of irony here – This God fearer, who was barred from presenting offerings to God in Jerusalem at the temple, is here told that his acts of generosity and prayers have been an offering directly to God and God has accepted them.
It’s not just about the ritual – but the heart.
He obeys God and IMMEDIATELY sends for Peter.
Meanwhile, back in Joppa Peter gets peckish and while the food is being prepared he goes and prays.
What is God challenging Peter with in the vision of the animals?
Peter is still culturally prejudiced. Notice here – Peter disobeys God. God says clearly GET UP, KILL AND EAT.
Peter says NO.
He has an ingrained prejudiced which needs to be dealt with. His Jewishness must be set aside when God so commands. If God has made all animals clean his Jewish understanding must be set aside to accommodate God’s command.
If three men show up on your doorstep and said – Someone has asked for you – please come now. Would YOU go? What does Peter’s willingness to go show us?
His life is not his own. Where he goes is not his decision. What he does is not his choice. All these things we tend to hold onto in Western 21st Century Christianity. We struggle with the idea that our future should not be in our hands, or our control but in God’s. That if God should call, we must leave our nets and go.
I think God has often called many, who have simply not recognized the call or have thought “how ridiculous. I have a family to feed – my life is good here. God could not possibly ask me to do this.”
What image does Luke give us of Cornelius in v24?
Expectantly waiting. He has gathered family and friends. He is eagerly awaiting Peter, and the words Peter will bring with him. Are we like this on Saturday evening’s awaiting worship on Sunday?
What remarkable significance is there in Peter and Cornelius standing and talking together?
Here is a picture of the reconciliation of the gospel. Peter a Jew, speaking with and about to become brothers with a man who represents the occupying army of Israel – a man whose colleagues have killed and tortured Peter’s countrymen and women. For Peter, Cornelius represents everything that should be hated and despised – a foreign invading solider who is a gentile.
Yet God orchestrates this amazing meeting.
What changes for Peter in v34 – why is this amazing?
Peter’s journey is complete. The penny drops. He now realizes that God is not more favorable to the Jew than to the gentile but that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people. Peter’s prejudice has been removed.
And this is why he presents the Gospel of Christ to Cornelius in v36-43.
But there is one more shock for Peter and his companions!
I love this – While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit came upon them. The image is almost of God waiting for Peter to finish talking – but after a while the eternal realized that Peter might speak for eternity and so he just let the Spirit loose.
Why were the circumcised companions of Peter astonished at what they saw?
The Holy Spirit. Poured out upon Gentiles. No way!
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
[i] Caesarea – third time mentioned. Philip resided there after Azotus (8:40). Paul went here having fled Jerusalem (9:30). Originally Stratos Tower – Caesaer gave it to Herod the Great who renamed it Caesarea.