by Jen Woyke
I’m not a writer. I’m a historian, a reader – if you will. As a history teacher, I loved to focus on the “story” behind the events. Yes, dates and time are important; you should know that the Civil War happened after the Revolutionary War, but the “why” is what draws me in.
Acts is my kind of book.
It’s a history book. Even better yet, a history book that tells an “underdog” story. A handful of people spread a crazy message literally around the known world.
At the center of the book of Acts is one of the most amazing stories.
For some reason, despite growing up in Sunday School and going to church practically my whole life I’ve missed the story of Peter and Cornelius.
True, it’s not as flashy as the stories it’s sandwiched between.
The blinding light of Paul’s conversion and the amazing earthquake of Peter’s escape from jail make for great Sunday School lessons. I can see how Peter’s vision about unclean animals would get lost. There’s a lot of back story that might be difficult to explain to class of 2ndgraders.
But that’s unfortunate because the story of Peter and Cornelius is an amazing declaration of who God is and what our relationship with Him should be.
In Acts 10, Peter faces a confrontation between what he thinks he should be doing (following Jewish rules, proclaiming Christ to God’s people) and what God says he should be doing (proclaiming the message to everyone)…and Peter chooses God’s way.
God uses a vision of “unclean” animals to show Peter the whole world has changed. No longer is God’s favor reserved for the Jews, rather it is for all nations, all peoples.
It’s for me.
Peter is led by a vision to go with men who bring him to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion of all things, the “unclean” enemy. And when he gets there Peter enters the house and talks with him.
It doesn’t sound like a big deal to me, but for Peter it was going against everything he had been taught from a young age. He was associating with someone who was “unclean.”
But God told him to do it, and he did.
Cornelius asked Peter to share Christ and the message of his resurrection. And Peter did. This was Peter, the zealot, who thought Christ would come to liberate the Jews from the foreigners. Yet when God called him to share a message with this foreigner, he did it.
He didn’t hem and haw; he didn’t drag his feet.
He did what God told him to do.
Peter was obedient And the Holy Spirit came on all who heard his message.
And they believed and were baptized.
When Peter returned to Jerusalem, Acts 11 tells us that the apostles all through Judea heard what had happened, and they began to criticize Peter for associating with the uncircumcised. Peter recounted what happened and ended with this incredible declaration of who God was.
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
God is the maker of all.
He’s the giver of life.
He’s our Savior.
Who was Peter to think he knew better than God?
Who am I to think I know better than him?That my way or my understanding is better. Peter recognized that God was God and he willing put his own thoughts and ideas aside and respond accordingly.
God calls me to be obedient—even when it doesn’t make sense…even when I don’t understand…even when I might not agree. He is the maker of heaven and earth, and what right do I have to think I can stand in his way?
Peter’s willing, obedient response to God’s calling paved the way for the church to expand beyond its Jewish roots to a world God calls each of us to. A world that is desperately in need of the message Peter shared with Cornelius.
Father, help me to be obedient like Peter.