Lessons From Peter and Cornelius, Part One
- 2003 14 Oct
Whatever your vocation-whether president of a large company or the custodian who cleans after everyone has gone; whether doctor, lawyer or Indian chief-there are lessons to be learned from the story of Peter the Jew and Cornelius the Gentile.
1. Don't think too highly of yourself. (And remember whom you serve.)
2. Prayer plows the field and opens the road.
3. Talk about what you know.
4. Allow for the work of the Holy Spirit
It would have been easy for Peter to distinguish himself as a part of an elite group. After all, he was one of The Twelve. It was of him that Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16: 17-19)
It was Peter who preached the first sermon, who led literally thousands of converts to the new faith that one day would be known as Christianity. (Acts 2) It was Peter whose very shadow cast on the sick healed them. (Acts 5)
Peter was particularly proud to have been of the Jewish faith and race. After all, Jesus had said, "Salvation comes from the Jews." (John 4) The Creator of all had come to earth as Messiah and had been born into a Jewish household and He was of the line of the great king of Israel, David.
Peter took his faith seriously. Leviticus 11 forbade the observing Jew to eat "unclean animals," so he didn't do so. He wouldn't be caught dead in intimate fellowship with a Gentile, though surely he remembered Jesus sitting at the well, talking to the Samaritan woman.
A lot had happened to Peter in a relatively short period of time. He'd experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, led the first conversion, Stephen had been martyred, a man named Saul was persecuting the church like a madman and then-in a divine moment-became a brother, Paul, in the Lord.
Now, as Peter traveled about the country he'd healed a man named Aeneas-a paralytic-in Lydda. While in Joppa, when he was told of the death of Tabitha, a believer who was always doing good, he went to her home and raised her from the dead. There he stayed with a tanner named Simon.
Meanwhile, in Caesarea, an angel visited a centurion in the Italian Regiment by the name of Cornelius. Cornelius was God-fearing. Devout, the Scriptures say. When the angel came to him it was during his prayer time, three o'clock in the afternoon. The angel was specific with him in instruction.
"Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner whose house is by the sea."
A history-changing event is about to take place.
The following day, around noon, Peter is praying on the roof of Simon the tanner's house. He, too, has a vision. This one is of heaven being opened up and something like a sheet being let down by its four corners. In the cup of the sheet is every kind of animal. Those with four feet, reptiles, and birds. Some of them, according to Jewish law, were not considered unclean according to Levitical Law. Then Peter hears the Lord's voice, telling him to "Kill and eat."
This, naturally, goes against the Jewish grain.
"Surely not, Lord!" Peter exclaims.
Three times this happens (Three seems to be a bit of a magical number for Peter; three times before the cock crowed he denied being one of The Twelve, on the third day Jesus returned from the dead, three times Jesus asked, "Peter do you love me?")
It was about this time that THREE of Cornelius's servants showed up at the gate of Simon's home, asking about a man named Peter and whether or not he was staying there. Simultaneously, God's Spirit informs Peter that the men are there and that he should go with them back to the Gentile's home.
Don't Think Too Highly of Yourself
When Peter arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius and all of his relatives and close friends met him. Imagine what this could have done to our former fisherman.
I remember the first time I was recognized by name. My husband and I had stepped into a jewelry store to have a charm added to my bracelet. I handed everything to the young woman on the other side of the counter as she said, "Let me just get your name and phone number."
"Eva Marie Everson," I answered.
The woman's head jerked up and she gasped. Literally gasped! "Not the writer?"
It was a moment I had not begun to prepare for. "Yes," I said...and I'll tell you I was pretty much the brightest thing in the store at that moment. No diamond in any of the cases could have possibly outshone me! Instantly the Holy Spirit said, "Eva Marie, get over yourself."
I did. I reminded myself God had given me the gift of writing not so people could get all excited about who I am, but that they could get all excited about who He is! Like the jeweler, the people got overly excited upon his arrival.
As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." (Acts 10:25,26)
Prayer Plows the Field and Opens the Road
An old and dear friend said something to me that I'll never forget. Concerning prayer, she said: "Do you not realize that the very moment you begin to pray, the Father puts your requests into action? There are angels standing around the Throne right now, waiting for His orders. Whatever you ask, if it be within His will, He is ready, willing, and able to do for you."
Prayer plows the field of a heart, people. Peter was not one to associate with Gentiles, nor was he prepared to extend his new faith to them. However, when Cornelius was in prayer, God was moving to change Peter's heart. The angel of God said, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God."
Think about this for a moment. The word "memorial" is "Mnemosunon," and means: a memorial (that by which the memory of any person or thing is preserved). Are your prayers so memorable they have etched themselves into the heart and mind of God? Cornelius's were. The Scriptures also tell us of his prayers: [he] prayed to God regularly. Prayer was a way of life for this man of the Italian Regiment.
In Joppa, Peter was so intent on his time alone with the Almighty, he was willing to go up to the roof at noon in order to do so. Perhaps you have skimmed right over that passage before. Here's the point: at the heat of the day, Peter went UP to the roof. Could it have been the house was so full of people that Peter couldn't find a quiet corner? We don't know. Where there's a will, there's a way...and Peter found it. The Scriptures also tell us that Peter became hungry while he was praying. (Verse 10) Still, this did not deter him.
While Peter is praying-and receiving a vision-three men are coming into town. The road has been plowed for their arrival. Otherwise, Peter may not have even taken the time to speak with them much less leave Simon's house with them.
To be continued next week ....
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and the recently released and highly anticipated Shadows of Light (Barbour Publishing). She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com.