10At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3About the ninth hour of the dayThat is, 3 p.m. he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius." 4And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea." 7When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
9The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hourThat is, noon to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." 15And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common." 16This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
17Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. 20Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." 21And Peter went down to the men and said, "I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?" 22And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say." 23So he invited them in to be his guests.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.
24And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me."
30And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour,That is, 3 p.m. and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.' 33So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."
34So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Mostly it’s annoying getting interrupted. In the middle of a conversation, when you’re on your horse galloping through a speech, getting bumped off course seems criminal. Sometimes it sits you down—slack jawed in the dust—watching your thoughts wander over the horizon. But every once in awhile, an interruption, like a clap of thunder, bolts your conversation forward to its stunning and beautiful conclusion.
I wonder if that is how Peter felt in Caesarea. God had given him a stunning vision, three times, about how new the New Covenant really is. Certainly Peter knew the power of the gospel. Peter could talk eloquently about forgiveness of sins, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and the new creation. But he was just coming to understand how truly transformational Jesus’s redemption is.
Yes—no partiality, no unclean, people from every nation. But God, with a booming interruption, sent the Holy Spirit and threw Acts chapter 10 to its stunning conclusion.
In the old way God-fearing Gentiles, like Cornelius, had a place. It was near…ish. Just outside. But this conclusion is something new, so very near and so inside that Jesus in His High Priestly prayer simply said that Peter and Cornelius were now one. United. In the old way, Cornelius was never Peter’s brother. In the new, they share the same divine Breath.
Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” This Psalm refers to Aaron’s ordination as Israel’s high priest. The oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, running down from his head to his body, made it clear to everyone that when Aaron stood offering sacrifices at the Tabernacle, all of Israel stood there too in Aaron. They were united.
We have a greater High Priest. At Jesus’s baptism, God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. And as the oil ran down over Aaron, so too the Holy Spirit runs down from our Head, Christ, onto us, His body, the Church. So that where Christ is we are too. We are united to Him and to all who make up His body. Made one even as God himself is one (John 17.22).
Acts 10 interrupts us too. Who is the Cornelius in your life? The socially awkward? The politically backward? The day laborer in Cambodia or the refugee on a boat in the Mediterranean? In Christ, they all may be more intimately connected to you than the doctor who lives down the street, drives the same car, and celebrates the preferred beverage.
We may know that God shows no partiality, but without this sort of interruption, we may never see how near God is to those we keep at a distance, with what fire He adores them, nor how united to them we actually are. May the Spirit make us truly understand.