9 It was about noon the next day. The men were on their journey and were approaching the city. Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry. He wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared, Peter had a vision. 11 He saw heaven open up. There he saw something that looked like a large sheet. It was being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It had all kinds of four-footed animals in it. It also had reptiles and birds in it. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “No, Lord! I will not!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything that is not pure and ‘clean.’ ” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time. It said, “Do not say anything is not pure that God has made ‘clean.’ ” 16 This happened three times. Right away the sheet was taken back up to heaven. 17 Peter was wondering what the vision meant. At that very moment the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. They stopped at the gate 18 and called out. They asked if Simon Peter was staying there. 19 Peter was still thinking about the vision. The Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Simon,” he said, “three men are looking for you. 20 Get up and go downstairs. Don’t let anything keep you from going with them. I have sent them.” 21 Peter went down and spoke to the men. “I’m the one you’re looking for,” he said. “Why have you come?” 22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius, the Roman commander. He is a good man who worships God. All the Jewish people respect him. A holy angel told him to invite you to his house. Then Cornelius can hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter went with the three men. Some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them. He had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him. As a sign of respect, he fell at Peter’s feet. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said. “I am only a man myself.” 27 As he was talking with Cornelius, Peter went inside. There he found a large group of people. 28 He said to them, “You know that it is against our law for a Jew to enter a Gentile home. A Jew shouldn’t have any close contact with a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not say anyone is not pure and ‘clean.’ 29 So when you sent for me, I came without asking any questions. May I ask why you sent for me?” 30 Cornelius answered, “Three days ago at this very hour I was in my house praying. It was three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood in front of me. 31 He said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer. He has remembered your gifts to poor people. 32 Send someone to Joppa to get Simon Peter. He is a guest in the home of another Simon, who works with leather. He lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you right away. It was good of you to come. Now we are all here. And God is here with us. We are ready to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
I am glad I can eat bacon. And this verse is possibly the strongest evidence of the turning point in Judeo-Christian history when bacon became OK to eat in the eyes of the people. But sometimes for me this passage becomes all about the bacon and not about the people…
What I mean here, is that there is clearly more going on here than just what foods can be eaten. The Jewish laws and traditions around eating and food had been in place for thousands of years and they had become a stumbling block for God’s plan to have all people come into his kingdom. By breaking down the barriers surrounding food, God enabled the Gospel to become more accessible, more inclusive for those who didn’t fit the mould of Jewish culture. The intriguing imagery presented to Peter is really about him being more inclusive.
To bring this home, I reflected on all the ways that I act and interact with people around me. What is it that I do that makes others excluded from my life, and thus, indirectly, excluded from an opportunity to share Jesus? There are a lot of things really. For starters, I tend to only associate with people who have a fair bit in common with me, while unintentionally excluding others who need Jesus. How can I better divide my time and attention in a way that serves Christ rather than my own needs and interests?
Lord, help me to open up my life to a broader group of people, and help me to be bold and, where the context is right, outrageous in the way that I share your love with other people.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware