Peter, the growing apostle of Jesus and Jewish Christian who follows the Law of Moses meticulously, and Cornelius, the Gentile who carries his lunch box to work every day, are moving slowly toward each other like knights on a chessboard. Cornelius has obeyed the angel’s command and awaits the results as his men seek Peter.
Now it is Peter’s turn:
“The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven’” (Ac 10:9-16).
What could be more heinous to a proper Jewish Christian than eating things forbidden by the Law of Moses? How can Peter knowingly render himself unclean? He is so scandalized that he confronts Jesus, refusing to eat what is on the sheet. Perhaps even worse than calling the food unclean is Peter’s further characterization of the sheet’s contents as “common.” It is one thing to try one’s best to remain holy, but it is quite another to describe something using words that are condescending, generally toward people or things used by people who are considered dirty and unworthy.
This is a very good model of disunity from God, not only by disobeying a command from God, but also by setting oneself above other people. Do you ever describe other people in derogatory terms? Think about it.
We are not told whether Peter actually did eat, but I assume he did when he heard the three commands of God!
The stage is now set, the chess pieces move closer together. Are they of opposing colors ready to set up defeat for the other? Or are they unknowingly on the same team?
Neither Peter nor Cornelius has any idea what lies ahead, but both are now obedient and wondering what comes next.
We shall see, next time. Hurry back!