Scripture

Acts 10:23b-48

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Reflection

When reading through yesterday’s passage and the one for today, it can be tempting to have a knee jerk reaction to the Jewish exclusion of Gentiles and think, how narrow-minded of them! But this really only reflected the default understanding of the ancient world that different nations and ethnic groups had their own unique gods. Ra was the god of Egypt, Marduk of Babylon, Asshur of Assyria and so on, whereas Yahweh was the God of Israel. Of course these gods showed favoritism or partiality for their people, because they were Lords over their own people. That was the logical order of the universe.

Given this line of thought, it makes Peter’s opening statement to this crowd gathered in Cornelius’ home all the more remarkable: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34). How does Peter come to a conclusion so at odds with the grain of the logic of the ancient world? 

Well it comes to him because he works through the full logic of the gospel story. It is the “good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). In other words, Peter has come to the inevitable conclusion that marks the confession of the church as it explodes across the map of the ancient world: “Jesus is Lord!” And as one commentator put it, “If Jesus is Lord of all, then the gospel can go to all.” 

But reader beware! This Lordship logic can be dangerous, because it creates an “if...then” wrecking ball that might just smash some of your own preciously held assumptions. If Jesus is Lord of all, then Jesus is also Lord of that annoying coworker, that homeless person asking me for some change, that writer who writes too many words! And, if Jesus is Lord of all, then that means Jesus is definitely Lord of me, Lord of my home, Lord of my job, Lord of my time, and Lord of my resources.

How does this confession that Jesus is Lord conflict with some of our own culture’s assumptions?

How might you fill in the blank for that “if...then” Lordship logic? If Jesus is Lord of all, then Jesus is Lord of ____________.

Prayer

Now, Lord, enable your servants through the empowerment of your Spirit to speak your word with great boldness. (taken from Acts 4:29)