Peter and Cornelius
The Providential Encounter (Acts 10:23b-33)
Peter brings a delegation of Christian brothers along with him. Cornelius had brought together family and friends to participate. Surely each had their own reasons to include others in this momentous meeting.
The next day he rose and went off with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesare′a. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his kinsmen and close friends.
What was going through the minds of these two men, one an occupying soldier from the centuries-old Roman Republic; the other a simple fisherman from the millennia-old Jewish nation? Did they have any inkling of the stakes involved, of the implications and consequences of this meeting? Certainly they understood that God was doing something monumental, but did the actually know what ahead of time? These are unanswerable questions, though still worth pondering.
25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
This first act by Cornelius seems to be inexplicable. From a military and cultural perspective what could have been more demeaning than for a Roman officer to fall down in worship before one of the conquered nation’s peasants? He certainly misunderstood Peter’s position in this encounter, somehow having assumed that he was more god than mere man.
Peter’s response indicates not the slightest reproach or disrespect, but rather is the simple truth plainly spoken. However, Cornelius’ gesture could not but have made a powerful impression. Perhaps the experience of utter humility by someone who wielded such power opened Peter’s heart to accept that what was soon to transpire was indeed God’s will.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered; 28 and he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
Peter openly states the religious/cultural issue at play. Yet, he also makes clear that God had opened a new door that he willingly walked through. Peter is here placing his trust in God’s directing while setting aside centuries of Jewish law. Surely this is one of Peter’s most faithful acts of obedience.
30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, 31 saying, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the seaside.’ 33 So I sent to you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
And so, Cornelius, not yet knowing just what message Peter brings, also sets aside centuries of Roman power to walk through that same open door. Praise be to God!