Jesus’ Life: Chapter 20 – Early Spread Of Gospel By the Disciples
While the Twelve Apostles continued to preach and teach the Gospel of the Risen Jesus to the Jewish people in Jerusalem others, such as Philip, preached it to them in Samaria and places well beyond the city.
However, despite their many conversions, they were troubled!
What about the conversion of non-Jews, commonly known as Gentiles? Who would take the word of God to them? They were uncircumcised and didn’t observe the Laws of Moses. Their numbers far exceeded the number of Jews and many of them lived throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Would it be acceptable for a Gentile to be baptised a Christian without first being circumcised and accepting Jewish laws?
A way forward was greatly complicated by the historical hatred Jews held for Gentiles; they viewed them as “unclean” and deemed it “unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit [them],” eat or drink from the same cup or sit on the same couch. (Acts 10:28; Mark 7:3-4)
The answer came to Peter when he was staying with Simon the tanner. While they prepared a meal he fell into a trance and saw heaven open and all kinds of animals on a large sheet descend. Then a voice said, “Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!” Peter replied, “Certainly not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything defiled and ritually unclean!” (Peter was previously a Jew and continued to adhere to many of their customs.) (Acts 10:13-14) The voice then said, “What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!” This happened three times whereupon the sheet and animals were taken back into heaven. (Acts 10:15)
Peter didn’t understand the meaning of the vision until he visited Cornelius in Caesarea. Cornelius was a Centurion, Gentile and “God-fearing man”. He had been directed by an Angel to send for Peter and in preparation for his arrival, he invited his relatives and friends.
When Peter arrived, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshipped him. Peter, helping him up, said, “Stand up. I too am a mere mortal”. Then as he saw all his friends and relatives gathered to welcome him, he said, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, yet God has shown me that I should call no person defiled or ritually unclean”. (Acts 10:26, 28)
The meaning of the vision was now clear to Peter; we cannot look upon others as “unclean,” Jewish customs and laws cannot be used to prevent Gentiles from becoming Christians, the gates of the Christian Church are open to both Jew and Gentile.
While Peter was conversing further about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, “The Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message [and] the circumcised believers [with] Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God”. (Acts 10:44-46)
Peter then gave orders for Cornelius, his friends and relatives to be baptised saying, “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptised,” having already received the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Apostles did on Pentecost. (Acts10:48) (Acts 10:1-48)
Is everyone equal in my daily thoughts, words and actions?
Lord Jesus, I pray that through your love, I will grow in my understanding of the needs of my relatives and friends. Then, Lord, I pray that through your Holy Spirit, we will live and teach your laws to others. Amen.
Prayer: You Are My God (Psalm 63)
O God, you are my God, for you I long:
For you, my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name, I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.
At night, I remember you.
On you, I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings, I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.