God Has No Favourites September 18th, 2022
Lord, send us your Holy Spirit to give us a fresh understanding of the Scriptures this day. Challenge us and change our lives as we encounter your wisdom and truth, through Christ, your Living Word. Amen.
Last week we left the apostle Peter in the house of one Simon the tanner who lived in the town of Joppa which was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He just had a vision where all these foods which the Jewish people consider unclean were lowered down on a sheet and the voice of the Lord said to him, ‘“What God has made clean, do not call common.’” While Peter was pondering this vision three strangers appeared at the door of the house and the Holy Spirit said to him, ‘“Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.’”
This morning we heard what these men had to say to Peter; ‘“Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.’” So, as commanded by the Holy Spirit, Peter let them in the house and the next day, he, along with some fellow believers, went with the men to the home of Cornelius.
Now Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman military, which meant he was in charge of a garrison of 100 men. Yet the first thing he did was kneel down and worship Peter. Cornelius had been so touched by the word of God and so interested in finding out more about Jesus that he not only welcomed a stranger into his house, but he also knelt down and worshipped him. Yet Peter knew that he was not worthy of such respect, so he told Cornelius to get up, as he was just a man like he was and not worthy of such respect.
At this point Peter sees that not only is Cornelius and his family present but also a number of his closest friends as well. The angel of the Lord had said to Cornelius, “‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’” Such was the effect of this vision on Cornelius that he wanted as many people as possible to be there to learn about the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ.
And the first thing Peter does is to acknowledge the change which Jesus made in his life. He says to those gathered, “‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So, when I was sent for, I came without objection.’” It was not only Cornelius who had the life changing vision, Peter did, as well. And so powerful was the voice of the Lord telling Peter that all things which he had created were clean, that he was now going to fellowship with those outside the Jewish faith, something which always had been against his nature.
Peter then confirms his change of attitude when he says to those gathered in the home of Cornelius, ‘“Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’” Up to this point everyone in the church had a Jewish background. It’s important to understand that these believers did not see Christianity as a new religion. They accepted Christ as their Messiah, but still thought themselves as Jewish. So, everyone assumed that to become a Christian, you first had to convert to Judaism. But in today’s story Peter sees God at work in people who are not Jews, people very different from him. And for the first time Peter realizes that the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ has been given to all of mankind, not just a certain few.
Peter then continued on, explaining to Cornelius and his relatives and friends just who Jesus was, that he was the Son of God and that he had come to offer salvation to all of mankind, not just God’s original chosen people, those descendants of Abraham. Peter said to them, “‘To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’”
As he was telling them this, we’re told that, “…the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” All those who were in the house received the Holy Spirit and came to faith in Jesus. And at this point Peter said to his traveling companions, “‘Can anyone withhold water for baptising these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’” And so, in confirmation of their newfound faith in Christ, all those in the house that day were baptised.
This was another sign to Peter and the members of the early church that God was doing something new, namely, forming a new body of believers in Jesus. Not only would the church of Jesus Christ include Jewish members, but Gentiles, as well. The only thing that was needed to be part of this group was to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Now although today’s reading is about the conversion of Cornelius and his household it is also equally, if not more, about the conversion of Peter. It describes Peter as growing in his understanding of himself, and of those around him who are from different backgrounds. Peter learns that although they may not have the same customs as himself, they are also part of God’s community.
This change in Peter shows us that people can overcome their fears of the other and envision an expansive community. And that’s what can take place with us today. As more and more people move here from both inside and outside Canada, we need to go outside our comfort zones and be welcoming to them. We need to be able to imagine a new, different community of followers of Christ.
So, let’s ask ourselves, how is God rearranging our role, our community, and our witness? Let’s never forget what Peter came to discover, God’s plan of salvation is for everyone. Let’s remember that the path that Jesus created for us brings us to the presence of a loving God who accepts us all. Let’s live a life where we can be described by others as going about doing good and healing those around us because God is with us. He is not only our Lord; he is the Lord of all.
Let’s close with these instructions given to the members of the church in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6) These words were written close to 2000 years ago, but they are every bit as relevant in our lives today.
Let us Pray:
Heavenly Father, you made us in your own image but nation upon nation disappointed you throughout history. Thank you for redeeming us through Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in your bonds of love; and help us accomplish your purposes on earth, so that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen