Cornelius, “ … Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us …” Acts 10:33
Peter, “ … He commanded us to preach … that Jesus is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:42-43
When you think of a reluctant prophet what is the first Bible story you think of? One of the most popular accounts of a reluctant prophet is the Old Testament story of Jonah. Jonah was called by God to preach reconciliation with God to an estranged group, the wicked people in Nineveh.
A similar story in the New Testament is found in Acts 10. God is seen to be revealing himself across estranged groups. Cornelius is a Roman centurion, but he fears God, gives to the poor, prays regularly and is respected by the Jewish community. Peter is the reluctant but willing witness who, on God’s order, crosses the Jew-Gentile barrier to speak the gospel to Cornelius.
God is in the business of revealing himself to the world. Each of us have been placed in the time and location that we might most likely respond to God if we will. In Cornelius’ case, God sends an angelic vision to instruct Cornelius to send for Peter and listen to Peter’s message. Cornelius obeys. Read Acts 10:1-8.
Meanwhile Peter has a thrice repeated vision that convinces him to cross the Jew-Gentile barrier. Read Acts 10:9-23. This would be like an Ally being willing to speak to a Nazi. Jonah being willing to speak to a Ninevite. It took a very large fish to convince Jonah!
Jews were not allowed to associate with Gentiles but Peter enters Cornelius’ home and asks, “ … why have you sent for me?”
Cornelius recounts his vision, an answer to prayer, and replies, “ … Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Read Acts 10:23-33.
Peter’s message affirms that God accepts people from every nation who fear God and do what is right. Peter points to the good news of peace in Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Peter reminds Cornelius and his household that Jesus’ divine life, crucifixion, and resurrection are well known and widely attested.
Then Peter gets to the core of the gospel, and the answer to Cornelius’ request, “ … God commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that Jesus is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Read Acts 10:34-43.
In Nineveh, there is a large response as many wicked folks repent. The revival is significant as God’s judgment is withheld from the city of Nineveh for over a century.
Similarly, here in Cornelius’ household, many believe. As a testimony that the gospel is now going forth to the nations, the Holy Spirit is poured out even on Gentiles and they are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Read Acts 10:44-48.
Let’s not miss, first, Cornelius’ response to the light he had. Regardless of how much you know or don’t know, seek God out. God will find you. Trust in Jesus who is Lord of all.
Second, while understandably reluctant, Peter, like Jonah, eventually witnesses across a divide that is difficult but God ordained. We may well not like certain groups, but God is saving people from all kinds of backgrounds. Be ready to share God’s good news of reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
Third, thank God for his heart of revelation. God is not hiding himself. Just the opposite, he is obvious for any willing to see: in nature, in our conscience, in visions, in the Bible, and most of all in Jesus of Nazareth.
God is in the business of drawing people to himself. If you are willing, seek God, and you will find that he has been drawing you to himself.