I can tell today’s lesson in one word: “obedience.”
Thank you very much. Now we can all go back to our jobs in peace, having accomplished the world’s shortest Bible devotional.
Eh? What’s that? Oh, there’s something more that should be said about this?
In the grand scheme of things, Acts 10 is about God breaking down the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, something so important and profound that St. Paul calls it the “great mystery.” This mystery is, in fact, Jesus Christ Himself, the New Covenant, so dramatically revealed, for example, in John’s Revelation.
But the truth of this mystery, which is God becoming man that man may have peace with God and with other men, is a very personal and profound thing to St. Peter. It’s no mere theoretical or historical (as it may seem for us) truth: it has heavy consequences for Peter, as it should for our lives.
When the Lord gave Peter his vision of unclean animals and told him to eat them, Peter experienced the epicenter of the New Covenant, the shattering of the Old, and the cataclysmic effect on his own life. At first, he couldn’t accept the undoing of the Old Covenant and the old way of coming to God.
To his credit, he submitted to the Lord, and this was no easy thing. In verse 28 of chapter 10, he makes it clear to the Gentiles that he understands the full implications of his vision and the Lord’s word to him. It wasn’t just about eating kosher: it was about the God coming to the Gentiles, and it was about the Jews and Gentiles together being made a new creation in Christ.
We can see how difficult it was for him to accept the Word of the Lord in his life. But in the end, he obeyed that Word. Look how difficult it is for Peter, as he explains it to the Gentiles: “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation” (verse 28). While what Peter says was not a direct violation of the Mosaic Law, it was a violation of the customs or taboos of the Jews. How could Peter violate what he “knew” must be wrong?
When God showed him what the truth was and made it clear, Peter obeyed. But it wasn’t easy. There almost seems to be a part of him that still isn’t sure he should be hanging out with these Gentiles. But he goes anyway. Why? Because God told him to go. Here’s his own justification of his actions: “But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for” (verse 28).
In this sacrificial obedience, Peter reminds me of Abraham when he obeyed God’s clear commandment to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham must have had doubts and a strong urge to disobey. But having heard God’s Word, he obeyed it.Peter isn’t the only one who obeys: Cornelius also had to obey, if Peter and the Gentiles were to get together. Cornelius may not have been too crazy about the idea of meeting with Peter, either: what have Gentiles to do with Jews?
But after hearing the clear commandment to obey, Cornelius tells Peter, “So I sent to you immediately” (verse 33).
What would have happened if Peter had obeyed and Cornelius had not? Cornelius would not have sent for Peter; Peter would not have come to the Gentiles in Caesarea; and Cornelius’ household and friends would not have received the Holy Spirit.
What would have happened if Cornelius had obeyed and Peter had not? Cornelius would have sent for Peter; Peter would not have come to the Gentiles in Caesarea; and Cornelius’ household and friends would not have received the Holy Spirit.
If either man had disobeyed God, then many people would have missed out on the blessing of God. Since both men obeyed, however, the gospel was preached, and many people were blessed.
God still calls people to obey Him. He still calls each of you to do certain things. Some of these are the general Christian commandments that all Christians must obey. Some of these are things that the Lord has specifically told you to do. These may be specific applications of the general commandments or specific commandments to do certain things for Him. We’ve all heard God speaking to us.
How have you been obeying?
Did you know that your obedience is the very means by which the Kingdom of God comes to earth? When you obey, God comes to people, and they are blessed (yourself, for starters, if no one else). When you disobey, God may not come to people, and they may not be blessed (yourself, for starters).
Today is a treasure hunt, in which God has hidden many sparkling, precious jewels of opportunities to obey Him. What glory for God and blessing for you and others awaits you today, if only you would listen and obey?
Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
What things have I noticed that the Lord has been asking me to do that I have been putting off doing? What things is He asking me to do that I have been refusing to do?
Resolution: I resolve to listen to the Lord today for one thing He is asking me to do. When I have heard it, I resolve to obey.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson