One thing so common about appreciating a mystery is that if it comes from too intangible a perspective, you can’t replicate it for others so easily. If it was like that, it would not be a mystery. Mother Theresa said that early in the morning she listens to God. When asked what God says, she responded, “Oh, He is listening too. If you have not done it, I can’t explain it.”
In the last two blogs we have seen how Peter was first invited and then arrived at the mysterious reception of gentiles into what he had assumed was a Jewish members only thing.
11:1 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3 saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4 Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11 At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step
This Peter knowing that it was a process when different intervals of experience marked with a divine hand. He had authority to play the pope card, but he wanted this truth to trickle into his associate apostles and all believers. There was a road ahead of integrating gentiles into the Church, and he wanted this to be both doctrinally and qualitatively received.
This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.
Peter is bringing things a step up by making this personal. By saying the “three” part he is reminding the Church of his own great denial but his own great redemption. You see, we all have denied Jesus, but for those who have encountered Him, we have been restored.
The Spirit told me to go with them
Peter may be using the pope card right now in referencing the Holy Spirit. I say this because when Anannias and Saphira played their trick, he said, “Why did you lie to the Holy Spirit?” He is making a stand.
and not to make a distinction between them and us.
This is the first explicit declaration of the walls coming down between peoples because of God’s love in context of the gospel. Increasingly from here, anyone who calls themselves a Christian and marginalizes their neighbor due to a twist on natural law miss the mark.
These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.
By looking at the story we know it is 3 Jewish believers + 3 gentiles= 6 brothers.
The Greek word for this is slam dunk (metaphorically speaking). Peter is declaring a major change though he says it in passing. These are family members.
the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning… “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God”
Peter is humbling himself and those that have received this grace by making this experience universal in opportunity. But where it comes to being an answer to someone’s prayer, Peter is seeing this as something where it is not about him, but become about him if he gets in the way. To an extent, we can hinder God. We can even fight God. But in the words of Rich Mullins, “He will have to give you a bloody nose and then give you a ride home on His bicycle.” In a slightly overlapping context, Peter’s successor Francis said famously, “Who am I to judge?”
So where do these last three blogs leave us in being a part of extending God’s grace to the Other? Accept the invitation of God to love your neighbor as yourself, show up, and pass the invitation to those of “your own” to join you. Such is the revolution of Jesus: to love everyone.