“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” John Lydgate
In today’s reading that saying is certainly true. Peter and the brothers who went with him to Cornelius’ home have returned. They didn’t go straight back to Jerusalem. They stayed in Caesarea for a while and also ministered in other areas of Judea too. But Peter did finally make it back to Jerusalem and he brought six of the brothers who went with him.
The news of what had happened in Caesarea had reached Jerusalem before Peter and his group had. You might expect excitement and rejoicing to have accompanied the news that God’s word had spread beyond Jewish boarders but that’s not what happened. Instead, Peter and his group were criticized.
They were not criticized for forgetting to tell anyone where they were going. Nor were they criticized for the message they preached. They were criticized for associating with “uncircumcised men” and eating with them.
Peter shared the whole story with them from his vision to the Holy Spirit’s actions. He made sure to share every detail of his vision, including God’s response to his refusal to obey; “What God has made clean, do not call common” (verse 9). Peter also made sure they knew that he was instructed by the Holy Spirit to accompany the men back to Caesarea. Peter did none of the activities on a whim or out of his own desire to ‘mix things up.’
Peter’s critics were also told how an angel had visited this Gentile man and told him to fetch Peter. “Imagine that! God was talking to this Gentile man before I even got there.”
The message Peter finally felt led to share was the message of salvation. This message was received by Cornelius and his whole household. I don’t think Cornelius knew what the message was or the content until Peter shared it. I think Peter is paraphrasing a little for this group.
Now Peter gets to the amazing part. The part that shuts his decenters down cold. “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning…If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (verses 15 & 17). I can just hear the jaws snapping shut at these words.
After that they gave the ONLY answer possible; “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (verse 18). Glory to God! We are included!
I find it very xenophobic of the Jews to think God would only want to work with them. Jesus ministered to any who came to Him. He made a distinction only once that I recall and even then He finally answered the woman’s request because of her answer. I’m talking about the story of the Gentile woman who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter. Jesus told her it was not right to give the children’s bread to the dogs. She responded that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table. Her answer pleased Jesus.
In my home the dogs get to eat very well from what the children leave. Jesus wasn’t saying that the dogs or Gentiles would get nothing from God. He was saying that they had to wait until the “meal” was served and rejected before it could be handed freely to another. The Jews were offered salvation and they rejected it. God was then free to offer it to whomever He wanted to. I’m GLAD they left something for me!
Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving something for me. You knew all along that Gentiles were going to be included. You waited until just the right time to share that fact with Your followers. Thank You for leading us one step at a time to the place You want us. I’ll take Your directions any day.