next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city,
Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he
became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were
preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and
something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four
corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles
and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter;
kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have
never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came
to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call
common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at
once to heaven.
Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that
he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius,
having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate and called
out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And
while Peter was pondering the vision, the 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.” And Peter
went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for.
What is the reason for your coming?” And they said, “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 he
invited them in to be his guests.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the
brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they
entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called
together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered,
Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But
Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” And as
he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. And
he said to them, “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. I ask then why you sent for
And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was
praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before
me in bright clothing and said, ‘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.’ So I sent for you at once,
and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here
in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by
Luke points out that God worked both sides of this interaction. He readied Cornelius to learn. And He readied Peter to teach.
Peter went up on the housetop to pray. He went to pray alone. He sought quiet and solitude. Christ also sought solitude when He prayed.
Jewish homes at that time had flat roofs. There were made of pounded dirt. Sometimes they were mixed with lime or stones. The roofs were supported by heavy wooden beams. They made to walk on. Accessed to the roof was via an outside stairway or ladder.
Peter went up to the roof the sixth hour or noon. He went to pray. Peter probably prayed three times a day. This was his midday prayer. It is good to have certain times to set aside for prayer. That helps us develop the discipline to pray.
Peter fell into a trance. While in an altered state of conscientiousness, Peter had a vision. He saw something that resembled a sheet folded into a bag and let down from heaven to earth.
I image all four corners together like an inverted parachute. Then when it hit the roof, the corners fell from each other. The sheet laid flat. And it contained all sort of animals both clean and unclean.
The vision showed Peter God had removed the differences He made in the old covenant. According to the old covenant, it was unlawful for Peter to associate with Gentiles. But God showed in a clear picture the legal difference between clean and unclean were gone. Christ had taught this to His disciples. So this is not the first time Peter heard this lesson. Paul repeats this in Ephesians 2:11-13.
Christ told Peter and the others to preach the gospel throughout the whole world. The synoptic Gospels and Acts record this. (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15 Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8.) But Peter appears to remain ignorant of this command. He needed both the vision and the call from Cornelius. These together awoke Peter to what Christ had commanded.
A voice came from heaven. The voice told Peter to kill and eat. Peter’s reaction was strange. He was not tongue-tied. He was not frightened. In fact, he argued with the Lord.
Peter was unwilling to violate the Old Testament laws. They prohibited eating unclean animals. Peter knew Christ had fulfilled the old covenant. He was aware he was under the new covenant. But what that meant had not sunk into his brain.
Peter’s objection appeared sound. He refused to eat based on scripture. God’s own command, Leviticus 11. But Peter had forgotten the lessons Jesus taught. Jesus had declared all foods clean. (Mark 7:19)
There are those who would take us back to the old covenant. They claim we should not eat pork, lobster, catfish, or crab. They try to impose the dietary restrictions of the old covenant. But we live under the covenant of grace not a covenant of the law. We live under the new covenant. God has removed the distinctions of clean and unclean.
It is possible to claim Paul supported Peter’s refusal. Paul said in Romans 14:23 “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Peter’s conscience was still held captive to his old lifestyle. Christ needed show him he was free of those restrictions.
We can show the Mosaic dietary restrictions no longer apply. But that would miss the point of the passage. All foods declared clean was not the point. God needed to awaken Peter. Christ Himself had instructed Peter. Yet Peter did not understand. Peter was to preach the gospel to the whole world. That meant everyone everywhere. Peter may have thought that meant every Jew everywhere.
God told Peter he was not to call unclean what God had cleansed. God had to tell him not once but three times. Jesus had told Peter this before. But it had not sunk in. This time God repeated it three times in a row.
This was a lesson Peter had to relearn over and over. Paul tells us in Galatians 2:11 he had to call out Peter for his hypocrisy around this very issue.
Yet Peter still does not know what God is talking about. He sat on the roof thinking, what does this mean? God can’t mean what he said. What could He mean? The Spirit had to jar Peter by telling him to go and receive the men at the gate. The Spirit had to interpret the vision for him.
Peter demonstrated great ignorance. And He was a slow learner. I take great comfort in the fact God continued to love Peter. God continued to use Peter. God never gave up on Peter. Peter denied Him three times. Peter fell asleep while Jesus prayed in agony. Peter will learn and then later forget this lesson. Yet God never abandoned Peter. God will never abandon us either.
Nothing could separate Peter from God’s love. The fact God does not abandon those He loves is comforting. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
God made Cornelius clean. God had given Cornelius a new birth. We are not to condemn what God has cleansed.
While Peter is praying and having this vision the men Cornelius sent arrived in the city. They asked for the location of Simon the Tanner’s home. They arrive at the house. They stood outside the home and inquire if Simon called Peter was there.
The Spirit had to tell Peter men are looking for him. He was to go with them. God the Holy Spirit has sent them.
Peter went and told the men he was the one they were looking for. He then asked them what they wanted.
They told him Cornelius, a gentile, sent them. Not only a gentile but a centurion. He represented the power that oppressed Israel. Peter could have considered Cornelius profane or unworthy. But God had already addressed that with Peter.
Cornelius’ men were aware of Peter’s possible reaction. So they soften it by telling Peter how Cornelius was upright and God-fearing. They even mentioned the Jews spoke well of him. Jews speaking will of a Roman soldier was rare. So it should have moved Peter. Then came what they thought was the coup de grace. A holy angel told Cornelius to send them to Peter. They were unaware the Holy Spirit had already sealed the deal.
Peter invited them into the house. They were to be his guests. This was significant. It showed Peter accepted them. This was a violation of the old covenant. But the old covenant was over.
The next day the group left for Caesarea. It took them two days to travel the 30 miles from Joppa to Caesarea.
Cornelius was waiting for them. The Greek used means “to wait with apprehension or anxiety for something.” It often implied anticipation of trouble or danger. But Cornelius’ anxiety was from the expectation of Peter’s message.
Cornelius had his entire household together. His friends and relatives were there. He was not going to withhold this from anyone he cared about. Peter’s message was not personal. He was not satisfied keeping it to himself. His excitement compelled him to share the message.
When Peter arrived, he entered Cornelius’ home. This simple fact is significant. Peter had not only allowed gentiles into where he was staying but he entered into a gentile’s home.
Cornelius fell down at his feet and worshiped Peter. This displeased Peter, to say the least.
We have already learned Cornelius was a God-fearing man. So he knew he was not to worship anyone other than God. This shows how easy it is to allow ourselves to worship something other than God. We may not even recognize it as worship.
Rome claims they do not worship Mary. But they pray to her. They hold feast to honor her. (Marian feast). St. Louis de Montfort’s said, “we must make a gift of ourselves, entirely (body, soul, our exterior goods, and our interior spiritual goods), to Our Lady…”
They claim they do not worship Mary they only honor her. But on Sunday, October 8, 2000, John Paul II, consecrated the Third Millennium to Mary. Does Rome not understand what worship is!? This is worship! Rome’s claim if honor not worship is a distinction without a difference.
Not even Cornelius consecrated anything to Peter. Peter refused the honor Cornelius gave him because it was worship. I am sure Rome’s teachings and actions horrify Mary. Pray for those held captivate by Rome.
A quick examination of Peter’s opening remarks shows he was not a master of tact. He said, Y’all know I’m not supposed to be here, right? I’m a Jew and y’all are common and unclean. I defile myself even associating with you. You know that, right? But it is alright because God told me it was OK. That is why I came.
Yeah, Peter was not a master of tact. But there is comfort in that as well. So often we are afraid of sharing the gospel because we fear saying something wrong. And the gospel is too important to mess up. So we say nothing. Peter’s example is, don’t worry about it. You can’t mess it up. God is in control.
Cornelius, on the other hand, was a military officer. Military Officers are more than fighting men. Experience has taught them diplomacy as well. So Cornelius recounts what had happened to him. This was to reassure Peter. Peter needed reassurance. But Cornelius was diplomatic.
Peter teaches us over and over again we do not need to be perfect. God uses broken vessels to pour out His Holy Spirit. Don’t worry about the results. The results are God’s responsibility. We only need to obey His command.