Third Time's a Charm for Peter and Me


Contender Ministries

Posted:  May 20, 2002


 

For those of you who have not yet read my last article (“What Paul Taught Me About Being A Contender”), let me bring you up to speed on a few things.  First, I’ve been reading through the book of Acts in the New Testament.  I’ve found it to be a fascinating and highly motivating book, and I encourage everyone to read it.  Second, I love telling stories, and the best ones I’ve found are in the Bible.  And finally: when telling these stories, I do take some literary license.  Therefore, I highly encourage everyone to go straight to the source to get all the details.  In the case of this article, the source will be the book of Acts, chapters 10 and 11. 

The story starts out in Caesarea, which was a town located 30 miles north of Joppa, and was named after Augustus Caesar.  That’s really not the important point of the story, so if you forget that, it’s okay.  You probably won’t find Caesarea in any current AAA travel maps, so don’t worry about it.  Anyway, there was a Roman centurion living in Caesarea named Cornelius.  The Bible tells us that Cornelius was a good, devout, God-fearing man.  Here is a man that prayed regularly, and gave to people in need.  Cornelius was an all-around good egg.  One afternoon, an angel appeared to Cornelius in a vision.  This doesn’t happen everyday, so I expect Cornelius about choked on his lemonade, but the author doesn’t give us that information.  The author DOES tell us that the angel told Cornelius, “God knows you’re a good egg and a faithful servant.  Send some of your men to Joppa and have them pick up a guy named Peter.  He is also a good egg, and he’s got some important info for you. “  Now if you cheated and read Acts 10 prior to reading this article, you’re wondering what version of the Bible I’m quoting.  If you’re wondering that, I’d like to refer you back to the first paragraph, where I confess to taking some literary license.  After the angel left, Cornelius wiped the lemonade off his chin, and called in a few of his men.  He told them about his vision, and sent them to Joppa to get Peter.   

The following day, Peter was up on the roof of his place in Joppa, catching some rays and praying.  It was noon, and he started to get hungry.  He called down an order for a kosher platter, and while the food was being prepared, Peter slipped into a bit of a trance.  Now it’s Peter’s turn to have a vision.  He saw heaven open up, and a large sheet was slowly lowered.  This sheet was suspended at each of its four corners.  On this sheet was a very NON-kosher display of wildlife.  The author says there were all kinds of four legged animals, reptiles, and birds.  It was essentially a visual laundry list of things that Jewish law prohibits its adherents from eating.  A spirit (probably an angel) spoke up at this point and told Peter, “Get up, kill one of these and eat it.  Lunch is served.”  Peter, being thoroughly indoctrinated in the Law, and as brazen as anyone I’ve known, told the angel, “No way!  I’ve never eaten anything non-kosher in my life!”  The angel responded, “If God says something’s kosher, it’s kosher.  Don’t call anything impure that God says is pure.”  To reinforce the point, the sheet got sucked back up to heaven, and the object lesson was repeated two more times.  Peter, being a thinking man (NOW he takes the time to think), sat and pondered this vision.  About that time, Cornelius’s men showed up at the gate and started hollering for Peter. The angel told Peter, “Oh, by the by, there are three guys downstairs to see you.  Be a good man and go with them.”  Peter (getting smarter by the second) ran downstairs to greet his visitors.  The three men told Peter that Cornelius had a vision and wants Peter to come talk to him.

The next day, Peter and his new friends started out for Caesarea.  It’s a long walk, so they don’t arrive until the following day.  When Peter walks through the door of Cornelius’s house, Cornelius threw himself at Peter’s feet in reverence.  Peter was a good man, but not an arrogant or pious man, and he told Cornelius, “Get up.  I put my sandals on one foot at a time, just like you.”  When Peter continued on inside the house, he saw that Cornelius had arranged for a number of friends to come over as well.  Okay, so Peter gets a little pious here.  He tells the gathering, “You all know that Jewish law forbids me from associating with uncircumcised Gentiles like y’all, but God told me I shouldn’t call anything impure that he has made pure.  So here I am.  What do you want?”  Cornelius told Peter about his vision, and Peter replied, “I see now that God loves the Gentiles just like he loves the Jews.”  So Peter begins to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with this crowd of uncircumcised Gentiles, and as he’s doing so, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they all started praising God and speaking in tongues.  Peter was a bit flabbergasted, but finally manages to say, “You’ve obviously been baptized in the Holy Spirit, so you may as well be baptized with water in the name of Jesus Christ.” 

When the apostles and other believers in the area heard that Peter had associated with Gentiles, they were a bit put off.  Well, “repulsed” might be a better word.  So Peter went to Jerusalem to explain his actions.  He told them the whole story, from the non-kosher platter from Heaven to the end.  When he got to the part where the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles, the apostles in unison said, “No way!”  Peter insisted, “No, really!  They started speaking in tongues and everything!  It was way cool!”  At this, the apostles realized that the salvation bought by Jesus Christ was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  This really paved the way for Paul’s subsequent missions to the Gentiles.

After reading this story, I sat and pondered the meaning behind it.  Being a thinking man, I couldn’t just look for the obvious, so I wondered what the significance was in Peter’s non-kosher buffet being lowered three times.  What was significant about THREE times?  Was it a Bible code message?  Is the answer revealed in the Greek manuscripts?  Just then, my wife walked in and said to me, “Ben, I’ve asked you twice already to get an ad in the paper for your truck.  This is the last time I’m going to ask.  If you don’t do it this time, I’m going to sell it for scrap.”  I felt bad that Jen was forced to remind me three times.  THREE times?!  YES!  That’s it!  There is no special hidden meaning there.  Peter’s vision was shown to him three times, because God knows that men can be especially stubborn, forgetful, or just thick in the head.  I speak from personal experience. 

Perhaps God has been tapping you on the shoulder about something.  Perhaps he’s calling you to a ministry, or to simply take a stand for your faith at work.  In any case, he has called us all to be his ambassadors on this earth.  He has given us a great commission, and has ordered us to the front lines to contend for our faith.  There are a lot of people in this world who do not yet know Jesus as their savior.  Many of them have been deceived by false prophets, and are unaware of the danger they’re in.  Others are stubbornly resistant or attached to this world.  Regardless of their reason for not experiencing the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we have been called to action.  We must reach out to them.  We have to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.  All signs indicate that we may very well see the Lord return in our generation.  It may soon be too late for a third or fourth reminder for the unsaved.  Don’t let it take three or four taps on your shoulder from God to get you involved.  Don’t be content to feel justified because you are a deacon in your church.  Take the Word of God and carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to those in your communities that so desperately need to hear it. 

May God bless you as you reach out and contend for the faith.

Contender Ministries

http://contenderministries.org