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Bible Gemz 1540 - The Puzzle: Peter's Delay (Acts 10:20 cf 10:23)

February 12, 2019

 

One afternoon about three o'clock, Cornelius had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. "Cornelius!" the angel said. 

Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore." 

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. 

He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa. 

The next day as Cornelius's messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon . . . 

But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 

He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 

In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 

Then a voice said to him, "Get up, Peter; kill and eat them." 

"No, Lord," Peter declared. "I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean. " 

But the voice spoke again: "Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean." 

The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven. 

Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon's house. Standing outside the gate, 

they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there. 

Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, "Three men have come looking for you. 

Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don't worry, for I have sent them." 

So Peter went down and said, "I'm the man you are looking for. Why have you come?" 

They said, "We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message." 

So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa. 

They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 

As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. 

But Peter pulled him up and said, "Stand up! I'm a human being just like you!" 

So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled. 

Peter told them, "You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. 

So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me." 

Cornelius replied, "Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. 

He told me, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 

Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.

So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you." 

 

One reader has asked, “Did all this happen quickly? It confuses me that it all seems so urgent yet there are numbers of next day . . . next day and Peter invites them in to stay the night. Why didn't they just head back straight away? How far is it between Caesarea and Joppa? It  doesn't seem that its too far. What’s going on here Ian? I am hoping you will explain this.” 

 

You will see I have picked out the elements in the text which shed light on this matter.  

 

One afternoon about three o'clock, Cornelius had a vision  

"Cornelius!" the angel said. Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa

The next day as Cornelius's messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon . . . 

The same vision was repeated three times.  

Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon's house

Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, "Three men have come looking for you. 

Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation.  

So Peter went down  

So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. 

The next day he went with them,  

They arrived in Caesarea the following day. 

So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for.  

Cornelius replied, "Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o'clock in the afternoon.

Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me told me, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 

Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.' 

So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. 

 

 

I highlighted also that as Peter was puzzling over the vision, we are puzzling over his response.  It was about 30 miles between Joppa and Caesarea, in other words about 50 kms. So that is a significant journey on foot. They would have had to travel through the night to reach Joppa by noon the next day if they were walking. They didn't leave until well after 3.00 pm. Maybe even closer to 4.00 or 5.00 pm. But then its Peter's response which strikes me as puzzling. When the men from Caesarea come when he was praying at noon, maybe it was 1.00 pm already and he is told to "Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation” he goes down and invites them to stay the night. Then they head out the next day getting the following day. On arrival Cornelius says “Four days ago I was praying . . . “. 

 

If this was so urgent why did Peter ask them to stay the night?   How do you harmonize all of this? 

If Peter could puzzle over the vision, we can puzzle over his timing and seemingly a lack of a sense of urgency. Your responses in the next Gemz. 

 

 

The first principle, pay attention to what is written in the Bible text. (Advice from my Greek Professor – Basil Brown)

 

Don't go to commentaries or seek advice from others before you have paid due attention to the text of what Luke wrote. 

 

To understand any book from the Bible, you have to read it at one sitting at least 7 times. Basil Brown (he always smiled when saying “7 times”) 

 

Familiarise yourself with the text before you by reading it over and over and then ask your questions. 

 

If you study the Bible and it doesn’t lead you to wonder and awe then you haven’t studied the Bible.     

 

 

    

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