I like to grill meat.
25 years ago I put down a three foot square base of firebrick in our rock garden and on three sides of that I shaped three layers of firebrick in a “U”. I then walked to the hardware store and purchased a round wire grill like you would find in the ubiquitous Webber and rested it atop my crude construction. I use wood that falls from the trees surrounding our property for fuel. That’s how I saw my dad grill when I grew up (but we had a field stone fireplace and a grill insert my dad’s father welded up for us) and it is how I grill.
I have always liked grilled meat – ANY grilled meat – but especially the pork steak because it is a fat greasy cut that shrugs off high flames as I don’t often (ever?) wait for the hot coals to establish and I can flip’em as often as I like. Grilling is an action sport for me – start to finish! But there was a time my favorite pork steak offering from the grill was taboo to those desiring a right communion with God, until… …
It was about noon, and he [Peter] was hungry. 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? Acts 10:9b-17a
What could that vision mean? Well my humorous definition of heaven is an eternity of, “Randall, wake up, and eat!” but this is much bigger and if we are selfish and willing to select only certain cuts of scripture for our theological grill it may only mean PORK STEAK IS GOOD TO GO!!! And for a long time I was fine with that sizzling away but I don’t think serving one dish with this deep revelation has been a pleasing aroma to God.
The Bible is a BIG picture book and it needs to be considered, consumed and digested as such and this passage (like so many others) carries with it a whole lot more than our “new” ability to order every kind of meat at the butcher!
Let’s expand our spiritual diet with this passage and start at the beginning!
In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.
Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.
And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! 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. Acts 10:1-9a NLT – and that is when Peter fell into his trance.
So we have a Roman Captain of their conquering army who is ALSO a devout, God-fearing man.
This is HUGE and needs to be gnawed on.
Back in this context “to the victor go the spoils” was the order of the day and a Roman Captain certainly had NO reason to give generously to the poor of a conquered land and pray to their God! Additionally back then another held belief was – If we won, our gods are bigger than your gods – and this Captain was risking his rank and very life for not honoring his emperor who the Romans deified along with all their other gods!
Well he must have kept it all on the “down low” to keep his head on his shoulders!
He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household.
No fear of a whistle-blower here!
And now enter Peter’s vision from God which was followed immediately by the arrival of Cornelius’ men…
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. 10:17b-23
Are you starting to see the spark? And notice, although God said to go with them without hesitation, Peter invites them in, they stay the night, and leave the next day… Hm? “without hesitation” nudges me like “immediately” but… PETER WAS STILL HUNGRY! I am glad we serve a practical God who understands our very basic needs! It wouldn’t have been any good for Peter to rush off devoid of calories (and thinking of ALL he can eat now) and pass out along the way!
They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 10:24
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.” 10:28-29
Cornelius recounts the angelic visitation and instruction to seek out Peter and concludes with this:
“…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.”
Feeling the wonderful heat yet? Hearing the Tongue of Fire speak?
“…Now tell me why you sent for me.”
“…we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”
Oh yeah!! There is a LOT more at stake here than what’s on the grill! Notice Peter doesn’t end with a question mark; it is a command to enlighten him on the purpose of his visit. Almost like Peter saying, “I could do wonderful things for you here, for your very soul, but I need to hear directly from you why you sent for me!”
When we are young our parents should take an active role in our choice of friends and as we mature they allow us – with wise counsel – to walk where we can best shine the flame of our proven foundational faith. “Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t date girls who do!” Has merit because we should not court challenges beyond our youthful ability to overcome but when we are filled with the Bread of Life and Living Water don’t hesitate to go out into this hungry world!
AND – never quench the leading of the Holy Spirit by saying, “NO Lord, I would NEVER frequent with THAT kind of people!”
Lepers, Prostitutes, and Corrupt Tax Collectors? “Receive healing, pour out your life on me, weep, repent, be saved, dine with me – feed me today, welcome salvation to your house!” – Jesus says to them ALL!!!
God deems Peter prepared, (what is it about Peter and the number 3?) tenderizes the “meet” before him and…upon hearing the Good News of Christ, the Holy Spirit fires things up!!
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.
Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 10:44-48a
And then QUICK before any Jews saw Peter and his brothers in the faith hanging out with the Gentile, Cornelius – they dashed out of town under the cover of darkness!!
Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days. 10:48b
We have to process how much is involved in the New Covenant for us and what we have to GO DO with the in-filling of the Holy Spirit!! Peter’s dream has nothing to do with enjoying more grill fare and has EVERYTHING to do with the harvest field God opens to us! Our freedom from the law isn’t about pork steaks it is about who we can ignite with the Holy Fire within us!
Borders and boundaries have been removed! The sheet has ascended, the veil has not only been removed but torn asunder and no one is so unclean as to be beyond the cleansing power of the blood of Christ!!
We should be unleashed not to run, mouth watering to the butcher, but into the fields ripe with people who hunger for the Truth which can set them free!
Notice God’s initial command to Peter: “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
When I lived in Colorado I was hankerin’ a big ‘ol steak so hoofed down the road to the grocery store in a strip mall and as I was excitedly approaching the door, passed a giant cattle hauling semi loaded with beefy beasts heading to “the great ribeye supply in the sky”. Then, I noticed one of them gazing out at me from the punched hole in the aluminum frame of the long tall trailer, his big brown eye…desperate!
So I started dancing and singing, “I am gonna eat your brother!!”
Nope…I came home with a couple cans of tuna.
Here is the thing about the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit, they aren’t about keeping our lives comfortable. They ARE about making our ETERNITY comfortable but right now – they will ask us to KLL some stuff in our lives if we want to dine forever with God!!!
I officiated a wedding yesterday and at the rehearsal one of the bridesmaids said, “I wish we knew about you before our wedding! We asked 18 different people to marry us and they all refused because we have two sons…” I almost fell off the giant rock I was sitting on at the park where the wedding took place and was speechless for a millisecond for my sorrow and then just quivered with anger! She continued, “Finally someone agreed for $2,500 and preached at us (scolded was implied) through the entire ceremony.”
Jokingly I announced I would have gladly done the wedding for $2,450 because if I said what I wanted to say about how awfully they were treated it would NOT have been pastoral. When I recovered, I confessed, “I am so sorry that happened to you. For TOO LONG the church has been its own worst enemy and that NEVER should have happened!” I avoided the benediction of, “EIGHTEEN TIMES!!!”
What do we need to kill? That kind of self righteous STUPIDITY in the church!!! And after killing it, we must completely incinerate it because it ain’t a cut worth eating!!
Imagine if Peter had stood outside Cornelius’ home and refused to go in because Cornelius didn’t commune with God exactly like the Jews did? What if Jesus condemned the woman at the well? What if Jesus said, “Yup! Stone her!” to the woman caught in adultery instead of offering her saving grace? What if Jesus said to you, “I can’t welcome you into the embrace of the Divine because you have done… … … and I can’t call you my child because you already have one.”???????
WE NEED TO KILL THAT because the New Covenant is BIGGER than BBQ and LOVE does not mean we condone everything – it means we LOVE people like Christ did thereby entering into RELATIONSHIP vs. sending a couple off shaking their heads 18 times over the “love” they had offered them!