Doing the unimaginable!

“And he [Peter] saw the sky opened up, and an OBJECT [skeuos] like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground… A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean'” (Acts 10:11, 13-14).

The narrative about Peter and Cornelius immediately follows (Acts 10-11) the story of Ananias and Saul (Acts 9).

Both stories are remarkably similar, and reveal something incredibly uncomfortable about the gospel.

In both narratives, the Lord tells a disciple to do something unimaginable (Ananias—9:10-12; Peter—10:10-13). In both narratives, the incredulous disciple provides excellent reasons why the Lord must be mistaken (Ananias—9:13-14; Peter—10:14). Finally, the Lord prevails upon his disciple to bring the gospel to someone who, in the eyes of the early church, was a persona non grata (the church-hating Saul—9:15-16; the unclean Gentile Cornelius—10:15-16, 28-29). A keyword linking both stories is “object” [skeuos]. Although Ananias considered Saul a dangerous foe, Jesus regarded him as a chosen “object” [skeuos—9:15]. Although Peter regarded the Gentiles as nothing more than an unclean “object” [skeuos—10:11, 16; 11:5], God considered them to be clean and acceptable in his eyes (10:34-35). One of the signs we are growing in our understanding of the gospel is when we realize God wants us to share his love with someone whom, under normal circumstances, we would prefer to keep as far away from us as humanly possible!

“Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17).