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Sending for Peter
The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he 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? 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. Acts 10:9-23
Peter’s Arrival and Cornelius’ Explanation
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. Acts 10:23-24
Some of the questions you sent in as readers related to this passage:
- How is it that Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man (as was everyone in his household?
- I mean, how did they know God in the first place? I thought the Gentiles received the word of God after this event with Peter?
People can be God-fearing apart from acknowledgement of the Jewish faith. Isn’t that what Paul is saying when he wrote:
They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.Rom 1:19-20
People can be God fearing by simply observing things around them. However in having a God consciousness we want answers as to who God is. Even more so if we are concerned about the way we get right with Him. This is where the crunch comes. How do we come to understand about how we can be covered and protected by God? Most religions have God consciousness but have vastly different approaches as to how God can accept us. Clearly as Judaism spread and influenced the world, people attached themselves to the Jewish faith. Some loosely and other more as adherents. These are the people we are talking about here. Likewise as Christianity (or The Way) spread, people came to understand more about This One who was the long awaited Messiah of Israel and the world. Exactly how this particular Centurion, Cornelius, came to believe we are not told. However there is a tradition that the centurion at the cross of Christ spread the influence of his revelation at the cross far and wide. Whether Cornelius came to know more about God that way or not we don’t know. But we do know his moment came when God Himself arranged for him to meet Peter.
- Was it important that Peter prayed at noon?
- Why did Peter go on to the roof to pray? Is there significance in that?
- Why would he go up to the roof? Wouldn’t that be difficult to do?
The sixth hour was not considered a designated, normal time to pray. But prayers were said three times a day (Psalm 55:17 and Dan 6:10) and it was likely that one of the times to pray during the day was around the middle of the day so Peter was simply following his cultural practices.
Palestinian houses back there had a flat house top [doma] often accessible either by external stairs up the side of the house on the outside or accessed by internal stairs from within the house itself. It was used for prayer and meditation, sleeping and for recreation and simply sitting about talking in the cool of the evening. The area referred to by this term is the flat housetop and not an upper room built on the top of the house as some have suggested. There was normally a surrounding nib or wall to provide some protection or line of demarcation to the edge of the roof. One of the criticisms or points of debate about this description by Luke is the fact that Peter was praying on the roof at midday. To go on to the roof top at this time of the day was rare as it was the height of the noon day sun and so normally unbearably hot. But it must be said that the Jews often built booths (in accord with the Festival of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles) on the roof during this festival. It is also possible that the booth would be left for a time to provide shade on the roof top.
- I feel there is something in the fact that the sky opened and the sheet came down. Is that important?
Yes the fact that sky or the heavens opened are indicative that this event or happening was from God. In one sense it is similar to the fact that the veil of the temple was split from top to bottom. The inference being that God Himself ripped the veil. Here the intent is that whatever was happening came from God or the heavens.
- Is there any importance to the fact that Cornelius had a vision and Peter went into a trance?
- Why didn’t they both have the same experience, either a vision or a trance, but both the same?
- Then a few verses later it called what Peter had a vision, and he had it three times! That must be important, right?
This was very astute of you to pick up on the difference between Cornelius’s and Peter’s experience. The difference between [ekstasis] trance and [horama] has been hotly debated. There are those who hold that a trance is essentially the same as a vision and those who feel it differs from a vision.[Ekstasis] has come into the English language in the term “ecstasies” and of course we have interpretations related to people falling into a trance and experiencing feelings of ecstasy and visions etc. It is interesting that Luke here tells us that Peter “fell into a trance”, that a trancelike state came over him. The condition expressed by this word is a mental state in which the person affected is partially or wholly unconscious of objective thought or sensations but intensely alive to subjective impressions which are felt as revelations from outside of themselves. The word literally means “being set out of place” or akin to driving someone out of their senses. The word occurs seven times in the New Testament. In three of the occurrences (Acts 10:10, 11:5 and 22:17) it indicates a trance-like state whereas in the other four occurrences it simply means “amazement”. It does not necessarily suggest any sense of a loss of control of one’s senses. [Ekstasis] appears to be a state of mind or being of less importance than a vision in Biblical usage. It is a sort of a waking vision. The English dictionary has these definitions for a trance.
- A state of partly suspended animation or inability to function, a daze or stupor.
- A state of profound abstraction of mind or spirit, as in religious contemplation or ecstasy.
- A sleep-like state such as that of deep hypnosis (Webster’s Dictionary)
There are only two recorded examples of a trance in Scripture. Namely those experienced by Peter at Joppa during this incident and by Paul in Jerusalem when he was warned to flee impending danger in Acts 22:17.[horama] ὅραμα is something perceived by the sense as visual something to be gazed at, a spectacle(especially something supernatural). It is phenomena of the sight or vision. This is the more standard term used for something which is seen in picture or vision form. It can be perceived in a wakeful or unconscious state. Visions can be received as a part of dreams or subconscious thought or received in the midst of a wakeful state of being. The fact that the text before us switches between vision and trance in describing Peter’s experience indicates there was nothing essentially different or of significance in the way Peter and Cornelius received the message or the input. What is interesting to me is that Peter sees in picture or vision form the sheet coming down and it is called a trance whereas Cornelius hears a man tells him to go find Peter who is staying with Simon and that is called a vision. Interesting. It seems the shoe is on the other foot.
- What did the vision mean?
- What is the connection between the men who came and the unclean things that Peter had to eat?
- Why was the sheet suddenly pulled up again?
When Peter said “No Lord” my mind went back to when Peter said “No, You will never ever wash my feet!” in John 13:8. Is that like a remez Ian? Yes, there is linkage between them.
Just then . . . Wow I couldn’t help but think that this is important because in a Gem a few days you said about the timing of God being impeccable. This is one of those moments isn’t it? I read verse 10:23 and went all goosey. I thought that is very important that Peter should invite the Romans into his house. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about that Ian.
Well you going to have to wait for answers to these questions for the next Gem. Simply because for me to respond to these questions now would add to this Gem considerable more material and so I conclude it is best to make this a specific topic. That gives you a little more time to ponder the significance.
You, Jesus, are the standard by which all others will be measured, for You alone are holy, righteous and good.
I’m not perfect but Jesus thinks I am to die for.Ian Vail
Your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish.Louise L. Hay
The mind replays what the heart can’t delete.Anon
Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out My Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.Joel 2:28
Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created.Anon
So what does that imply as to who should get visions and who should dream? I think the boot is often on the other foot.Ian Vail