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. 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!” 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.”Acts 10:23-33
The remaining questions you sent in related to this passage:
What did the vision mean?
Quite simply put Peter has a vision/trance of a sheet full of unclean things that Jews are not supposed to eat or associate with lowered down from heaven to him. It is a huge sheet [othone] which later became synonymous with a sail cloth. That is interesting because it is something with which Peter is very familiar as sailor. What was familiar to him became the recepticle for that which was most decidedly unfamiliar to him. It was “knit” or fastened at the four corners and lowered down from above. It was filled with all kinds of the creatures that God had created. It is not that it is only the unclean. Its all created kind, which harks back to the scene at the time of creation. In the sheet are the unclean and the clean. But according to the Jewish mindset the presence of the unclean make the clean also unclean. When Peter looks into the sheet and sees the unclean with the clean he was shocked.
A voice said, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” It is an indefinite voice. It was not specified who was telling him to eat these things which the Jewish law forbade him to eat. But the fact that the sheet came from heaven is enough to make Peter answer “Lord”. The strong indication is that this is from God. God Himself is changing the rules on what is clean and what is unclean. There is debate among the experts as to whether this name Peter spoke signifies YHWH, God or Christ whom he met on the road to Damascus. But one thing is clear – the choice is only limited to these three, there is no other option. Peter is now left with a dilemma. Does he follow Jewish Law or does he do as he is told?
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 I am sure Peter’s mind went back to his time with Jesus described in John 13:8. His response is similar. In typical Peter fashion he is black and white. There is no way that I am doing that Lord. All of his Jewishness rises to the surface to convince him this is forbidden.
- (AMP) But Peter said, No, by no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean.
- (ASV) But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean.
- (CEV) But Peter said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never eaten anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.”
- (ESV) But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
- (GNB) But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
- (GW) Peter answered, “I can’t do that, Lord! I’ve never eaten anything that is impure or unclean.”
- (ISV) But Peter said, “Absolutely not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean!”
- (KJV) But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
- (LITV) But Peter said, Not at all, Lord, because I never did eat anything common or unclean.
- (MSG) Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.”
- (Murdock) And Simon said: Far be it, my Lord: for never have I eaten any thing unclean and polluted.
- (NASB) But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”
- (NLT) “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean. ”
- (YLT) And Peter said, `Not so, Lord; because at no time did I eat anything common or unclean;’
Did you pick up on the incongruity here? “No” and “Lord” juxtaposed? The two just don’t belong together. If you recognise the voice as the LORD’s then how can you say “No way!” But here again like before Peter acts impetuously and all his Jewishness rises to the surface and his reason follows his initial outburst. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.” There is no way in the wide world I am doing that Lord.”
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The mere fact that God is the One speaking is enough to declare it all kosher. God can change the rules. Also God didn’t say this once. We are told that the exact same vision was repeated three times. Something which is repeated three times is extremely important. Any repetition is important but if it is repeated three times then that is the ultimate. There is no repetition in Scripture more than three times. Just like when your earthly father repeated something to you, it was important to take note of what he was saying. But when he repeated it three times you can almost hearing him saying, “I am not going to repeat this again. This is your final warning.” How much more so with God Almighty! This is a life changing encounter for Peter. Sufficient to inspire him to forsake all of his father’s and forefathers’ teaching and do something that was absolutely forbidden.
Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
There is a message in this sudden action as well. Peter has been told three times to kill and eat and now the sheet with the unmentionables was whisked away. Was it only to be whisked away at the third appearance of the unclean and clean things, all of which have become unclean by virtue of being mixed together? Or would it have been whisked away at the first or second appearance if Peter had responded positively? Or was it whisked away only because Peter failed to respond? What do you think? I think that it is a message to Peter that he has seen enough. It is an emphatic summary statement on all that has gone before.
Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house.
Note the emphatic order and timing of these events.
- Peter falls into a trance
- he is challenged three times to go against his culture
- suddenly the sheet is whisked away
- Peter is left bewildered, “What is all this about?”
- At just that moment the men sent by Cornelius arrived.
Wow such impeccable timing LORD.
- What is the connection between the men who came and the unclean things that Peter had to eat?
It is inescapable isn’t it? Peter is left to make the connection between the unclean things and the unclean men standing before him. Furthermore they tell him that Cornelius has had a vision and they have been given the exact location of where Peter was and who he was staying with. Go and get Peter who is staying at Simon the tanner’s house and bring him here to this Roman centurion. You can’t get more specific than that. Peter has seen and heard enough to put two and two together and come up with the right answer. He now invites these strangers, these Gentiles, these unclean ones, into Simon’s house. Yes it is not Peter’s house, its Simon’s place. And Simon is considered unclean as well, he is a tanner. Oh there is a whole lot of uncleanness in this story.
Yes you are right Mike. God’s timing is impeccable. 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. I trust what I have said about this has whet your appetite. The effect of whetting your appetite is not to satisfy it but rather to strengthen or make it sharper. Now you are primed and ready for more. Well think about it, so too was Peter. Oh he knew there was more to come just as you know there is more to come.
“Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” If God has declared something clean, then acquiesce, pack up your objections and get with the programme.
We are all hanging on the precipice of something monumental. But what is it? Certain food was considered unclean, untouchable. The Jews were to have nothing to do with such food. Certain things were considered unclean or common. There was a line of demarcation drawn between the things which were common, not to be associated with the things of God and things that were set apart for God and godliness. This concept is at the heart of Judaism. The Gentiles were regarded as being part of that which was not kosher, unclean or common and not to be associated with the things of God. God is changing the rules. But there has always been a hint in the Old Testament that there was to be space left for the foreigner, the Gentiles among the people of Israel. Now that moment has come. When God steps in the rules go out the window.
Insanity may be defined as repeating the same experiment over and over again and expecting different results!Einstein
I have a UXB I am trying to defuse – an unexploded Bible!Tony Wilson
I’ve finally stopped running away from myself. When God steps in clarity comes.Ian Vail
There are times when you need a new container to put God’s answer in.Ian Vail
If He has kept the universe in place a million years or so, I think I’ll let God be GodAnon