Peter was a follower of Christ, but he was also a good law-abiding Jew. Like any law-abiding Jew, Peter would never consider entering into the home of a Gentile and eating food that to a Jew was considered to be “unclean.” But, one day Peter learned that this was exactly what God wanted him to do. Peter was staying in the town of Joppa, at the home of Simon the tanner, when he received a vision from God. Peter was hungry and, as food was being prepared, he fell into a trance. While in this trance, he saw the heavens open and what looked to be a sheet descended to the earth. In this sheet, there were all kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles. As the sheet came to land on the ground, Peter heard a voice say, “Peter, rise, kill, and eat.” Peter declined, saying that he could not eat anything common or unclean. God replied by saying, “What God has made clean, don’t call common.” This same thing happened three times and then the sheet went back up into the heavens.
Meanwhile, in the town of Caesarea, another man had a vision. This man was devout, he feared God, gave alms generously, and prayed to God continually. In his vision, the man saw an angel of God who called him by name, then told the man that God had heard his prayers and wanted him to send someone to Joppa, to the home of Simon the tanner, and bring back to Caesarea a certain man named Peter. The man who received this vision was a Gentile, but not only a Gentile, but also a Roman centurion. His name was Cornelius. Cornelius did as the angel had told him and sent for Peter. Peter came to the house of Cornelius, entered the house and shared a meal with him. God had prepared Peter to do this by sending him the vision in Joppa. As a result, Peter brought Cornelius and his entire family to Christ and baptized them.
In that town of Caesarea, a town filled with Roman influence, the port by which Rome came into Judea, God was doing something new. He was showing the Jewish followers of Christ that salvation belongs to all men. He was showing them that practices such as eating only “clean” animals were no longer necessary. And, for the first time, a Gentile believer was accepted into the church on equal terms as the Jewish believers. And, even more amazing to Peter, the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentile believers.
I am currently on a trip to Israel with my church. Today, our first day, we visited the ruins of the town of Caesarea. As I took in the sights, I felt great emotion. It was here on this very site that the events of Acts 10:1-11:18 actually took place and a movement began, beginning through Peter’s obedience in reaching out to a Gentile and continuing with Paul’s many missionary trips to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world. It is this movement of God that makes it possible for me to be a follower of Christ today.