About the Journey 11 - from Kerry

About the Journey - Acts 11:1-18 - from Kerry Flemington

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.
Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’
“‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’
“But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.
“Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’
“As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Acts 11:1-18
“Test it against the Scriptures”.  That’s how we know what is true and what is not true or at least that’s the advice within Christian orthodoxy.  So here is Peter, in a trance, being told to eat what is unclean. “Test it against the Scriptures”.  After that, the Holy Spirit tells him “not to worry” and to go with Gentiles, enter their home, and break bread with them.  Lo and behold, Peter does it all.  “Test it against the Scriptures”.
Perhaps if I had been in Peter’s shoes, when I tested the instruction against Scripture, I would have considered eating unclean things as blasphemous, surely a message straight from the devil himself.  Further proof of that would be the next instruction to continue to ignore Jewish law and go into the home of a Gentile.  I don’t think Peter had a momentary lapse in judgement.  Two millennia later, and the completed story at our fingertips as laid out in the Bible, we don’t think twice about what Peter did.  But we also don’t grasp the gravitas of it at all.
We look at Jesus and how angry he made the Pharisees, the keepers of the law, and we accept what he did without much thought.  When he picked food and ate on the Sabbath, we have no context for why that would make anyone so angry.  But the Pharisees were the gatekeepers of the Jewish religion.  They were the ones who tested actions and words against Scripture, so to speak, and found Jesus grossly lacking in his obedience to Yahweh.
I’m not a Biblical scholar in the least.  But as I read the Bible in the context of how it reflects the reality of life versus God’s original intent, the Law was a compromise.  It points back to the original intent but its existence is proof that God, in his mercy and goodness, came up with yet another way outside of the Garden to still meet with him, worship him, and be in relationship with him.  And as far as I can tell, when Christ came, as the embodiment of God in the flesh, he also came as the fulfillment of the law.  If keeping the law, and making atonements for when we broke it, allowed us to remain in relationship with God, Christ’s coming became the final sacrifice, the final atonement, allowing us fully into God’s presence.  But this only makes sense, if we recognize who Christ is.  And clearly, the Pharisees didn’t.  To them, Christ was a blasphemer, not God embodied and therefore not the fulfillment of the law itself.
Peter had walked with Christ.  He had haphazardly, and in fits and starts, slowly understood Christ for who he really was.  And so when he was told to eat unclean food and enter the home of a Gentile, he could recognize that while the law stated this was wrong, it was not obedience to that law that had reconciled him to God, but rather it was Christ alone who had done that.  And so he went and he did.  When all was said and done, the final proof lay in these Gentiles receiving God’s spirit.
The world is muddled.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but it’s often a struggle for me to make sense of how I am to live my life, bumping up against broken people, broken systems, and the pain and beauty of life this side of eternity.  But at the end of the day, I do go back to the Bible, I do go back to Jesus, God embodied.  I go back to the Bible because it’s the story of who God is and how he meets us in our brokenness.  I go back to Jesus because he is God in the flesh; through him I have direct access to my Creator who loves me more and better than anything human beings can serve up here on planet earth.  And at the end of the day, I look to see the fruit that is being produced.  The home of a Gentile was where the Spirit was working.  Don’t be afraid to go there.

you can connect directly with Kerry at kerry@arnuthill.com

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