Cornelius Sends a Delegation
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,
[Just up the coast from Joppa, is Caesarea, stationed there is a centurion named Cornelius. Now most people assume a centurion commanded 100 men, but depending on the time and place, other literature puts the potential command size at anywhere between 80 and 600 men. We also see that these are Italians. So as a southern European, he is a stranger or foreigner to Caesarea. As a military commander we can project that he is a well disciplined individual.]
2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
[Here we begin to see similarities with the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Though not a Jew, it says he feared God, gave generously, and prayed constantly. This fits the characteristics of gentiles called God-fearers, who are not just religious like the poly-theist of the Roman culture, he would be knowledgeable of the scripture, and the God of Abraham, he believes in one God, and his faith alters his behavior in prayer and giving. Moreover his family and household servants followed his religions lead, making him a pretty special Roman commander.]
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!"
4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?"
So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.
6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do."
[The 9th hour is mid afternoon, after the noon-day meal, we call this nap time. Cornelius is praying when he receives a vision from God. In his vision he sees clearly, an Angel of God, calling him by name (I love that God knows our names, we have a personal God). Cornelius gives the humble response "What is it lord". The angel tells him God has noticed you! What an awesome statement, the God of creation takes notice of an individual who 1) Prays and 2) Gives, and God calls those two things a memorial. A memorial is a record or proof that you were here. If God were looking for your spiritual memorial, what would he find? For Cornelius he found praying and giving. Without explanation the angel gives our centurion a command. Send men to Joppa, look for Peter at Simon the tanner's house by the sea. Is there anything that God doesn't know? He knows where you are, and who you are with at all times. Then he says that Peter would give him further instructions. See how God works? Once we demonstrate that we will follow his leading, then more of his will is revealed to us.]
7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
[As soon as the angel departed, the vision ended, and Cornelius acted. He called two household servants and a "devout" soldier, that means a godly man, a man of like faith as Cornelius. If you have a god-led mission, send a godly man. So he explains his vision to these 3 men, and sends them to Joppa to find Peter. What a great time to have servants. Why risk looking crazy yourself when you can send someone else?]
9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance
[As Cornelius' men are traveling, Peter goes up to pray at lunch time. And he's hungry, but lunch isn't ready yet. Yet as Peter is praying he falls into a trance.]
11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."
[What do you dream about when you're hungry? You dream about food. But this is the wrong kind of food. He sees a giant table cloth and animals that were "unclean" or not suitable for a Jew to eat under the law. But the voice said "kill and eat", what a horrible vision, it's like a nightmare. Peter does not dream about food he likes, he dreams about animals he has been trained to consider unworthy or unsuitable all his life.]
14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean."
[Peter objects, "I have never eaten anything" like that before. It's not me, God, that's not my thing; it's not what I do. I'm a good Jew. Oddly enough though Peter identifies the voice as the Lord, he still says "no".]
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
[The Lord spoke again and explained, "If I make it clean, then it is no longer unsuitable". And the point was reinforced by repeating the vision two more times. Finally the giant table cloth was gone and the vision ended.]
Summoned to Caesarea
17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.
19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them."
21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, "Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?"
[So Peter is wondering about the vision, when the Holy Spirit speaks to him. He is told 3 men are looking for him, and he is supposed to go with them without question, "Doubting nothing", because they are sent by God. So Peter goes down to have a chat with Cornelius' men and asks "why are you here?"]
22 And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you." 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them.
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
[How would you like to the guys trying to explain their purpose in coming to a man they never met before? They don't know about Peter's vision, but they have to tell the story. "Ok, I know this is going to sound crazy but Cornelius is a great guy, everybody likes him, he's godly, he's nice to Jews, anyway he was talking to this Angel, and the Angel said for us to come here and find you, and that's why we are here." Here is where they were probably expecting to get the door slammed in their face, but instead they are invited in to stay the night. The next day the 3 from Cornelius and Peter, and some of the saints form Joppa, all leave for Caesarea. Why would Peter take saints from Joppa? He was discipling them, showing them first hand how to follow God's direction. Two visions, for one purpose, to bring the gospel to Caesarea. It's amazing how much God loves us, all the details he works to make us a part of his plan.]