On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear message from you.” So he invited them in and gave them lodging.
The greatest early struggle the church would have in the early days of its existence was no an external one but an internal one. The issue of where the Gentiles fit in and their relationship to the church and Israel will be a major issue over the remainder of the first century. Peter’s is really the one who will start this issue, although Paul will be its chief central figure later.
Peter’s basic problem is his own prejudices. It is interesting to note that despite his years with Christ he still maintains the idea that the Jewish people were special. We need to remember that Jesus was blameless before the Law so he did participate and do many of the Jewish customs. Peter would have observed this so he would have understood Jesus as a Jewish Messiah for a Jewish people. The idea of inclusion of the Gentiles was not completely foreign to Peter it was just that it seemed to him Jesus was simply a fulfilment of prophecies of Jewish Messiah that the Jews missed.
Peter’s prejudice has to be confronted by God directly with a vision which he repeats over and over. Only then is he prepared to respond to Cornelius’s messengers to go and talk to them.
Next: Peter at Caesarea