16 May 2011

Acts 11:1-18

"What God has made clean, you must not call profane." (v. 9)


This story is set within the context of a period of extra-ordinary visions and encounters in the region of Caesarea that prepare Peter and Cornelius to embark on a mission to preach the gospel (good news) to those who had until now been off their radar. Up until this point, the gospel had only been preached to Jews, those who were willing to convert to Judaism called proselytes and Samaritans who also followed the law of Moses.

Now Peter was experiencing the most bizarre vision in which he was being encouraged to break all the Jewish food laws, which had been so part of his life and religious culture, thus potentially putting himself outside of and at odds with his faith community. However, Peter was quick to realise the far reaching implications of his dream in that here was an end to the traditional restrictions on table fellowship between those of the Jewish faith and those who were Gentiles (non-Jews). This is a radical shift which signals to the disciples that their mission field was not just within but clearly beyond their own community. God was to be made real to all people and not just those who bore the mark of Abraham, ie those who were circumcised (see Genesis 17:9-14).

No more were there to be any discriminatory practice however traditional this might have been; no more was the love of God exclusively for one particular group of people; no more was there any need to exclude anyone or anything from the abundance of God's love for all those created in God's image. Those that did so hindered the work of God because the development of the Church was initiated by God and the movement of the Spirit experienced so vividly in these visions.

To Ponder

How far might you interpret your own dreams and visions to be the work of the Spirit prompting you in a particular direction? Where might you check that out?

How does the Peter's vision of an end to discriminatory practices influence your own life as a disciple of Jesus?

Bible notes author

Deacon Sue Culver

Sue was born in the north-east of England, moving to live in Mansfield in her late teens. She worked in various administrative jobs until she 'retired' to start a family.