20 July 2019Acts 11:1-18
“Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (v. 3)
Psalm: Psalm 9:1-10
Peter returns to Jerusalem after his journey through Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea. He had stories to share of God's working in the world beyond Jerusalem. Instead, though, he is faced with an interrogation over who he had been eating with. It is interesting to note that they did not ask about his baptizing of Gentiles (non Jews) or Tabitha who was raised from the dead. They just asked why he had eaten with Gentiles.
This may seem insignificant to us, but for these earlier followers of Christ still deeply rooted in the traditions of the Jewish faith it was a big deal. Eating with Gentiles, who did not observe the same food laws as the Jews, would have made Peter and his companions unclean. For some this was not acceptable even within their new-found freedom in Christ.
Peter seems to pay little attention to the question and instead recounts the story of the previous chapter of how he received a vision, was invited to Caesarea, shared the good news and saw the Spirit fall. At no point does he directly answer the question about eating with Gentiles other than to repeat the words of his vision "what God has made clean, you must not call profane" (v. 9).
By the end of his story those listening realise something greater is happening, and that their fear about Peter being unclean is turned to praise for what God has done. They rejoice that the Gentiles now receive forgiveness that leads to life (v. 18). Thankfully for now this deals with the issue of sharing food with Gentiles though this issue never truly goes away (Acts 15:20; Galatians 2:11-14).
- The issue of eating with certain people seems to be more important to the work of God. Have there been times when rules have got in the way of the work God is doing?