9 The next day about noon these men were coming near Joppa. Peter went up on the roof of the house to pray 10and became very hungry. While the food was being prepared, he fell sound asleep and had a vision. 11He saw heaven open, and something came down like a huge sheet held up by its four corners. 12In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13A voice said to him, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.”
14 But Peter said, “Lord, I can't do that! I've never eaten anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.”
15The voice spoke to him again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don't say it isn't fit to eat.”
16This happened three times before the sheet was suddenly taken back to heaven.
17Peter was still wondering what all this meant, when the men sent by Cornelius came and stood at the gate. They had found their way to Simon's house 18and were asking if Simon Peter was staying there.
19While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men are here looking for you. 20Hurry down and go with them. Don't worry, I sent them.”
21Peter went down and said to the men, “I am the one you are looking for. Why have you come?”
22They answered, “Captain Cornelius sent us. He is a good man who worships God and is liked by the Jewish people. One of God's holy angels told Cornelius to send for you, so he could hear what you have to say.” 23Peter invited them to spend the night.
The next morning, Peter and some of the Lord's followers in Joppa left with the men who had come from Cornelius.
As they humble themselves to pray, a keen awareness of God’s orchestration of events now dawns upon his people.
It is important to see what underlies their discernment. Both Cornelius and Peter were men who made it their regular habit to pray, and we have a written record of the Lord’s extraordinary answers to them.
While God always works out his providential good for us, at times when it is to our benefit he even communicates its specifics to his praying people.
There are two lessons for us here. Firstly, even after Jesus’s death, the Lord remains actively involved in history, including our own. Just as the Lord Jesus promised, he is “with us always, till the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Secondly, as with life in general, the most amazing spiritual results tend to flow out of habit, a devotion to practice.
Both these things should encourage us to a life of disciplined prayer.
Just like Cornelius, Peter immediately recognizes that it is the Lord speaking to him, though he is not terrified. Indeed, they are on such familiar terms that Peter even sees fit to challenge what he has heard. This is a problem. Intimacy with God should not lead us to presumption. The communication of prayer does not mean a relationship of equals.
The Lord’s rebuke is both instructive and gracious. God’s grace has made clean and fit what had previously been used to designate uncleanliness. God has not changed, but the roadmap to his presence no longer needs the old signs. It is now a straight road of grace marked out by the cross.
Jesus bore his cross as much for the Jew as he did for the Gentile. Peter first marvels, and then invites his Gentile visitors in as his guests.
In your all-surpassing mercy to us you have blotted out our sins from your sight,
Whether small or great, whether committed deliberately or through negligence,
As we confess our sins, remind us of your abundant grace
And give us a sense of your peace that passes understanding today.