2000-01-06 - It's Just Me
Acts 10:24-26 And on the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." (NAS)
Cornelius has had an interesting few days. He is a gentile; a Centurion in the Roman Army. He is also a very devote man seeking God with all his heart and mind. Peter is our beloved, stiff-necked fisherman turned Apostle who is now being humbled and remolded by Jesus. Cornelius had a vision of a man 'in shining apparel' who told him to send for Peter, a Jew who was currently staying at the home of Simon the Tanner. Peter has had a vision instructing him that is is all right to eat what was Levitically unclean. Peter is warned not to call anything unclean that God has declared as clean. Cornelius sends for Peter. Peter struggles with his instruction.
Cornelius has been in prayer for years seeking God. His devotion is known in the area. His gifts to the poor are generous and from the heart. Still, he knows he is missing something. But what? The man in the vision told Cornelius that Peter would have his answers. But answers from this Jew living in the house of a Tanner? It was an oxymoron. Jews did not go into the home of a Tanner or they would become ceremonially unclean. Cornelius waits and trusts the vision.
Peter is told by the Spirit that the men from Cornelius' house are here to take him to Caesarea, and that Peter should go without misgivings, or better without distinctions. Peter travels with these people of which at least one was a gentile to the home of a gentile. Peter is being molded and learning to yield to God and unlearn some things he has learned. Traveling with gentiles, and to the home of a gentile was unheard of. Gentiles were little better than dogs. But God had told Peter to go and here he is.
The day Cornelius has prayed for has arrived as Peter walks through the door. A decade of searching and seeking is coming to a climax. The man in the vision had made that clear enough. Cornelius falls to the ground and begins to worship Peter. His reaction is understandable in light of the time and the evident devotion poured into the search for God. This man must be special because he has the answers. But Peter stops and touches Cornelius. Peter raises him to his feet and lets Cornelius know his guest is also just a man. For a Jew to touch a gentile required participation in cleansing rituals. Yet Peter hauls Cornelius to his feet. Peter then gives Cornelius equal status as also a man. Cornelius' answers are minutes away. The work in Peter's heart has begun to have it's effect.
Can we truly know the heart of another? Can we even truly know our own hearts?
Jer 17:9-10 "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. (NAS)
We can not. Can we know a believer by his works? No, we can not even be 100% sure of that. Cornelius' good works were seen by God; his prayers were heard by God. Still he did not actually believe until Peter brought the Gospel to him. The whole family heard the Gospel and accepted Jesus as their Savior.
The guy two doors down who has been selling hash asks Jesus into his heart. Who are we to doubt his conversion? Will this man still have things in his life to change? Will he get some things dead wrong from the beginning? Yes. Will his old friends still visit? Yes. After a time those friends many leave unsure of what has happened to their associate. Will he need a friend during those lonely days? Yes. Does he dress 'the right way', does he know how to pray, does he give gifts to the poor? Probably not. But only God knows his heart. And there is as much work to do in your heart and mine as their is in the heart of a drug dealer. The work may be begun in us, but it will continue through eternity.
Peter told Cornelius, "Hey, it's just me." (Mike's paraphrase) Peter knew he was no better or worse than Cornelius. He may not have completely understood it. But he was working on it. He was willing to put aside the distinctions he had learned trusting God in these new things. We are still frail, fallible flesh and blood in spite of the fact that Jesus has saved us and begun to work in our lives. I'm nothing special in this regard. One thing I learn as I move forward in my life with Jesus is that I have so much more to learn. The other thing I learn is just how much more of a mess I still am and how much work Jesus has already done.
Does Jesus love me? Yes. More than I will ever know. But I think he loves me most when I am 'just me'.