1Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said?
- Why is this happening/being said?
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean for us?
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
Reflection: The picture above is from a Bible I received when I was ten-years-old. It was an illustrated Bible with a denim cover (this was 1990, after all!). I still have that Bible on my shelf today. It was the first Bible I could call mine, and it was the first one I read. In fact, I read it voraciously! I would spend the whole sermon time at church reading my Bible and looking at the pictures. I could not get enough of the Word coupled with the sharp and stunning illustrations. In fact, I cannot read the passage for this week without thinking immediately of the image above – especially the image of the seal (perhaps because I cannot imagine eating a seal!). When was it that you discovered the beauty and power of God’s Word? What stories bring vivid images to mind when you read them? What Scripture has shaped your life? Like Peter’s vision making a way to Christ for the Gentiles, there are certain Scripture passages that can make a way to Christ for us. Go read some of your favorite Scriptures and allow God to pour the inspiration of his Spirit into you as you read.
Prayer Focus: Who are those people who feel excluded from the Church? I have had conversations with persons who have expressed deep hurt and pain because of what they have experienced in church. These experiences have even, at times, becoming a barrier between that person and God. Spend some time this week praying for those who have been hurt by the actions of Christians representing Christ and the Church. Pray for sensitivity to those outside the Church and for gentleness in showing the love of Christ. Imagine the scars of their hearts healing and the barriers between them and God being broken down. Just as God has invited us in, he is calling out to them in invitations of grace.
Meditation Focus: Most of us reading this week’s Scripture will have benefited directly from Peter’s vision. Unless we are ethnically Jewish, then we fit into that far-reaching group called Gentiles. As Gentiles, we had no birthright to the promises of the Messiah and the redemption that came from him. We were not Abraham’s natural children, and for the first years of the Church’s existence that meant that we were excluded. However, we were not excluded from God’s promises. God had always intended to bring the Gentiles to him and redeem them as well. It was not until Peter’s vision and his bold action, though, that the old mindset of exclusion passed away and the new hope of fulfilled promise was realized. Take some time this week to meditate on what it means to be granted the grace to have a place in the family of God. What has God done for you to bring you into that family? How has being a part of the Church changed you? What does it mean to be a son or daughter of the Most High? How might your faithfulness make room for other members of God’s family looking for a place of grace? Be sure to thank God for faithful people like Peter and their boldness to act when God calls them to something new.
Journaling Focus: Who was it that opened up the way to Christ for you? For me, it was my youth pastor, Don. He asked me to join the youth group Sunday after Sunday for a solid year until I finally agreed to come. When I did, he not only told me of the love of Christ but he also showed me the love of Christ. He was persistent and authentic, and God used him to bring me to faith in Jesus Christ. This week, write about your experience of coming to faith in Christ. What did that journey look like? What obstacles to faith were overcome? Who led you to Christ and how did they show you the authenticity and depth of God’s love for you? What would your life look like if they had never helped to open the way to Christ for you? Thank God in your writing for that person, asking God to make you an opener of the way for others.
Breath Prayer: Father, make a way for me (us) to your kingdom.
IMAGE CREDIT: The Illustrated Bible. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 1989, page 1055.