PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XXX

While Saul was learning to become Paul, Peter, to stay out of jail, left Jerusalem and decided to visit some godly people in Lydda. There the Holy Spirit used Peter to heal a man called Aeneas and therefore he attracted many to become disciples of Jesus. The town of Joppa was near and it already had disciples. Two men were dispatched to bring Peter to Joppa. While Peter resided with Simon the tanner, the Holy Spirit used him to raise up Tabitha and prepare his heart to receive the Gentiles.

Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle. She Was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And When he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner (Acts 9:32-43).

THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS PREPARING PETER TO BRING IN THE SHEEP THAT WERE NOT OF THE JEWISH FOLD

The sheep, in question, were the household of Cornelius. Could Peter have remembered the words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd?

I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father (John 10:14-18).

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming and saying to him, “Cornelius.” And he started at him in terror, and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and bring one Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those that waited on him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa (Acts 10:1-8).

THE SOFTENING OF PETER BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

People with set minds and beliefs are hard to penetrate. Peter was such a man, who would not sway from his convictions. His birth name was Simon and Jesus called him “Cephas” which went a rock. The Greek is “Petros” and in our vernacular it is “Peter.” Peter was present when Jesus said, “… and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). The next verse, John 12:33, shows that the disciples did not understand, at that time, what Jesus meant. Jesus referred to his ascension when His Spirit would draw all men to “His Kingdom.” To Peter such an idea was unacceptable and the Holy Spirit had to do some convincing. So the Spirit talked to Peter three times in his dream. It was and it still is a lesson for many hard-headed people:

The next day, as they (Cornelius’ men) were on their journey and coming near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it he fell into a trance and saw the heaven opened, and something descending like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and wild birds. And there came a voice to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “No Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” And they said,, “Cornelius, a centurion, and upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house, and to hear what you have to say.” So he called them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went off with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him (Acts 10:9-23).

PETER’S SURPRISE OF HIS LIFE

Peter did go with Cornelius’ messengers and he was surprised what he saw and would experience. Peter was received as if he was an angel from heaven. The host and his household bowed down to Peter and explained his reason why he was told to sent for Peter. Peter begged Cornelius not worship him. And Peter began to marvel at what God was doing to man whom he shunned.

And Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard

Speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they ask him to remain for some days (Acts 10:34-48).

PETER’S ACTION STUNNED THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS IN JERUSALEM

The news that Gentiles were admitted into the New Kingdom of Jesus, and that they were so by Peter, was very disturbing to the apostles, the Jewish brethren, and the leaders. Now, Peter had to take sides, and he admitted that he had to go to Cornelius against his own will. But had he not gone to Cornelius, he would have disobeyed the Lord, who had commanded him three times to do so. It also meant that Peter had to displease the Jews, who were prepared to share Christ with the world, only their way. This was a traumatic experience to be in the same New Kingdom of Jesus with the despised heathens. It even was more painful to hear that it was not Peter, who initiated the admission of Cornelius and his people, but that it was the Spirit of God who sent an angel to the Roman officer. And was his three men who had to drag Peter to Caesarea, if they had to. For Peter it had became a matter of obeying God or his own people. This was and this always will be a problem for the followers of Christ, who face the choice of tracking after Jesus or some popular leader? Like Peter, some one ought to explain for us. It is a matter of eternal life or eternal death.

“I (Peter) was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, something descending, like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came down to me. Looking at it closely I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and wild birds. Ana I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘No, Lord: for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. At that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them without hesitation. These six brethren also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be save, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11: 5-18).

PETER WAS NOT DECISIVE IN HIS DECISIONS AND IN HIS BEHAVIOR

Simon Peter was a Jew and he had a hard time breaking with the tradition of his fathers. Mentally, he granted the Gentiles the right to become Christians; however physically, Peter was very cautious to keep his distance. Paul accused Peter of being a hypocrite. In more than one way, Peter was, as so many of us are, we agree mentally, but keep our distance socially:

But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I (Paul) opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentiles sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I though the aw died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose (Galatians 2:11-21).

PETER WAS A REAL HUMAN BEING, LIKE WE ALL ARE

Life is not a straight line. It has diversions and unexpected surprises. Decisions, commitments, and promises we make are altered by circumstances and by tragedies. Our own inability to maintain steadiness, on our mountainous and rocky journey through life, demands that we adjust to the road we are on, or be run over crushed. Peter had such an uneven life and the Lord did not hold it against him, but the Lord chose him to lead the other disciples and show them the way back to God. Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and also the first to deny him; yet, Jesus handed his flock and his sheep over to Peter. Simon Peter was not an easy convert. Jesus had to give him a demonstration. According to Luke, Jesus showed Simon, the fisherman, how to catch fish.

And when he (Jesus) had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!

But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, the beckoned to their partners in the other best to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knee, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:4-11).

Peter was the first to declare Jesus as “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20b). He was the first to deny his Lord; and therefore Peter needed the Lord’s help (Luke 22:31-34). Matthew, who followed Luke, joined these two events (Matthew 16:13-23). Jesus said to him:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three time deny that you know me” (Luke 22:31-34).

It was to Peter, who could adjust to change, to whom Jesus entrusted his friends, for whom He died. For, Peter would face a life similar to his Lord’s life. He would be crucified upside down. Jesus said to the disciples:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another (John 15:12-17).

When they (disciples) had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to hims the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not with to go” (John 21:15-18).