At First, Not Even The Apostles Fully Understood Jesus’ Teachings On This Law
“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43
This verse comes at the end of Peter’s speech about Jesus given to those gathered in the Roman centurion, Cornelius’ house in Caesarea. Cornelius had been moved to call on Peter by an angel of God through a vision. At the same time, Peter himself was visited by an angel in which he saw a large sheet descend before him filled with “all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and birds of the sky.” He was told to slaughter and eat, but responded, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.” To which the angel responded, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” (verses 11-15)
God was preparing Peter to share in the food that Cornelius, a Gentile, would serve him in his house without qualms of conscience. It also shows that, at first, not even the Apostles fully understood the implications of Jesus’ teaching on the law. God was preparing Peter to admit Gentiles into the Church for, like the four-legged animals in the vision he had received, Gentiles were considered unclean to Jews like himself.
This passage we are meditating on today is meant to open us up as well. Peter begins his speech saying, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” (verses 34-35) Then he proclaims Jesus Christ, who he is, how he was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went about healing, for God was with him. Peter then tells Cornelius and his household how Jesus was raised up by God on the third day, and how he and others saw him and ate with him after the resurrection, and how he and the Apostles were “commissioned” to preach and to testify to the people about Jesus.
This passage appeals to the messianic hope of the Jews and at the same time stresses to the Gentiles the coming divine judgement. Peter argues that this Jesus was the One that “all of the prophets [bore] witness to…” and goes on to teach the truth that, “everyone who believes in [Jesus] [will receive] forgiveness of sins, through his name.” This is the reason for our joy as Christians. This is the One who had been promised from the beginning, the One who would reveal the nature of God to us in the flesh. Jesus is the Messiah, the One who would, through his sacrificial love, suffer and die for us on the cross to conquer sin and death forever and to open the gates of Paradise to us again. And he is the One who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Lord, to you we give our thanks. Our humble obedience is our thanksgiving sacrifice to you. Give us the graces we need to not only know this, but to live it freely and courageously in our daily lives. We ask these thing believing in the power of your name, Jesus. Amen!
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