So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him. As for the word that He sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power…
And we are witnesses of 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 to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been 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 appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
Mostly it’s annoying getting interrupted. In the middle of a conversation, when you’re on your horse galloping through a speech, getting bumped off course seems criminal. Sometimes it sits you down—slack jawed in the dust—watching your thoughts wander over the horizon. But every once in awhile, an interruption, like a clap of thunder, bolts your conversation forward to its stunning and beautiful conclusion.
I wonder if that is how Peter felt in Caesarea. God had given him a stunning vision, three times, about how new the New Covenant really is. Certainly Peter knew the power of the gospel. Peter could talk eloquently about forgiveness of sins, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and the new creation. But he was just coming to understand how truly transformational Jesus’s redemption is.
Yes— no partiality, no unclean, people from every nation. But God, with a booming interruption, sent the Holy Spirit and threw Acts chapter 10 to its stunning conclusion.
In the old way God-fearing Gentiles, like Cornelius, had a place. It was near…ish. Just outside. But this conclusion is something new, so very near and so inside that Jesus in His High Priestly prayer simply said that Peter and Cornelius were now one. United. In the old way, Cornelius was never Peter’s brother. In the new, they share the same divine Breath.
Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” This Psalm refers to Aaron’s ordination as Israel’s high priest. The oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, running down from his head to his body, made it clear to everyone that when Aaron stood offering sacrifices at the Tabernacle, all of Israel stood there too in Aaron. They were united.
We have a greater High Priest. At Jesus’s baptism, God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. And as the oil ran down over Aaron, so too the Holy Spirit runs down from our Head, Christ, onto us, His body, the Church. So that where Christ is we are too. We are united to Him and to all who make up His body. Made one even as God himself is one (John 17.22).
Acts 10 interrupts us too. Who is the Cornelius in your life? The socially awkward? The politically backward? The day laborer in Cambodia or the refugee on a boat in the Mediterranean? In Christ, they all may be more intimately connected to you than the doctor who lives down the street, drives the same car, and celebrates the preferred beverage.
We may know that God shows no partiality, but without this sort of interruption, we may never see how near God is to those we keep at a distance, with what fire He adores them, nor how united to them we actually are. May the Spirit make us truly understand.