The Apostle Peter in Joppa
The following story is based on
Acts 11:1-18 where the apostle Peter made various travels during his lifetime and on one of these travels let to Joppa, you might say Peter’s miracle in Joppa, he healed Aeneas, raised Tabitha from the dead, but also met Cornelius which is part in Peters Vision and the Purpose of God.
Peter heals Aeneas and raises Tabitha
In the course of his ministry, the apostle Peter visited the believers at Lydda. Here he healed Aeneas, who for eight years had been confined to his bed with palsy.
“Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,”
the apostle said;
“arise, and make thy bed.”
He arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him and turned to the Lord.
Peter in Joppa
At Joppa, which was near Lydda, there lived a woman named Dorcas, whose good deeds had made her greatly beloved. She was a worthy disciple of Jesus, and her life was filled with acts of kindness. She knew who needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely ministered to the poor and the sorrowful. Her skilful fingers were more active than her tongue.
“And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died.”
The church in Joppa realized their loss, and hearing that Peter was at Lydda, the believers sent messengers to him, “desiring him that he would not delay coming to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he came, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.”
In view of the life of service that Dorcas had lived, it is little wonder that they mourned, those warm teardrops fell upon the inanimate clay.
Peter’s Miracle in Joppa
The apostle’s heart was touched with sympathy as he beheld their sorrow. Then, directing that the weeping friends be sent from the room, he kneeled down and prayed fervently to God to restore Dorcas to life and health.
Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”
Dorcas had been of great service to the church, and God saw fit to bring her back from the land of the enemy, that her skill and energy might still be a blessing to others, and also that by this manifestation of His power the cause of Christ might be strengthened.
Peter takes the gospel to Cornelius in Caesarea
It was while Peter was still at Joppa that he was called by God to take the gospel to Cornelius, in Caesarea.
Who was Cornelius?
Cornelius was a Roman centurion. He was a man of wealth and noble birth, and his position was one of trust and honour. A heathen by birth, training, and education, through contact with the Jews he had gained a knowledge of God, and he worshipped Him with a true heart, showing the sincerity of his faith by compassion to the poor. He was known far and near for his beneficence, and his righteous life made him of good repute among both Jews and Gentiles.
A Devout Man
His influence was a blessing to all with whom he came in contact. The inspired record describes him as “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.”
Believing in God as the Creator of heaven and earth, Cornelius revered Him, acknowledged His authority, and sought His counsel in all the affairs of life. He was faithful to Jehovah in his home life and in his official duties. He had erected the altar of God in his home, for he dared not attempt to carry out his plans or to bear his responsibilities without the help of God.
Cornelius Receives a Message
Though Cornelius believed the prophecies and was looking for the Messiah to come, he had not a knowledge of the gospel as revealed in the life and death of Christ. He was not a member of the Jewish church and would have been looked upon by the rabbis as a heathen and unclean. But the same Holy Watcher who said of Abraham, “I know him,” knew Cornelius also, and sent a message direct from heaven to him.
Cornelius and the Angel
The angel appeared to Cornelius while he was at prayer. As the centurion heard himself addressed by name, he was afraid, yet he knew that the messenger had come from God, and he said,
What is it, Lord?”
The angel answered,
“Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.”
The explicitness of these directions, in which was named even the occupation of the man with whom Peter was staying, shows that Heaven is acquainted with the history and business of men in every station of life. God is familiar with the experience and work of the humble labourer, as well as with that of the king upon his throne.
“Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon.”
Thus God gave evidence of His regard for the gospel ministry and for His organized church. The angel was not commissioned to tell Cornelius the story of the cross. A man subject, even as the centurion himself, to human frailties and temptations, was to be the one to tell him of the crucified and risen Saviour.
As His representatives among men, God does not choose angels who have never fallen, but human beings, men of like passions with those they seek to save. Christ took humanity that He might reach humanity. A divine-human Saviour was needed to bring salvation to the world. And to men and women has been committed the sacred trust of making known “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Seeking for the Truth
In His wisdom, the Lord brings those who are seeking for truth into touch with fellow beings who know the truth. It is the plan of Heaven that those who have received light shall impart it to those in darkness. Humanity, drawing its efficiency from the great Source of wisdom, is made the instrumentality, the working agency, through which the gospel exercises its transforming power on mind and heart.
Cornelius was gladly obedient to the vision. When the angel had gone, the centurion “called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”
The Angel speaks to Peter
The angel, after his interview with Cornelius, went to Peter, in Joppa. At the time, Peter was praying upon the housetop of his lodging, and we read that he “became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance.” It was not for physical food alone that Peter hungered. As from the housetop he viewed the city of Joppa and the surrounding country he hungered for the salvation of his countrymen. He had an intense desire to point out to them from the Scriptures the prophecies relating to the sufferings and death of Christ.
In the vision Peter “saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him,
“Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.”
But Peter said,
“Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
And the voice spake unto him again the second time,
“What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”
The Purpose of God
This vision conveyed to Peter both reproof and instruction. It revealed to him the purpose of God—that by the death of Christ the Gentiles should be made fellow heirs with the Jews to the blessings of salvation.
As yet none of the disciples had preached the gospel to the Gentiles. In their minds, the middle wall of partition, broken down by the death of Christ, still existed, and their labours had been confined to the Jews, for they had looked upon the Gentiles as excluded from the blessings of the gospel.
Now the Lord was seeking to teach Peter the world-wide extent of the divine plan.
Many of the Gentiles had been interested listeners to the preaching of Peter and the other apostles, and many of the Greek Jews had become believers in Christ, but the conversion of Cornelius was to be the first of importance among the Gentiles.