April 16, Thursday
Now Peter, in the course of his travels, came to visit the believers in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas who had been paralyzed and bed-ridden for eight years. Peter said to him “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up and roll up your bed.”
He got to his feet at once. This miracle caused a major revival. Everyone living in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord when they heard about it.
Meanwhile in Joppa a disciple by the name of Tabitha became very sick and died. She was deeply loved for her life had been fully devoted to serving others and helping the poor. They washed her body and laid her in an upper room. Now Lydda is quite near Joppa. So when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and begged him, “Please come quickly!”
Peter hurried back with them. When he arrived in Joppa, they took him to the room where she lay. With much weeping, the gathered mourners showed Peter all the dresses and cloaks which she had made for them. Peter asked everyone to leave the room, and he knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!”
She opened her eyes. As soon as she saw Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand, helped her to her feet, and then called out to the believers and widows, presenting her to them alive. Here, as in Lydda, the miracle became known and many believed in the Lord. Peter himself remained there for some time, residing in the home of a tanner named Simon.
Some distance north of Joppa, in Caesarea, lived a man by the name of Cornelius, a centurion in what was called the Italian Regiment. He and his entire household were known for their devout reverence for God. He cared for the poor and was a real man of prayer. About three o’clock one afternoon an angel of God appeared to him in a vision. As the angel approached him, he called him by name, “Cornelius!”
Shaking with fear, Cornelius replied, “Yes, sir?”
The angel went on, “God has heard your prayers and seen your deeds of charity. Now send men to Joppa for a man called Simon, who is also known as Peter. He is staying as a guest with another Simon, a tanner, whose house is down by the sea.”
Immediately, when the angel had gone, Cornelius called for two of his house-servants and a devout soldier who was one of his personal attendants. He told them the whole story and then sent them off to Joppa.
On the following day as the group was nearing Joppa, Peter had gone up to the roof-top deck to pray. He became quite hungry and asked for some lunch. While it was being prepared, he fell into a trance and had a vision of the sky opening and a great sheet, held at its corners, descending to where he was. On the sheet were all manner of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then Peter heard a voice, saying, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”
It so happened that all the creatures were things God’s Law given in the Old Testament had forbidden His people to eat. Repulsed by the idea, Peter said, “Never, Lord! For not once in my life have I ever eaten anything common or unclean.”
Then the voice spoke to him a second time, “You must not call unclean what God has cleansed.”
Three times the vision was repeated before being taken back into heaven. While Peter was still trying to figure out what the vision meant, the men sent by Cornelius had arrived and were standing at the very doorway of the house, calling out to enquire if Simon, surnamed Peter, was staying there. Peter was lost in his thoughts when the Spirit said to him, “Three men are here looking for you. Get up and go downstairs. Don’t hesitate to go with them because I Myself have sent them to you.”
So Peter went down to the men and said, “I believe you are looking for me; what can I do for you?”
They replied, “Cornelius the centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is loved and respected by all the Jews, was commanded by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house that he might hear your Message.”
Peter invited them in and they spent the night there. Early the next morning, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa, Peter set out for Caesarea, arriving on the following day. Cornelius was waiting anxiously for them and had gathered together all his relations and close friends. When Peter arrived at the house, Cornelius fell on his knees before him and began worshipping him. But Peter helped him to his feet and said, “Stand up, I am just a man like you!”
Upon entering the house, Peter found that a large number of people had assembled. He began by explaining, “You all know that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate with or enter the home of a non-Jew. But God has shown me plainly that no man must be called ‘common’ or ‘unclean.’ That is why I came here without hesitation. Now tell me your side of the story.”
Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this time, I was observing the afternoon hour of prayer in my house when suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your charitable gifts have been remembered before God. Now send to Joppa and invite here a man called Simon Peter. He is staying in the house of a tanner by the name of Simon, down by the sea.’ So I sent to you without delay and you have been most kind in coming. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything that the Lord has commanded you to say.”
Then Peter began to speak, “This is most remarkable! God is showing us that He is no respecter of persons, but that He welcomes those from every nation who reverence Him and do what is right. Here is the Message God sent first to the sons of Israel: the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of us all. You have heard the story of Jesus of Nazareth, haven’t you? Everyone around here has!
- “It began in Galilee where He was baptized by John.
- “Then God anointed Him with the power of the Holy Spirit.
- “From there He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.
- “God was clearly working through Him; and we were right there with Him, eyewitnesses of everything, from the villages to Jerusalem.
- “But they murdered Him, hanging Him on a cross.
- “On the third day God raised Him up, but not everyone could see Him. God caused Him to be visible to many of us whom He had chosen to be His witnesses.
- “Indeed, we ate and drank with Him after His resurrection.
- “Then Jesus instructed us to spread the Good News everywhere, explaining that He is the One Whom God appointed as Judge of both the living and the dead.
- “The prophets of old all pointed to Him, making it clear that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of their sins through His Name.”
Even as Peter was saying these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to his message. The Jewish believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was being poured out on Gentiles also, for they heard them speaking in unusual tongues and glorifying God.
Then Peter exclaimed, “Well, since these men have received the Holy Spirit just as we ourselves did, what’s to prevent us from baptizing them?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. At their request Peter stayed with them for several days.