Lent 2023 Day 26: Thu 23 Mar
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’
The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
God is preparing Peter for what he has planned for him. He prays, orders lunch, and nods off. God tells Peter emphatically that no food is unclean. Animals are there to support humanity, and to be killed for food.
The concept of uncleanness was initiated by God in the Law. There was an element of hygiene involved in the categorising of clean against unclean, but God also intended his people to live by his standards as a people apart, and the Law covered this.
The time had now come for this regulation to be dropped. People were now more static, and hygiene was probably better (as long as people were not overcrowded). God chooses the place with exquisite care – the roof of a house where a tanner lived. The real meaning of the vision is something that Peter will figure out later – but what God had said was good.
Peter does not currently understand the vision. He protests against God’s command not to call anything he has made unclean. That would confuse any devout Jew. What God means is that uncleanness is a concept that he decreed for the purposes of maintaining his people through their wanderings. Perhaps the regulation had lost its meaning when Jews settled, but now the time has come for the Church to break away from this Jewish practice.
If you read on a few verses (19-20) in this story you will find the most delightfully mundane message from God to Peter. God is God if the small things, too.
Are there practices, observances, methods, actions or words that may no longer be necessary as you have matured in your faith?
Why might God offer people visions that do not make sense?
What do you think God is pointing towards in this vision (you may have already read the full story)?
Father God, you share messages with individuals, groups and churches. They are not always clear. I pray that you will prepare hearts to listen and to beat alongside yours, so that what you share is clear to us. Then remind us to follow what you’ve told us. Amen.