December 8, 2020

December 8, 2020

December 8, 2020
Acts 11:1-18 NIV
Rev. Doug Silvers
New River

Acts 11:1-18
Peter Explains His Actions

11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Stronger Than the Law?

After the Lord’s work had been accomplished on the cross, the people of God were left to carry on with the message of Hope to the entire world. In and around Jerusalem was the place where this message began, with many faithful disciples telling others of the wonderful Messiah Jesus’ gift to all who would believe. Unfortunately, there were those who could not see the gift as free as it was proclaimed: “There surely is something we must do to advance it, some act that fulfills it on our part.” The party of the Circumcision felt that the Old Testament proclamations about holiness and purity were still proper methods to reach the state of Atonement needed to be part of God’s peculiar people. After such a long history that had much ceremony and rule following in its DNA, I imagine making the transition to grace in and of itself was a difficult concept to grasp. “How can this be? How does one become clean from sin and the evil within us with no sacrifice or mark of allegiance?”

Peter enters into a discussion with this group by telling them of a vision he received, one in which dirty things, in fact, are made clean by God and not by man. He tells them that in this vision were items laid out in front of him that no Jew would ever eat for it would cause them to be unclean. God tells Peter, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 11:9). Peter is dismayed at this notion, for what can be stronger than the Old Testament laws on cleanliness?

Many say the same about the Laws of Physics: nothing is stronger than these laws and they, too, are unbreakable. The Law of Gravity is such a law; it cannot be broken, can it? If not, then how do we watch SpaceX go into the atmosphere in the newest and best rocket ever created, the Falcon 9? The reason this occurs is that a stronger law comes forward, which, in this case, is the Law of Aerodynamics. The Law of Aerodynamics overpowers the Law of Gravity so as to propel an object into the Heavens.

What we have in our story today is one law overpowering another. The laws in the Old Testament were very powerful, taking Israel through nearly 2000 years of history. One cannot simply break these laws; they were eternal, right? In Christ, though, more powerful laws came down … the Laws of Love and Grace. In these laws the Old Testament regulations were not forgotten or considered ill, but fulfilled completely in an unselfish act of love. God loves humanity! He loves it so much as to send Jesus Incarnate. Advent is the time when we are to prepare and recognize this arrival unto humanity, not for a select people, not for any particular indigenous people group, but for everyone who will acknowledge the gift of Christ.

This year has been a messy year. We have been through so much! However, in spite of our circumstances, we can still celebrate the birth of Jesus. It may be different this year because we have to celebrate via live feeds and Zoom meetings versus the hugs and kisses we usually have. But let’s just be clear … God comes to us despite these things! If God can deliver a vision to Peter to transform the New Testament world, God can do the same for us in 2020. This Advent let God cut through the mess of a pandemic, of civil unrest, of tribal divisions, and of disunity by letting the most powerful laws every created overpower them, the laws of grace and love. Peace to you in your Advent celebrations this year. Amen.