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Chosen as witnesses

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Read Acts 10:34-43

And so we come to Peter the Apostle.

· Peter the fisherman.

· Peter the first disciple to acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ.

· Peter whom Jesus admonished with the words, “Get behind me Satan” when he suggested that he wouldn’t let Jesus go to his death.

· Peter, who would walk a few steps on water until he realized that what he was doing was not possible.

· Peter that said, “Let’s build some tabernacles when Moses and Elijah appeared with a glorified Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

· Peter, who with James and John, formed something of an inner circle even among the twelve.

· Peter, who at first would not let Jesus wash his feet, then insisted on getting bathed completely.

· Peter, who would start swinging a sword in Gethsemane.

· Peter, who would deny Jesus three times.

· Peter, who was reinstated by the resurrected Jesus.

· Peter, who spoke boldly of the resurrected Jesus to crowds and to the religious leaders who just wanted him to shut up.

· Peter, who with the power of the Spirit and the name of Jesus healed the lame.

· Peter, who considered it something to celebrate to be persecuted for the name of Jesus.

· Peter, who would proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the Jews and abide by the law and not give a hoot about the Gentile world.

That’s the Peter that we are talking about.

Now Philip had shared the good news with an Ethiopian. Saul, who would soon go by the name Paul, was off to Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way, but would soon take the good news to the known world. Other Apostles were out making disciples wherever they went.

But Peter was the Apostle for the Jews. He had surely ventured out of Jerusalem and by the power of God raised Tabitha from the dead in Joppa, but she was a disciple. She was a follower of The Way and helping her was well within Peter’s comfort zone.

Peter would take care of the Jews, or so he thought.

And so it was while Peter was staying in Joppa with a man named Simon who was a tanner that Peter’s world started to change.

Now Peter is staying with a man who worked with the skins of dead animals but that didn’t seem to be much of an issue. Peter was not concerned about what people did for a living, at least if they were a Jew and accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

Peter was breaking new ground, but little did he know that the boundaries of his world would forever be changed.

In a vision, God revealed to Peter that he was permitted to eat all sorts of things that no self-respecting Jew would dare bring to his lips.

Now Peter knew that this couldn’t be true. He wouldn’t go along with this. It broke the rules. He wouldn’t do it.

And in much the same way that Jesus rebuked Peter when he would not let Jesus wash his feet, God rebuked Peter over these culinary matters. “If I say it’s clean then I am not asking for a second opinion. There is no motion on the floor seeking a second, discussion, and a vote. It’s clean.”

Considering how Peter rebounded after most of his rebukes or other course corrections, I’m guessing he was about to run down the street and order up a BLT for lunch. Can you imagine what it would be like to never have enjoyed a Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich on toasted bread? Maybe the next day he could go to Red Lobster and pig out, a term which I am sure was also approved for such occasions.

But we will never know for Peter didn’t get much time to think about these new revelations for there were people who had come from the home of a centurion named Cornelius and they were at Simon’ house to retrieve Peter.

But on the heels of this smorgasbord of new meats to eat vision came a message from God’s own Spirit. It said that there would be some people coming to take you with them. The Spirit said, “It’s ok. I sent them. Go with them.”

So the men who came for Peter spent the night in Joppa and then the party embarked for Caesarea the next day.

So good ole Apostle to the Jews Peter has not only stayed with a man who works with the skin of dead animals, been told by God to eat all manner of things that up to that point were considered “unclean” to him, but now he is to accompany these men from Caesarea to the house of a gentile.

Peter may not always pick up on things the first time, but when he does, he is obedient. So it is off to the house of Cornelius.

Now Cornelius is not just any ole gentile. He prays to God, he fasts, and he gives to the poor. On top of that he had some sort of heavenly visitation or vision. It’s not quite like what Saul experienced on the road to Damascus. It was more of a referral visit.

Saul was blinded until he accepted that Jesus truly was Lord. Then he spent some time in the wilderness to get his heart and mind wrapped around this Jesus is Lord business and that he would be his Apostle.

But Cornelius prayed to God, we are not sure exactly what he was praying about, but God saw fit to deal with him differently. God said, “I know a guy who can take care of that. Go fetch him.”

If we permit ourselves some license and read between the lines, we might see God saying, “It will be good for both of you. This man I am sending you is testing some new boundaries himself.”

Peter arrives.

Cornelius falls to his knees to worship him, but Peter explains, “We are both just men.”

This is a big step for Peter. He not only enters the home of a gentile without hesitation but he acknowledges that they are the same.

Then Peter does what he knows to do. He shares the gospel, but this time he begins a little differently than before. He includes his recent revelations.

Peter began to speak: “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Those who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to.”

Acts 10:34-35

And Peter tells of the life and ministry of Jesus and the atoning sacrifice made when Jesus was hanged on a tree—on a cross, and of his glorious resurrection. Whoever believes in him will receive forgiveness. God will not hold their sins against them.

And now we see this Apostle whom Jesus had proclaimed as the rock on which he would build his church proclaiming the gospel to the gentiles.

And somewhere in Peter’s mind there might just be a question floating around asking, “Well what now? What is the purpose of God having a chosen people if he is going to make everyone his people? “

But Peter answers his presumed questions for himself and for all who heard or have ever read his words.

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.

God chose a people through whom the world would be blessed. The people as a whole didn’t quite live up to their billing, but the seed traced back to David did. Through Jesus the whole world will be blessed.

And Jesus chose his disciples. They did not choose him.

But their selection was with purpose.

They not only lived with and learned from Jesus for about 3 years of daily life and instruction; they were witness to more.

They were witnesses to the fact that Jesus was a man. They saw him eat and drink and surely somewhere along the way they had to make a stop so he could go to the bathroom. They lived with him and witnessed his life.

They witnessed him happy and sad even to the point of tears and obedient to his Father even to the point of death, a death that Jesus hoped was not needed, but it was.

They witnessed his death. It was a brutal and gruesome death on a cross.

They witnessed a resurrected Jesus who remained with them for many days and even dined with them.

They witnessed a Jesus who when the time had come, ascended into heaven.

The resurrected Jesus was seen by many but not all people of that time and region. Even some who saw him still had their doubts.

But the Apostles were witnesses of all these things and became witnesses to the rest of the world.

Why?

That’s what God chose them to do. They were witness to the greatest story ever told and became witnesses to everyone else.

There has never been another group of people like Peter and the apostles who were witnesses to everything that Jesus did and what they had not witnessed firsthand was given them by the Spirit.

They were indeed a special group chosen for a special purpose in this special time. They performed miracles that the world has since to witness. They were empowered by God’s own Spirit for great ministry. They were also persecuted in ways that few of us know today.

They were chosen for a special purpose in a special time and specially equipped to do what God required them to do.

And we could study the life and acts of these apostles and say, “Wow! If I had only seen what they saw, just think how great my faith might be.”

But that would be like planting potatoes and expecting to harvest oranges. For God chose these men for this special purpose. He did not choose them to proclaim that Jesus is Lord when standing in line at Walmart.

God did not task them to be a witness to someone who needed to borrow some jumper cables to get his car started again.

God did not challenge them to post, This is the day that the Lord has made, on Facebook.

God did not choose them to teach a Vacation Bible School class or make cookies for a hundred kids or bring food every month to make sure that nobody in Burns Flat goes hungry.

He didn’t even choose them to make sure that the Bible was put together so everyone could have a copy.

He didn’t even choose them to start BibleGateway.com.

God chose Peter and the others who had lived with Jesus and been witnesses to everything he did to be witnesses of what they knew firsthand to the rest of the world.

They didn’t finish the job. Their lives ended before everyone heard the good news.

And so we come to our lives. We have not been overlooked or forgotten by God. We have been chosen by him for life and life abundant and life eternal through his son Jesus Christ.

And we have also been chosen by God to know Jesus Christ by faith alone.

· Not as witnesses to a man who we followed for three years never knowing where our next stop was, well except for Passover week.

· Not as men and women who would see this Son of man and Son of God walk on water; yet cry when his friend Lazarus died.

· Not as witnesses to a brutal death.

· Not as witnesses to a resurrected Friend who would show us the holes in his hands and cook up some fish for us at the beach.

· Not as men and women who would witness the resurrected Jesus ascend into heaven.

But we have been chosen to receive and believe and live out the good news of life in Jesus Christ by faith alone.

God did not make a mistake by granting us life in this century instead of in first century Judea.

God did not err when there was no one there to post the video of Christ’s execution, or his resurrection, or his ascension into heaven. There is no 3-Disk Set of these events to order from Netflix.

God chose us to believe in his love and be granted life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Now we have insight and inspiration, a variety of revelations, and even very defining moments in our lives that told us that God is real and real life comes through Jesus.

But as far as seeing what the apostles saw, God did not choose us for that.

He chose us in this time, to live by faith not sight, and to proclaim the good news that has come to us through the faithfulness of generations of saints and God’s written word.

If we are looking for something else, it’s like looking for a crop of oranges when we planted potatoes.

This is the time that we have been granted to live. Our purpose is to live for Christ based completely upon our faith and the assurance that we receive in God’s word, from his own Spirit, and from the encouragement of the Body of Christ.

We too have been chosen by God to be witnesses, but we are witnesses of faith.

We have believed in what we have not seen and we hope in things that we have yet to see.

We have been chosen by God to be witness of faith.

We are not just people who live 2000 years after what the Apostles witnessed and were chosen to proclaim.

We are chosen by God to live in these very times and proclaim our faith. And like Peter, we may have to cross some boundaries that were off limits to us before.

We are not talking about pork chops and shellfish. We are talking about boldly proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior based on nothing but our faith.

But as this is exactly what God has chosen us to do, we will have a bountiful harvest when we finally do what God has chosen us to do.

As we enter this New Year, let us be bold in doing exactly what God chose us to do.

Let us proclaim the life of a man who was in every way a man and in every way God with us.

Let us proclaim that this man Jesus whom we have never seen did live and die for us in obedience to God the Father.

Let us proclaim the everlasting love of a real God who loves us so much that he really did take away the sin of the world in Christ Jesus.

Let us proclaim life and life abundant that we know in Jesus.

It took Peter his usual three times to figure out that God’s love was for everyone, but we have known this for most of our lives.

If we will be honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have known that God chose us to be witnesses for him in our time based only upon our faith.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.”

Today, I offer to you, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed and have been witnesses of all that they believe.”

Two millennia ago, many saw the resurrected Jesus, but some still doubted.

We have yet to see the resurrected Jesus, yet we believe. It is time for us to share what we believe.

We have been chosen by God to be witnesses of his love in our lives that we know through our faith in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

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