MISSION TO THE GENTILES
THE CHURCH IN THE PART OF PALESTINE: LYDDA AND JOPPA- Acts 9:32-35, 9:36-46
The church at Lydda and Joppa were established by scattered Christians who settled there after they flee from the persecution in Jerusalem. This territory was successfully evangelized by Philip and later visited by Peter to perform the miracles of healing.
Peter came down to Lydda where he found a man named Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralysed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed”. And immediately, he arose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
At Joppa, there was a disciple called Tabitha or Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. She died suddenly and was laid in an upper room. The disciples sent two men down to Joppa to entreat Peter who was residing at Lydda to come without delay. Peter followed them to Joppa, and was taken to the upper room. He put the weeping disciples outside and knelt down and prayed.
Turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise” Dorcas opened her eyes and saw Peter, Peter gave her his hands and lifted her up. He presented her alive to the saints. Many believed in the Lord and Peter stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
THE CHURCH AT CAESAREA
The vision of Cornelius and Peter
There was a man at Caesarea names Cornelius. He was a centurion at the Italian Cohort. He feared God with his entire household, gave alms liberally to the people, and was constant in prayers. He saw a vision of an angel of God assuring him that his prayers and alms had ascended at a memorial before God. Therefore, he should send men to Joppa to look for one Simon who was called Peter, to come; that he, Peter would tell him what to do.
Peter himself had seen a vision where a container with four footed unclean animals was brought down from heaven and he heard a voice saying that he should kill and eat. He refused thrice. The meaning there to being an indication that he would receive a message of invitation from a Gentile, that he should exercise no scruples to heed the divine instructions.
INVITATION TO PETER AND HIS SERMON
Peter followed Cornelius’ messengers and arrived at Caesarea. In the house of Cornelius he was received warmly and with humility. Cornelius narrated why he sent for him. Peter now realized and perceived that, “God shows no partially, and that anyone who fears Him is acceptable”. Peter preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to Cornelius’ household bringing out all that Jesus did, how He went about doing good, but whom the Jews hanged and was raised by God, and how they were witnesses to these things.
As Peter was saying these, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and all members of his household; they were all baptized. The Gentiles also received God’s grace. Thus, the church was established in Caesarea. Their race was not a barrier to the coming of the Holy Spirit. This shows that racial segregation or discrimination or apartheid should not be heard of in all Christian communities. Like Peter, we should all be ready to share the message of Christ with others.