“Cornelius stared hard, wondering if he was seeing things. Then he said, ‘What do you want, sir?’
“The angel said, ‘Your prayers and neighbourly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.’
“As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He went over with them in great detail everything that had happened, and then sent them off to Joppa.” Acts 10:4-8 (The Message).
Cornelius was busy carrying out his duty to God faithfully. He was not aware that there was much more to this “religion” that he followed that he knew about. As far as he was concerned, he was doing what was required of him and doing it well and with all his heart.
But God had His eye on him. Cornelius was not one of His chosen people, but He was about to show this Gentile that His desire was to open the door of His grace to all nations. This had been His plan from the beginning. He had chosen Israel, not to have exclusive rights to His love and favour, but to be the vehicle through which He would reveal Himself to the world.
The Israelites had completely misinterpreted God’s requirement that they separate themselves from the idolatrous nations around them. God wanted them to be uncontaminated, not exclusive and isolated. They thought they were better than every other nation in spite of hob-knobbing with them and practising their wicked idolatry.
Instead of revealing the true nature of God as a loving and caring Father, they hated and despised the Gentiles, refusing to interact with them in any way. God would have to do something out of the ordinary to break down their prejudice and convince His followers that the good news of Jesus was for all nations, not only the Jews.
Phase one was to alert Cornelius that there was something more in store for him. He was still living in a spiritual twilight zone and needed the supernatural intervention of God to move him into the light of new life in Jesus.
Cornelius was not used to anything as spectacular as a vision. He was flabbergasted and bewildered by the appearance of an angel. All he could stammer was ‘What do you want, sir?’ That the angel actually replied to him was even more of a mystery. Amazingly, he did not question his sanity or hesitate to do what he was instructed to do.
This was too dramatic and intrusive an experience to ignore. He called his subordinates to go at once to Joppa to fetch the man about whom he had received detailed instructions.
It is not often that anyone catches a glimpse of the supernatural realm of God which is all around us, but which we cannot see. In the ordinary course of life, we live and experience the natural world in the conviction that the realm of God’s presence is as near to us as our breath; but there are unusual times when God pulls aside the curtain for a brief moment for a specific purpose.
Cornelius needed just such a moment to convince him that God had noticed him and wanted him to enter that supernatural realm by faith in Jesus. He stood on the threshold of the greatest experience of his life when he would step over from darkness to light, from death to life and from the dominion of Satan into the kingdom of God.
This was not just another religious exercise. God was setting up an encounter with His Son that would transform Cornelius’ life forever, and open the door for a heavily prejudiced Jew to understand the enormity of the grace that sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world.