Acts 10.1–33: God begins to break down barriers (10 January 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters.  Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

The Tower of Babylon

1At first, the people of the whole world had only one language and used the same words. 2As they wandered about in the East, they came to a plain in Babylonia and settled there. 3They said to one another, “Come on! Let's make bricks and bake them hard.” So they had bricks to build with and tar to hold them together. 4They said, “Now let's build a city with a tower that reaches the sky, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth.”

5Then the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which those men had built, 6and he said, “Now then, these are all one people and they speak one language; this is just the beginning of what they are going to do. Soon they will be able to do anything they want! 7Let us go down and mix up their language so that they will not understand one another.” 8So the LORD scattered them all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9The city was called Babylon, because there the LORD mixed up the language of all the people, and from there he scattered them all over the earth.

The Descendants of Shem

10These are the descendants of Shem. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he had a son, Arpachshad. 11After that, he lived another 500 years and had other children.

12When Arpachshad was 35 years old, he had a son, Shelah; 13after that, he lived another 403 years and had other children.

14When Shelah was thirty years old, he had a son, Eber; 15after that, he lived another 403 years and had other children.

16When Eber was 34 years old, he had a son, Peleg; 17after that, he lived another 430 years and had other children.

18When Peleg was thirty years old, he had a son, Reu; 19after that, he lived another 209 years and had other children.

20When Reu was 32 years old, he had a son, Serug; 21after that, he lived another 207 years and had other children.

22When Serug was thirty years old, he had a son, Nahor; 23after that, he lived another 200 years and had other children.

24When Nahor was 29 years old, he had a son, Terah; 25after that, he lived another 119 years and had other children.

26After Terah was seventy years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

The Descendants of Terah

27These are the descendants of Terah, who was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran was the father of Lot, 28and Haran died in his native city, Ur in Babylonia, while his father was still living. 29Abram married Sarai, and Nahor married Milcah, the daughter of Haran, who was also the father of Iscah. 30Sarai was not able to have children.

31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, who was the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, Abram's wife, and with them he left the city of Ur in Babylonia to go to the land of Canaan. They went as far as Haran and settled there. 32Terah died there at the age of 205.

The Twelve Apostles

1Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Patriot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.

The Mission of the Twelve

5These twelve men were sent out by Jesus with the following instructions: “Do not go to any Gentile territory or any Samaritan towns. 6Instead, you are to go to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. 7Go and preach, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. 9Do not carry any gold, silver, or copper money in your pockets; 10do not carry a beggar's bag for the journey or an extra shirt or shoes or a stick. Workers should be given what they need.

11“When you come to a town or village, go in and look for someone who is willing to welcome you, and stay with him until you leave that place. 12When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace be with you.’ 13If the people in that house welcome you, let your greeting of peace remain; but if they do not welcome you, then take back your greeting. 14And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15I assure you that on the Judgement Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town!

Coming Persecutions

16“Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. 17Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. 18For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. 19When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. 20For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21“Men will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24“No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

Whom to Fear

26“So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent. 30As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

Confessing and Rejecting Christ

32“For those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same before my Father in heaven. 33But if anyone rejects me publicly, I will reject him before my Father in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword

34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37“Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

Rewards

40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes God's messenger because he is God's messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

The Plan for Ending Mixed Marriages

1While Ezra was bowing in prayer in front of the Temple, weeping and confessing these sins, a large group of Israelites — men, women, and children — gathered round him, weeping bitterly. 2Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, of the clan of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have broken faith with God by marrying foreign women, but even so there is still hope for Israel. 3Now we must make a solemn promise to our God that we will send these women and their children away. We will do what you and the others who honour God's commands advise us to do. We will do what God's Law demands. 4It is your responsibility to act. We are behind you, so go ahead and get it done.”

5So Ezra began by making the leaders of the priests, of the Levites, and of the rest of the people take an oath that they would do what Shecaniah had proposed. 6Then he went from in front of the Temple into the living quarters of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, and spent the night there grieving over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. He did not eat or drink anything.

7A message was sent throughout Jerusalem and Judah that all those who had returned from exile were to meet in Jerusalem 8by order of the leaders of the people. If anyone failed to come within three days, all his property would be confiscated, and he would lose his right to be a member of the community. 9Within the three days, on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the men living in the territory of Judah and Benjamin came to Jerusalem and assembled in the temple square. It was raining hard, and because of the weather and the importance of the meeting everyone was trembling.

10Ezra the priest stood up and spoke to them. He said, “You have been faithless and have brought guilt on Israel by marrying foreign women. 11Now then, confess your sins to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do what pleases him. Separate yourselves from the foreigners living in our land and get rid of your foreign wives.”

12The people shouted in answer, “We will do whatever you say.” 13But they added, “The crowd is too big, and it's raining hard. We can't stand here in the open like this. This isn't something that can be done in one or two days, because so many of us are involved in this sin. 14Let our officials stay in Jerusalem and take charge of the matter. Then let anyone who has a foreign wife come at a set time, together with the leaders and the judges of his city. In this way God's anger over this situation will be turned away.” 15No one was opposed to the plan except Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, who had the support of Meshullam and of Shabbethai, a Levite.

16The returned exiles accepted the plan, so Ezra the priest appointed men from among the heads of the clans and recorded their names. On the first day of the tenth month they began their investigation, 17and within the next three months they investigated all the cases of men with foreign wives.

The Men who had Foreign Wives

18This is the list of the men who had foreign wives:

Priests, listed by clans:

Clan of Joshua and his brothers, sons of Jehozadak: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. 19They promised to divorce their wives, and they offered a ram as a sacrifice for their sins.

20Clan of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah

21Clan of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah

22Clan of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23Levites:

Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also called Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.

24Musicians:

Eliashib.

Temple guards:

Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25Others:

Clan of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah, and Benaiah

26Clan of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah

27Clan of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza

28Clan of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai

29Clan of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth

30Clan of Pahath Moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh

31-32Clan of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah

33Clan of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei

34-37Clan of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu

38-42Clan of Binnui: Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph

43Clan of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.

44All these men had foreign wives. They divorced them and sent them and their children away.

Peter and Cornelius

1There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, who was a captain in the Roman regiment called “The Italian Regiment”. 2He was a religious man; he and his whole family worshipped God. He also did much to help the Jewish poor people and was constantly praying to God. 3It was about three o'clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”

4He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”

The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

9The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”

14But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”

15The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.

17While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon's house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?”

19Peter was still trying to understand what the vision meant, when the Spirit said, “Listen! Three men are here looking for you. 20So get ready and go down, and do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 21So Peter went down and said to the men, “I am the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”

22“Captain Cornelius sent us,” they answered. “He is a good man who worships God and is highly respected by all the Jewish people. An angel of God told him to invite you to his house, so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23Peter invited the men in and persuaded them to spend the night there.

The next day he got ready and went with them; and some of the believers from Joppa went along with him. 24The following day he arrived in Caesarea, where Cornelius was waiting for him, together with relatives and close friends that he had invited. 25As Peter was about to go in, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and bowed down before him. 26But Peter made him rise. “Stand up,” he said; “I myself am only a man.” 27Peter kept on talking to Cornelius as he went into the house, where he found many people gathered. 28He said to them, “You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles. But God has shown me that I must not consider any person ritually unclean or defiled. 29And so when you sent for me, I came without any objection. I ask you, then, why did you send for me?”

30Cornelius said, “It was about this time three days ago that I was praying in my house at three o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly a man dressed in shining clothes stood in front of me 31and said: ‘Cornelius! God has heard your prayer and has taken notice of your works of charity. 32Send someone to Joppa for a man whose full name is Simon Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner of leather, who lives by the sea.’ 33And so I sent for you at once, and you have been good enough to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God, waiting to hear anything that the Lord has instructed you to say.”

Peter's Speech

34Peter began to speak: “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. 35Those who worship him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know of the great event that took place throughout the land of Israel, beginning in Galilee after John preached his message of baptism. 38You know about Jesus of Nazareth and how God poured out on him the Holy Spirit and power. He went everywhere, doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses of everything that he did in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem. Then they put him to death by nailing him to a cross. 40But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.”

The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

44While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message. 45The Jewish believers who had come from Joppa with Peter were amazed that God had poured out his gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles also. 46For they heard them speaking in strange tongues and praising God's greatness. Peter spoke up: 47“These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them from being baptized with water?” 48So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay with them for a few days.

Reflect

Reflect on Acts 10.1–33

At the very beginning of the Church, the new believers faced a huge question ­– should the Jesus movement be for Jews only, or were Gentiles to be included as well? While there were plenty of Gentiles around in Palestine, observant Jews kept themselves separate and did not visit or eat with them. At the same time, many Gentiles were attracted to the religion of the Jews, with its strict morality and spiritual depth.

Peter's vision of a sheet let down from heaven containing clean and unclean animals was sign to him that in God's kingdom those old barriers were breaking down. Cornelius, the 'God-fearing' Roman centurion, could be a brother in Christ, and Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit.

Christians are still prone to worry about associating with the 'wrong' people or going to the 'wrong' places. There can be a sense that to be really holy, we have to avoid getting our hands dirty by avoiding people who don't share our faith or our opinions. This is the opposite of what Jesus did, or what Peter was taught. If we mingle with people who aren't like us, we should be less concerned about them infecting us with sin, and more concerned about infecting them with grace.

Pray

Pray

God, help me to see every human being as made in your image and loved by you.

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