12 November 2012

Cornelius Asks >>Jesus Stories


The sea breezes brought a fine salty mist across his face as he walked slowly by the sea. It was early, the sun would soon be rising, but for now the sky was dark, lightening only slightly in the east.

His mind fluttered over the topics of what he had heard whispered over the dinner table the evening before. He had been eavesdropping, hiding behind curtains, nervously listening to talk of God and creation and promises of a Messiah.

His position as servant in the home of Cornelius was fairly stable. He did good work, was well liked, and was sometimes given special privileges. This time alone, time to walk by the sea, was a gift, given by Cornelius himself, who had seen the benefit of a little time by oneself to think and ponder.

And so he walked, interrupted only by the squawking gulls and the occasional spray of waves hitting shore rocks. And he thought and pondered.

Then, he heard his name being called from far down the beach -- Lucias! Lucias! It was another of Cornelius's servants, his friend, Marcus.

They ran toward each other, then Marcus explained, breathless, that they were both being called to accompany Spurius, Cornelius's bodyguard, to Joppa.

"Joppa? Why?" asked the boy Lucias.

"An angel appeared to Master Cornelius," Marcus replied. "We are to go fetch a man named Simon Peter who lives by the sea in Joppa and bring him here to speak to us."

Aaah, thought Lucias, just what we need. Maybe he will be the one to make all things clear to us.

Lucias had heard about the "Christian church" being formed in Joppa and the miracles and the persecution. Part of him wanted to steer clear of the danger, part of him was fascinated with the possibility that this man called Jesus could be the one sent to save. And that he, a Gentile servant boy, might be included.

And so Marcus and Lucias reported back to Cornelius -- Roman centurion, believer in God the creator, altruistic and compassionate Gentile leader. Their master whom they respected and obeyed.

"Boys," he said, "thank you for coming so quickly. An angel appeared to me, telling me to send for Simon Peter, who lives with another Simon, a tanner, by the sea."

"I want you to accompany my man, Spurius, on this journey. Collect your things, get enough food and water for two days, and leave immediately. I'll expect your return late tomorrow night. There will be many here waiting to hear his words."

And so the three of them set off for Joppa, prepared for at least a fifteen hour walk.

{late that evening}
Dusty sandals, sore feet, tired legs -- the three had found the house of Simon the tanner and were preparing to knock.

A drowsy looking Peter answers the door, looking very surprised and confused. Spurius explains the reason for their journey, asking humbly that Peter accompany them to Caesarea at the request of their master, Cornelius.

Understanding seems to cross his weary face. He invites them in and offers them food and water. They find their sleeping spots and the next morning all ten of them {for Peter was bringing six of his friends} eat quickly and head north together.

They are all quiet, lost in their own thoughts, walking as fast as they can, each feeling the urgency of the all-day journey.

Lucias wants to hear what Peter has to say. He wonders why Peter was so quick to agree to come with them, without question. Lucias has many questions, but hurries along the dusty path, knowing he must wait.

Stopping only to get bread out of their packs or for a quick swallow of water, they arrive back in Caesarea in record time. Cornelius is waiting, face aglow, with a house full of friends and neighbors.
Peter prays with them. He reminds them of the Jewish custom to not associate with Gentiles, then tells them of his dream.

Lucias listens closely as Peter describes the sheet coming down from heaven filled with all manner of wild beasts and unclean creepy crawlies. He is surprised when Peter repeats what the voice said "Rise Peter, kill and eat!" Who would tell a Jew to eat all those unclean meats? Certainly not God! he thought. Then he starts to understand the reason for the dream and the connection between unclean meats and unclean people. And he is calmed by what the voice next said to Peter, "What God has cleansed, that call not thou common."

And Lucias realizes that all this happened to Peter just moments before their knock on his door. Explaining the look on his face!

It is late and he is tired, but he listens to Peter share the story of Jesus, the Messiah and His life, ministry, death and resurrection. He listens, eyes and heart wide open, thirsty for this message of truth and acceptance.

All his life, he had yearned to feel included in something bigger than himself. This was it. This was the powerful message of inclusion. This gospel was for everyone.

And in the early hours of the morning, Lucias whispers thanksgiving to God, thanksgiving for the saving and the loving and the sending. And when Peter asks if any would like to accept Jesus and be baptized, he is quick to raise his hand and become one of the chosen.

Not common, not unclean. Chosen. Everyone.