10:7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.
19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”
Simon Peter is a Jew, Cornelius is a Roman soldier and never the two shall meet.
In 2001 I met a woman who had just moved back to Canada from South Carolina and she told me a story that shocked me. She had a young daughter and her daughter (white) befriended another little girl who was black. The friendship hadn't been a long one when this mother received a knock on her door. It was the mother of the little black girl. She was not rude or mean but she basically said "I know you aren't from here but our daughters cannot be friends. That isn't how things are done around here." And with that she was left to explain to her daughter why she just lost her new friend.
In some places and in some cultures there are invisible lines you cannot cross and if you do someone will let you know. The Jews had huge walls and definite lines. To touch a Roman or enter their home made a Jew unclean which meant they had to go through a ritual of purification in order to be "clean" again and interact with other Jews, attend the Synagogue, go to the temple, etc...
Meanwhile God loves everyone. God knows that from one blood He created all people. He knows that if we traced our family trees back far enough we are all one family. He knows that no human being is unclean simply by virtue of nationality, race, gender, language, colour, etc... God knows this but we struggle. God knows this and wants us to see it too, but we struggle. We major in externals. We classify and rank and prejudge.
The Bible says nature teaches us about God. I remember when I took an advanced biology class in high school being fascinated by our classifications of animals and substances and that some things just didn't fit. All liquids contract when they freeze and become solids yet water expands. Mammals give birth to live young yet the duck billed platypus and the short beaked echidna lay eggs. Hyenas are typically seen as dogs yet they more closely are related to the cat family by our classification system.
What is my point? Nature defies classification. It destroys our boxes. It tears down our walls and wreaks havoc with our attempts at tidy charts and graphs. Nature reveals God - A God who loves variety and rejects classification.
When God classified animals in the Old Testament into clean and unclean it was never a statement about the value of the animals. Rather it was a health principle. God then used this system which Peter knew well to open his mind and heart to a radical new idea. When it comes to people, no one is unclean. Peter was at first confused by the vision. Then God told him: "Three men are here to see you. Go down and go with them doubting nothing, for I have sent them."
God is about to obliterate another wall. Tomorrow we'll see what happened next.