Read: Luke 5:1-11; Acts 10:1-40
Today is Veterans Day; so before honoring a soldier who served his country 2,000 years ago, may I simply say that we appreciate the veterans who live here in Hot Springs. Thank you for your service, and thank you to your families who served at home or beside you, often in faraway places.
Before meeting the aforementioned soldier who lived so long ago, let's remember a much more well-known man. A fisherman named Simon Peter. When we encounter him in Luke 5:1-11, we learn the story of how Jesus began to change Peter's perspective. Yes, fishing would continue to be a part of his life, but the type of fish he would be catching would change. I love Peter because he wasn't afraid to speak. Oh yes, sometimes he had to walk back his words, but as we observe him, we discover that he really did love Jesus, but as is true with each of us, he had much to learn. In this incident in Luke, Jesus had used Peter's boat for His pulpit. After Jesus teaching was over, the Master told Peter to go out into the deep water for a catch. Peter did what he was told but not before reminding Jesus that they hadn't caught anything when the conditions were favorable. Can we imagine how wonderfully surprising it was when the catch was so great that Peter had to signal for help to bring it in? Is it any wonder that when Simon Peter saw this miraculous catch, he was struck with his sinfulness. That was when Jesus told him he would go from a catcher of fish to a catcher of men as he and the others followed Him. What would this look like? Thankfully, in Acts 10, we have an actual incident to show us.
Here is where we meet Cornelius our soldier. In the incident in Acts 10, we watch as Peter shows us what it looked like when he fished for men. He listened to the Lord and followed His instructions, and the result was that the life of a Roman centurion became new. As an aside, it is interesting that the centurions that the Bible mentions are apparently decent men, and Cornelius is described as God-fearing. He is a man who gave alms and offered prayers to God, and his family followed in his footsteps. Then it happened. An angel told Cornelius that God had seen his works and heard his prayers. He was to send for Peter who was staying at a tanner's house in Joppa by the sea. The soldier's reaction? He immediately sent devout trusted men to bring back Peter, and he gathered family members and friends to be waiting to hear him upon his return. He was anxious to hear whatever Peter would tell him.
Meanwhile, back in Joppa, Peter was about to receive a lesson in following Jesus. It all began when he went up on to the flat roof to wait for lunch to be prepared. That's when the Lord gave him a vision. A large sheet with lots of unclean animals on it, and not only that! He received strange instructions. He was to kill the animals and eat them. Once again, Peter spoke. He spoke two words that don't go together. upon hearing this command, he said " no Lord." He made it clear that he had never done such a thing. God's response? “Don't call what I have cleansed unclean.”
The teaching wasn't done. God then told His man that men were coming. He was to go with them without reservation. God's commands were to be followed, and Peter was learning an incredibly surprising message from the Master Fisherman. The message of the Gospel was to go out to the Gentiles. Peter followed Jesus by obeying the words he heard, and the next day, he accompanied the visitors who had come back to Joppa. That's when the soldier met the fisherman. Two worlds that were so different. Two people groups that had little in common; yet, there was one God Who had torn down the wall that had separated them, Ephesians 2:14. Because of that, the soldier gladly listened to the fisherman and the fisherman gladly told the Good News of salvation to the soldier.
Now that's a wonderful fish story. Peter learned more about God and he therefore held out the truth to the ones whom God wanted him to encounter. Peter learned that God was no respecter of persons. When he and the men with him saw that the Gentiles had also received the Holy Spirit, Peter knew more of the depth and magnitude of God's love. Limitless. All could come into the net if they would come God's way, John 14:6.
In the soldier's story, we see how God intertwined two lives. We also are reminded of a precious truth. If a person longs to know more about God as Cornelius did, God will make the fullness of His love known to him. No, the Lord might not send someone like Peter, but the One Who knows each star, Psalm 147:4 has no limits concerning how He might reach an open heart. With that in mind, if I may offer a prayer for our veterans here in Hot Springs.
Lord, as You found Cornelius and made Yourself known to him, please pour out Your love on our veterans. Please meet each of them at his/her point of need.