Wow! Things were happening in Joppa! Peter arrived on the scene to pray over Dorcas and she was brought back to life! Don’t you know that people were talking all over the small town after that miracle? The scripture says in Acts 9:43 that Peter stayed in Joppa for many days with Simon, a tanner. When we are in Joppa, you will see a small, privately owned residence with a sign over it that says it was the residence of Simon. Of course, no one really knows the exact location, but we do know that he was near the sea (10:6) which would provide ocean breezes at his home. This would be important since he worked with animal hides.
In Acts 10:1-8 we see what is happening in another location 31 miles north of Joppa–a city named Caesarea by the Sea. Caesarea was the seat of the Roman government of Judea. It appears that Caesarea was where Philip eventually settled (21:8). Caesarea had been rebuilt by Herod the Great and he had greatly improved the harbor that was there. Excavations have uncovered the port and the theater, an amphitheater where horse races were held, a palace and a great raised aqueduct. Herod also built a temple to Augustus there. An inscription was found in the theater which mentions Pontius Pilate. (We will see it as well as seeing the remains of the palace, the theater, the amphitheater and the harbor! We will also take a short drive to see the aqueduct!)
In the city of Caesarea lived a centurion of “what was known as the Italian cohort” named Cornelius. (A centurion was the commander of 100 men and the cohort could have been a group of men numbering anywhere between 600 and 1000 men. Ten cohorts formed a legion.) Centurions were paid very well (as much as 5 times the amount of a regular soldier) so Cornelius would have been socially prominent and wealthy. (ESV Study Bible; Crossway)
Read Acts 10:1-8 and answer the following:
- At what time was Cornelius praying?
- What happened during this prayer time?
- What did the angel say to Cornelius?
- How did Cornelius act on this vision?
Read the following verses:
10:2; 10:22; 13:16 and 26
- How do these verses describe Cornelius and what do they tell you about being a God-fearer?
A God fearing man described here worshipped Israel’s God and attended a synagogue but did not follow the Jewish traditions such as circumcision. However, he did follow two of the Jewish expressions of faith: prayer and the giving of alms which are gifts to the poor. (ESV study Bible)
- What do you think it means in verse 4 that his gifts ascended as a “memorial before God”? (Also see Phil. 4:18)
- Verses 7-8 indicate that he sent two servants and a “devout” soldier. The commentaries said that this was likely a soldier who was also a God fearer.
The timing of these events are critical. God has such a way of orchestrating the things that happen in our lives. He is always at work preparing the hearts of the ones who are to go and the ones who are to receive what He has for them.
The ninth hour was 3:oo in the afternoon. The following day as the two servants and soldier were approaching the city, God was busy preparing Peter for their arrival.
Read Acts 10:9-23a.
- When does the scripture say that Peter went up on the housetop to pray? (Time and who was approaching the city?)
- What vision did Peter see as he was hungry and waiting for lunch to be prepared?
- How many times did Peter see the vision?
- Why do you think that God gave Peter this vision? What do you think God was telling Peter about the gospel?
- What happens as Peter is trying to figure out this vision?
- What does God tell Peter next?
- What is Peter’s response to the guests?
Read Acts 10: 23b-48
- When Peter entered the home of Cornelius who was there?
- What did Cornelius do when he saw Peter? What was Peter’s reaction?
- Read Acts 12:20-23. What was Herod’s response when people bowed down to him? What was the result?
- What did Peter tell the people who were gathered there?
- What did Cornelius say was the reason they were there?
- Summarize what Peter told them in verses 34-43.
- Why do you think he said that they “ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead”?
- In verses 44-48 what is described? Peter’s reaction?
The fact that he remained with them for some days probably indicates that he was willing to also share meals with them. (11:3) Sharing meals with Gentiles was a bold step for a Jew who is usually very concerned about clean and unclean foods.
Read Acts 11:17-18. “Repentance that leads to life”! God has granted each of us repentance that leads to life!
As you reflect on the study today and the places of Joppa and Caesarea, picture the events happening. Picture Peter staying with Simon, the tanner, near the port in Joppa. Picture him atop the flat house before lunch, spending time with God in prayer. Imagine him hearing the three men knocking on the door and visiting with them. Then, picture him making the journey to Caesarea eleven miles to the north and arriving at the home of Cornelius. Envision how excited the group with Cornelius must have been when they saw Peter and embraced his message! God so desires that we know about Him and the salvation that He offers. Contemplate how He orchestrated all of this in the lives of Cornelius and Peter and prepared both of them to hear from Him about the salvation that is available to all.
- How can you apply this to your own life?
- Are you aware that God is preparing you for something? Perhaps He is preparing you to speak with someone about His salvation? If He is…then this passage also lets us know that He is preparing that person to hear the message, too!
- Does this passage increase your faith in any way?
- We often worry about how and when things may happen in our lives. Does this passage encourage you that God is in control and is preparing the way for us?
- Does this passage change your thoughts on prayer at all? In what ways?
- What can be learned by reading about Peter? Cornelius? The soldier and servants? The people waiting at Cornelius’ home?