Adventures with Peter: A New Vision!
State Street UMC, Bristol, VA
written by Jaymie Derden
Overview of the Workshops:
- Movie: Children will view clips from two videos about the story: Friends and Heroes Series: A Friend in High Places and The Visual Bible: Acts.
- Art: Children will illustrate Peter's dream using the technique of Mexican Indian Huichol Yarn paintings - thanks for the idea Carol Hulbert!
- Drama: Children will act out the story and continue the Photo Storybook of Peter's life.
- Computers: Children will explore the concept of inclusion through the software Actual Reality and Kid Pix - based on a lesson idea posted by Trinity UCC.
This was part of a summer series on Peter. In previous rotations we studied Peter's denial, his restoration by Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Peter's healing of a lame man at the Temple gate. In this rotation we continued our study of Peter's transformation with the story of Peter's vision and his meeting with the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.
Acts 10 (page 363-364 Little Kids' Adventure Bible)
“The Story of Cornelius” (page 374-376 Little Kids’ Adventure Bible)
"God, A Roman and a Jew," The Picture Bible (pages 708-710)
Memory Verse: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism." Acts 10:34
Theme: God's love and salvation is for everyone! God pours out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles!
- "Old Testament Books of the Bible," Troy And Genie Nilsson
- "New Testament Books Of The Bible," Troy and Genie Nilsson
- "Carry it On," Seeds of Faith, 2007.
- "God Who Began a Good Work in You," Chris Hughes and Ed Kilbourne, Light the Fire.
- "Jesus is Calling You," Circus Spectacular VBS, 2006.
- “Light the Fire,” Light the Fire, Chris Hughes and Ed Kilbourne, Fly By Night Records, 1997.
- “Spirit, Fall on Me,” Silence the Rocks, Don Washburn, Digisound Productions Studio.
- “Come on Christian, Get on Fire,” RPM, Volume 1, One Way Street.
- “Spirit, Come Down,” Faithsongs, Abingdon Press, 2003.
- “Undignified," Judah, River Ablaze, Epiphany Music, 1998.
- “Power of God,” RPM, Volume 3: Replaying the Hits, One Way Street, 1999.
- “Lord I lift your name on High," The Katinas, Lifestyle: A Worship Experience, Gotee Records, 2002.
Special Bible Notes:
NIV: Adventure Bible
Did you Know? Why did God send Peter a vision? (page 1211)
Objectives and Life Application:
- Children will locate the story in the Bible.
- Children will define Acts as a New Testament book of history.
- Children will retell the story in their own words.
- Children will discuss Jewish dietary laws and the implication for the early church.
- Children will identify Pentecost as the day God's gift of the Holy Spirit came to the Jewish believers.
- Children will identify Cornelius as a Gentile and a Roman centurion.
- Children will define: Gentile, centurion.
- Children will locate Joppa, Jerusalem and Caesarea on the map.
- Children will understand that God desires everyone to be saved.
- Children will understand that salvation comes through belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
- Children will memorize Acts 10:34.
Background Information for Teachers
What's in a Name?
When Peter first appears in the gospels, his name is Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah). Jesus changes Simon's name to Cephas (Aramaic) or Petros (Peter - Greek). Jona means dove, while Cephas and Peter mean rock. Jesus is essentially saying to Peter, "Once you were just a flitting, fluttering dove. If you will trust me as your Lord, I will make you into a rock." As we have seen in our last two rotations (Peter's Denial and Peter's Restoration), Peter has not always acted "rock-like." Peter's name change is a reflection of who he wouldbecome, not who he already was. Each of us has a "next step" in our discipleship. As with Peter, God sees our potential and yearns for us to fulfill it.
Who is Peter?
We know a great deal about the disciple, Peter primarily due to his close relationship with Mark, the writer of the gospel. In fact, many Bible scholars believe Mark's gospel to be composed of a compilation of Peter's preaching and personality. The word "euthus" means immediately or straight-away and is used throughout Mark's gospel. Peter was a man of action, with a quick temper and impulsive nature, typical of Galileans. One who acts without thinking is prone to make mistakes. To Peter's credit, he does not hold back his many mistakes and blunders. Peter wants everyone to experience, as he has, the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter was a fisherman, in partnership with James and John. He was married and lived in Capernaum in Galilee. Peter quickly became a leader among the disciples. Matthew begins the list of disciples with "the first, (protos) Simon." Protos means first, but it also means chief. Peter was in fact the chief among the disciples. Peter also was part of the inner circle of three (Peter, James and John) who were closest to Jesus.
In our previous rotations, we have seen Peter experience a whirlwind of emotions…. from boasting about his faithfulness to Jesus ("Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." Matthew 26:35) to his denial in the courtyard of the high priest, to his restoration by Jesus on the beach…. then, with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we see a new and transformed Peter. Peter has received power and courage – gifts of the Holy Spirit. Peter now bravely proclaims the gospel and heals many in Jesus’ name.
What is Pentecost?
Jewish people celebrate a series of feasts or festivals throughout the year. At the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or Pentecost Jewish people were instructed to bring two loaves made from the wheat harvest and the harvest was dedicated to God as its giver. (Lev. 23:15-16) It is held exactly fifty days after First Fruits (Easter). Pentecost means 50 days. On this day the Holy Spirit came to the disciples bringing them the power of the Holy Spirit to give them strength to share Jesus’ message with the world.
Who is the Holy Spirit? What is the Trinity?
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), our "three-in-one” God. He is God. Like God, the Holy Spirit is eternal, present everywhere, and equal with God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit does exactly the things that Jesus did, for the Holy Spirit is Jesus, now with us. "We believe in one God. God has entered human history as Jesus. God's Spirit, the same Spirit that filled Jesus is in the hearts and minds of believers." The Holy Spirit brings God closer, nearer to us, truly “God with us,” in a very intimate way.
Old Testament Connection
The Holy Spirit did not just suddenly appear on Pentecost. He has existed since the beginning with Father and Son. The Old Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of the Lord.” (Other expressions used are the "Holy Spirit" and the "Spirit of Jesus.") In Old Testament writings the Spirit’s activity is more selective, descending specifically upon certain individuals to accomplish God’s work for a finite time. But the prophet Joel foresaw a day when God would say,
“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.”
Holy Spirit comes to Jews & Gentile in Acts
In Acts 2, we see the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Jews at Pentecost. But God has a bigger plan. In Acts 10, we see God’s ultimate plan of salvation unfolding before us. With Peter's vision and subsequent visit to Cornelius, we see the Gentile Pentecost, as God pours out his Spirit upon the Gentiles.
The word Gentile comes from the Latin word gens meaning nation. Anyone who is not Jewish is Gentile.
Jews were forbidden to associate with Gentiles. They did so at the risk of becoming ceremonially unclean, requiring an elaborate set of rituals before they could participate in worship again. It can be difficult for us to understand the mindset of first century Jewish believers. The Jews were very sensitive about foreigners. For years they had experienced foreign occupation and subservience to others. Wars, bondage and persecution followed! No pious Jew would ever enter a Gentile's home! The early church was astounded to see the Holy Spirit come to the Gentiles. It was a radical reorientation of their understanding of God and themselves as God's chosen people.
Peter and Cornelius
This month we will explore the story of Peter's vision and God's gift of the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and the Gentiles. We will see the progression and growth of the early church. While studying the individual stories of Peter, it's important to adjust our focus so that we do not miss the big picture -- the unfolding of God's plan of salvation for the world. In the book of Acts we see the birth of the Christian church and its expansion to:
Jerusalem - Acts 1-7
Judea and Samaria - Acts 8-12
Gentile converts - Acts 10
The whole world - Acts 13-18
(see attached diagram showing the progression of the early church)
This month we will explore how the Gentile believers were suddenly welcomed into the church with the same rights and privileges as Jewish believers. Peter was at the center of this dramatic and radical change!
Cornelius has a Vision
Caesarea, a harbor town named for Caesar Augustus, was the headquarters for the Roman forces. A Roman centurion named Cornelius lived there. (A centurion commanded a military unit of at least 100 men. Centurions were carefully selected for their leadership and noble qualities.) Cornelius was a monotheist and a pious follower of God. Most Gentiles believed in many gods. He was a well-respected man of prayer and compassion. Although a Gentile, he followed many of the Jewish religious practices such as daily prayer at specified times throughout the day and generosity to the poor.
One day as Cornelius prayed at the designated time in the afternoon (3:00 p.m.), he had a vision. An angel instructed him to send men to Joppa to the house of Simon, the tanner, and bring back Peter who was staying there. Cornelius immediately sent servants and a soldier to Joppa. Meanwhile….
Peter was indeed in Joppa, just as the angel had said. Joppa (modern day Jaffa), is a port city about 35 miles from Jerusalem. And Peter was staying with a tanner named Simon. It's surprising that Peter would be staying there, for a tanner was considered unclean due to contact with dead animals and using urine to cure hides. It seems Peter is already beginning to reject some of the rigid Jewish laws. That is about to increase dramatically!
As Cornelius' men were approaching the city, Peter went up on the rooftop to pray. (Eastern houses were typically made with flat roofs and outside staircases, providing privacy for prayer.) He was hungry and wanted something to eat. As the food was being prepared, he fell into a spiritual trance. He saw a vision of what appeared to be a large sheet with four corners (representing the whole world) being lowered from heaven (coming from God) and filled with every type of animal, many considered unclean to a Jew.
A voice proclaimed, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." (Acts 10:13). Food laws were originally meant to separate God's covenant people from all others (see Leviticus 11). The Jews were meant to be different, set apart following carefully prescribed laws. (see attached handout on Kosher dietary laws)
Peter recoiled, "Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice responded, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Three times this was repeated. In biblical narratives, repetition is a common literary technique used for emphasis.
Clean and Unclean
According to Mosaic law, the Jewish people were to distinguish between the “clean” and the “unclean” in the food that they ate, but true cleanness was a matter of the heart and of one’s obedience to the law of God. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). When the Israelites disobeyed God, they were sent from their land and intermingled with the Gentiles, where they were forced to eat unclean foods.
Christ's Sacrifice Final Cleansing
The sacrificial system provided for temporary cleansing and the annual “day of atonement” (Leviticus 16) provided an annual cleansing of the sins of the nation. But the full and final cleansing would come through the Messiah. (Isaiah 4:2-6; Jeremiah 33:7-9; Ezekiel 33:22-38).
Jesus spoke often about what was "clean" and "unclean." He repeatedly rebuked the externalism of the Pharisees, who looked to outside appearances and not to the heart (Luke 16:15). He spoke of uncleanness as something originating from within (from the heart) and which works itself out through behavior and external acts. Jesus pointed to our sin as the source of our defilement. And in Mark 17:9 Jesus declared all foods clean.
Christ's death accomplished full and final cleansing, for the sins of all who would believe in Christ. As a result, there is no longer a need to distinguish between “clean” and “unclean" things. This cleansing was not for only the Jews. It extended to all whose hearts turned to God and who proclaimed Jesus as God’s Messiah. This cleansing was complete, even bringing near to God those whom the law would have kept at a distance. Isaiah prophesied about such a time, "Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, 'The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.'” (Isaiah 56:3)
Christ's sacrifice made obsolete the ceremonial food laws. True cleansing was internal, a cleansing from sin. True cleansing came through the cross, not through ceremonial rituals. And so, these convictions, such a part of Peter's identity, must be set aside.
Peter Ponders Meaning of his Vision
But Peter does not understand the implications of all of this quite yet. For the revelation he has received is not just about food…. It is about people!
As Peter is pondering the meaning of his vision, a knock comes at the door. It is the delegation sent by Cornelius. Peter invites them in and listens to their story. By welcoming them into his home, Peter takes another step away from rigid Jewish rules and a step toward acceptance of the Gentiles and God's vision. The next day Peter sets out for Caesarea with his visitors.
Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered his family and close friends. When Peter arrives, there is a crowd to greet him. Up to this point, Peter has been convinced he is supposed to associate with these Gentiles and he invited them to stay overnight at Simon’s house. He was even willing to go with them to the home of Cornelius. But now that he is here, what is he to do? He only knows God wants him here.
Peter begins by reviewing the fact that Jews do not associate with Gentiles. "But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean." (Acts 10:28)
Next Cornelius explains his vision and how he had come to call for Peter. Now Peter realizes he has been brought to this home to speak the gospel to this group of Gentiles. This must have been a profound revelation to Peter! In verses 36-43, Peter, in simple terms, does exactly that, as he preaches the first sermon to the Gentiles.
"I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism," (Acts 10:34). He continues, sharing the gospel of Jesus with those present. The salvation Jesus has provided is for all who would believe, not just to the Jews, for "…everyone who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43).
As Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon those present. The Jewish believers are astonished to see the Gentiles speaking in tongues and praising God. It is obvious to all present that the Gentiles have received the same Holy Spirit the Jews received at Pentecost. Peter now realizes the meaning of his vision -- the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been removed. The very words he had spoken at Pentecost were true.
What God had considered unlawful, has now changed. No person can be considered holy or unholy by his background. This is a powerful truth that should fully impact our lives. There is no room for prejudice. God shows us there is a greater covenant that we are to abide by - God's love and grace is for everyone.
When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was questioned about his actions but as he described the experience, the believers no longer objected and they praised God saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18)
This story represents a great turning point in religious history. The Old Testament foretold that God would also include the Gentiles in his plan of salvation. Now it has happened. Through this story we see that the circle of God's love includes everyone. God wants everyone to believe in Jesus and trust in him for salvation. No matter how different, God loves everyone and wants us to love them as well, and help them to know Jesus.
This summer we will explore several of Peter's adventures and his contributions to the early Christian Church. Children will see how Peter becomes an important leader in the early church and how God uses him to share the gospel message with others.
Sources: The Seven Feasts of Israel by Zola Levitt, The IVP Bible Background Commentary - New Testament by Craig S. Keener, Smith’s Bible Dictionary by William Smith, Christian Believer - Knowing God with Heart and Mind Study Manual by J. Ellsworth Kalas; I Want to Know About the Holy Spirit, Rick Osborne and K. Christie Bowler, Zonderkidz, 1998; A Commentary on Acts of Apostles, 1863, J. W. McGarvey; Cleveland Bible Commentary on Acts 3, Sydney M. Cleveland; The Master's Men, William Barclay, Abingdon Press, 1959; Disciple II Into the Word, Into the World, Study Manual, Cokesbury, 1991; The 13 Apostles, J. Ellsworth Kalas, Abingdon Press 2002; Bible Teacher's Commentary, Lawrence O. Richards, Cook Communications Ministries, 2002; Richard's complete Bible Dictionary, Lawrence O. Richards, World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa, 1984; Acts for our Time, Charles Yrigoyen, Jr.; Peter & Cornelius Lives Intersect - Acts 10:17-48
Christian Courier: Six Great Truths Cornelius Can Teach Us
Written by Jaymie Derden,
State Street UMC - G.R.E.A.T. Adventure, 2003 (revised 2009)
We also included the Summary of “Kosher” Rules