I am so excited about a weekly feature on Kathy's blog, Sumballo. She is writing a post or two every week that provide tools for in-depth Bible study. This week, she teaches about pericope. It is a Greek word (pa-RIH-kōp-ee) that means “cutting around.” (I will be teaching the kids this word at the breakfast table this morning.) Interested? Stop by her site for more information.
We've taken to callling them the Barrel of Monkeys books, Luke and Acts that is. You see, you cannot look at an event written in either of these books without looking at what comes before and aft. They all hook together like one long chain. To help my little ones understand this concept, I put it in kid terms, "Kind of like the way the monkeys hook together in the Barrel of Monkeys game."
Their eyes lit up. They know about these monkeys. "Ooohhh!"
And now each meal begins with the request, "Read the Monkey Book, Mama."
I made some interesting discoveries this week in the second monkey book, the book of Acts. In Acts 10:9 Peter goes up to a roof top to pray and as he is praying, a sheet full of all kinds of animals, clean and unclean to the Jewish mind, is lowered down in front of him.
"Get up , Peter. Kill and eat."
I love Peter's response. It is eight years after the Pentecost and his first response is still to say "Surely not, Lord." Surely not. Surely you will not wash my feet. Surely you will not suffer and die.
He says, "Surely not." but when we look at the preceding link, Acts 9:43, we find out that Peter is staying in Joppa at the home of a tanner. A tanner. An unclean profession if there ever was one. Peter is already pushing the limits. He is already living on the edge. God has brought him this far, to a tanner's house in Joppa, and now He's ready to push Peter's envelope a little further.
God has prepared Peter for this task and he has also prepared the hearts of those whom Peter will be meeting. In the final link, we arrive at the house of Cornelius. This man is an Italian centurion who had volunteered for duty, a Gentile living in Caesarea, a predominately Gentile city. Three strikes against him. Three strikes that Peter ignores in favor of obedience. Peter goes to Cornelius' house, he shares an eye-witness account of the death and resurrection of his Lord and he sticks around. Because he stays, Peter witnesses the power of the Holy Spirit come upon these Gentiles in the identical manner that He came upon the Jews during the Pentecost. This shocks the Jewish believers in the room, shocks them and blesses them at the same time. A new era is ushured in in Cornelius' living room.
I am reminded of another man who was called from Joppa to deliver a message to the Assyrians, to plead with them to turn from their wickedness. He does the turning instead. Jonah turns his back on God and rushes in the opposite direction. God resorts to drastic measures to exact obedience from this reluctant messenger. Again, the hearts of the people are prepared to hear the message. Repent. But Jonah does not stick around to see the results. He climbs a hill overlooking the city and watches for its destruction. He is not at all interested in seeing restoration come to this city of Gentiles. He chooses bitterness over blessing.
As I am reading these days, reading the Bible and blogs and newspapers, I am continually faced with the fact that not all people think like I do. Not all people live like I do. Unlike Peter, Jonah was unwilling to accept the fact that God offers mercy to those unlike himself. Peter gradually worked his way out of his comfort zone to be able to interact with the Caesareans. I need to be doing the same.
(My guess is that the pericope for this story of Peter and Cornelius begins in Acts 10:1 and ends with Acts 11:18)