When Peter was brought to the home of Cornelius and was given the opportunity to speak, he began with a few basic facts that they already knew. As my sixth-grade teacher used to always say, “Take them from the known to the unknown.” So Peter began with a basic and very understated review.
In the main, they knew about the ministry of Jesus, beginning with His baptism by John (Acts 10:37). And they knew, again in generalities, of all the wonderful things that Jesus did and how the Jews had put Him to death on a cross (10:38-39). From those well-established points, Peter then explains that God raised Him and granted that certain men and women who knew Jesus well would see Him for a period of time in His resurrected glory (10:40-41). Additionally, God appointed men who had been with Jesus to be eyewitnesses of His resurrection and to confirm what the prophets had previously stated—that in the name of Christ there is forgiveness of sins to those that believe (10:42-43).
As already indicated, when Peter described the character of Jesus, he did so in a very understated way. “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, …and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil…” (10:38). Talk about high-altitude preaching! All the details and particulars of the ministry of Jesus are summed up with, “He went about doing good.” And that was followed up with the reminder that the Jews wanted to kill Him and succeeded. Which begs the question: Why? Why was a man who went about doing good despised so much?
This loathing of Jesus was a matter of prophecy. He would be “despised by the people” (Ps. 22:6). “He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3). To despise is to hold someone in contempt. To hate them, to loathe them, or to find them deplorable. But why did they despise the Man who went about doing good?
In the earliest days of His ministry, Jesus explained to Nicodemus that men do evil and love the darkness that hides their evil (Jn. 3:19). Jesus referred to Himself as the Light and tells Nicodemus that man will hate Him because as the Light, He does what light does in the darkness. His deeds and His words will shine divine light on the evil of men who have cloaked their sin in the robes of righteousness so well that even a God-fearing Jew doesn’t see their evil motives (Jn. 3:19-20).
To paint the religious leadership of the Jewish nation as evil and as hypocrites (14 times in Matthew) is sure to engender the worst kind of hatred. What was so evil about these leaders? It isn’t as though they were committing genocide like Hitler or Stalin. It isn’t as though they bilked billions from their people and tucked it all away in some offshore numbered account. What was so evil?
They enforced traditions that made men disobey God’s will, and they were very good at it (Mk. 7:8-9). They so complicated the teachings of the Law of Moses that it was almost impossible for a common man to live by the Law of Moses. Not keeping their traditions would cause one to be put out of the synagogue and to be so ostracized that life was unbearable. To the pure in heart who only wanted to follow God, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” (Mt. 11:28-30). As appealing and comforting as that sounded to the people, it enraged the men whose deeds were evil.
Christianity is under attack today by those who have inserted so many traditions and denied so much of the Bible. And it is under attack by those whose traditions seem harmless but deny what the Bible says we must do to be saved. And all who are under the influence of this present evil need to hear the Lord’s invitation to come unto Him. But don’t give up, and don’t be frightened by evildoers. There are plenty of men and women just like Cornelius who simply need to hear the truth from you about the One who went about doing good.
Keep studying. DC Brown ©2016