Jesus’s words were playing out right in front of their eyes. He had told the disciples, just before leaving and returning to heaven that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In Acts 10, the ends of the earth are opening up to them right before their eyes.
We had seen another time, when Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch on the southern road out of Israel, that there was a Gentile who was receiving Christ. Here in this scene in Acts 10, though, we see Peter, who is the de facto leader of the Apostles, have the experience of having a vision, and have the experience of seeing multiple Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit. This was a story that he will be able to tell everyone to confirm that the Gentiles, indeed, can now come to God through Christ. God has opened the way for the rest of the world to be reconciled to Him!
We had seen thousands of people come to Christ in Jerusalem, even on the first day that the Holy Spirit had been poured out at Pentacost.
Then we saw that the movement was beginning to spread throughout Judea as believers begin to show up outside of Jerusalem and we see it spread throughout the area.
Then in Acts 8, as the church was persecuted and scattered, we see Philip followed by Peter and John in Samaria, and new disciples begin to be made in that area as well.
Now, as Peter is summoned to go to Caesarea, he comes to the house of a centurion, a Roman, the very people that represent the political oppression of the Jewish people. These are the people that would never be able to enter the Kingdom of God, and yet that is exactly what happens. An angel speaks to Cornelius, the centurion. Jesus and the Holy Spirit speak to Peter. Then they speak to one another and the Holy Spirit comes upon these Gentiles and they are baptized.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”Acts 10:44-47
And this story sets off an incredible series of events. Peter goes back to the rest of the apostles to tell them what has happened, making it now acceptable for the believers to speak to the Gentiles and see them come to faith in Christ. In the meantime, Jesus has also called Saul who will be Christ’s chosen instrument to take the message to the rest of the Gentile world. Jesus is moving aggressively through his disciples – now apostles – to make the Kingdom of God known to the ends of the earth, just as he had said.
We should do no less. The ends of the earth are available to us at this time in history unlike any other time. Whether we think about the internet or our ability to travel to any part of the earth within a few hours, we have reach to the ends of the earth. This movement, to see Christ proclaimed and see the Kingdom of God expand to the ends of the earth, began to have fulfillment at Cornelius’s house, but continues with us even today.