On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew near to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:…
1. "A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27; James 1:17). As a single seed of corn cannot unfold itself without the quickening influence and care of God, so the immortal seed, through which we become "the first fruits of His creatures," must be vivified by the Almighty! We do not see this influence descend; we only observe the unfolding after it is completed. We see the rose bloom, but not the act of blossoming; but how can we doubt the care of an Almighty hand, or the wafting around it of an invisible breath? All depends on God's blessing (2 Corinthians 3:5). How could we come to God if God had not first come to us! He must bless our labour, and work in us both to will and to do. This work of God in us is a mystery, yet not altogether incomprehensible; it is like the visible and palpable influence of the sun. In order to exhibit this truth we have here a visible example of the invisible influence of God, and of the descent of His Holy Spirit. We may also be assured from the history that if we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all things that we need shall be added unto us.
2. The gospel history has depicted with peculiar openness the character of Peter. The Lord had given him the surname of "Rock," not merely in reference to what he should become, but also to that which he was by nature. He was distinguished from the rest of our Lord's followers by an impetuosity of temper which seems to have been born with him, and which showed itself by obstinately holding any opinion which the mind had once embraced. None of the disciples gainsaid our Lord so often as Peter. When Jesus told them of His approaching sufferings, he said, "Be it far from Thee." When Jesus washed the disciples' feet, Peter withstood Him. In his fall also, in spite of his better judgment, he showed a stubborn obstinacy. He also subjected himself in Antioch to the severe reproof of Paul, when, to please the Jews, he once more came under the bondage of the Levitical law, to the offence of the Gentile Church. The Bible has never been silent with regard to the human weakness and errors of its heroes.
3. It appears to have been particularly difficult for the apostle to comprehend the counsel of God with regard to the calling of the Gentiles. Though he had announced at Pentecost that the Lord was about to call those who were afar off, yet he did not say this from himself, but from the Spirit of the Lord. The time and the hour, the grand moment of the second birth of the world, was now come. Our Lord had often alluded to it before, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold," etc. On another occasion He praised and rewarded the faith both of a Canaanitish woman and a Gentile centurion. He had also commanded His apostles to go to all nations and preach the gospel to every creature. Peter, who found it so difficult to wean himself from the old covenant, had to begin the work of God among the Gentiles. The beginning, however, must first be made in himself.
4. Peter went up about midday to pray on the flat roof of the house. The Jews were fond of praying there under the open heaven, because they were here undisturbed, and could turn their face towards the temple. In this circumstance we may perceive how Peter continued faithfully to observe the rules and customs of Judaism, little aware that they were soon to cease, and give place to the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. After he had finished his prayer "he became very hungry, and would have eaten," but he must now be fed with other food. He was entranced, i.e., transported out of his natural state into a supernatural one; his outward senses were closed, but the eyes of his inner man were opened, that he might behold heavenly things. "He saw heaven opened," etc. This was done thrice, to strengthen the impression of the Divine testimony. In this vision we behold the condescension of our Lord. The whole of revelation is a letting down, a humanisation of the invisible God; through it alone can man come to his heavenly Father and become His child. Almost all the Old Testament consists of types and similitudes. Even in this day of light we see through a glass darkly the secrets of the future and perfected kingdom of heaven; yet the time shall come when we shall see them face to face. Thus the Apostle Peter, like all the prophets who were before him, was led to a higher knowledge gradually. We see also in this vision that something entirely new was about to begin in the kingdom of God upon earth. The prophet had for ages foretold it; and our Lord Himself had ordained and predicted it; but the contracted view of the disciples could not distinguish it; therefore the thing itself was done, and they were led to comprehend it slowly and gradually. The lightning's flash destroys the aged tree; but the gentle daylight develops a new life out of what seems passed away and decayed. This new light removed the old covenant and declared the new, by which all the Gentiles, without the law, were led into the path of grace.
5. The time of distinction and separation was now to cease (Ephesians 2:13-16). "Kill and eat," said the voice; the same which commanded Isaiah to write, "They shall bring an offering unto the Lord out of all nations," (chap. Isaiah 66); the same which inspired Paul to say in Romans (chap. Romans 15), "That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost." The sanctification of the Gentiles has been going on, even to the present day, and will continue to go on until all be fulfilled which God has promised. Conclusion: We have visions and words from heaven no longer; we have both in our Bible; nor is there ever awanting a manifestation of the mind of God in daily occurrences, in providential events, and, above all, in the secret history of our souls; thus beholding God in everything, what is in itself common and unclean becomes purified and sanctified; and in this way is the grace of God revealed to all men.
(F. A. Krummacher, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: