Three or four years after Jesus was baptized, Peter walked into a house, the house of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius was a Roman, but he wanted to follow the God of the Jews. Through visions that both Cornelius and Peter had, against all odds and against all political and religious protocols, Peter walks into Cornelius’s house to talk about Jesus.
If this were now, Peter would set up a pocket size projector, would show some powerpoint slides to help him tell the story.
And the first slide he put on the screen was that first family portrait. Jesus, water still dripping from his tunic, drenching his hair. The Spirit on his head or shoulder. The light in the sky reflecting the light in his eyes, the intensity of his gaze. It was, as Peter says, God anointing Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.
In the darkened room, Peter flipped through the images. Jesus in the towns, healing. On the hills and in the synagogues teaching. Everyone smiling.
And then the images get darker.
Jesus being beaten by Roman soldiers.
Everyone looks sideways at Cornelius.
Cornelius stares at the screen.
Peter doesn’t stop. He starts talking about a resurrection after 3 days, about appearances all around. Peter talks about a day on a hill when Jesus gives a command to his followers: Go everywhere and teach everyone about this resurrection, this good news. Tell everyone that the words spoken by the prophets have come true. Make it clear that anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, will have forgiveness.
Peter stops. He’s thinking, Cornelius is thinking. Everyone is thinking.
The story that started long before the baptism of Jesus, that was captured in the family picture, that brought Peter the Jew and Cornelius the Roman into conversation about the risen Jesus, was amazing.
And then, the thoughts of everyone were disrupted by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The room was full of speaking in different tongues.
And for the first official time, Gentiles were baptized, not with John’s baptism of repentance, but with Jesus’s baptism of belief.
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