I love the old movies when a king, a Caesar, or a Warlord walks in and everyone bows and takes a knee. Their respect and honour is shown through this simple act. This act, this gesture, is indicative of deep respect tinged with awe – it is called reverence.
As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.
Cornelius was a Centurion at Caesarea, named in honour of Augustus Caesar and headquarters for the Roman forces of occupation. Most Centurians commanded at least 100 men. However, the Roman Legion (about 6,000 men) was divided into 10 regiments, each of which had a designation. This was the “Italian Regiment” (another was the ‘Imperial’ or ‘Augustan’). And in this case, the Centurian commanded about a sixth of a regiment – 1000 men. Centurions were carefully selected; all of them mentioned in the New Testament appear to have noble qualities. The Roman Centurions provided necessary stability to the entire Roman system.
Cornelius was no slouch. Commander of a 1,000 men and an occupying force. He was sharp, smart, respected and knew what it meant to serve a lord like Caesar. He was reverent and respectful. But most of all:
He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
He has just had a visit from an angel. A fearful and wondrous thing:
One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.
And Peter has now arrived. In Cornelius’ mind he must be very special… the introduction to Peter is stunning to say the least. “As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. ” This is Cornelius, a Centurion, leader of the occupying force!
But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only human myself.”
Peter knows his position well. There is no false humility here. He recognises he is nothing and Jesus is everything. His message is from the One who sent him… he is but a messenger and not the One to be revered.
Mutual respect and humility. What a ground to stand upon. An open heart ready to listen and an open heart ready to teach.
Today, do we know what it means to be reverent? Is there anyone worthy of such reverence? Would we hang on their every word? Who would you put in that category? Who will you listen to?
Would God fall into this category for you? He has lots to say… and it’s all HERE.