What's an Acts 11 Hero?
Some of my favorite people in the Story of God remain nameless to us. Oh, I’ve got lots of love for many of the named people, and not much for the unnamed world leaders who, while tremendously powerful, are nameless in Scripture (Pharoah, Herod the Great – okay, so he gets half a name! and Caesar).
But in a story, leaving a main character nameless is often a narrator’s subversive way of marginalizing that character. Everyone wants to be remembered, to “make a name for themselves.” In the Story of God, we learn the great danger of striving for personal glory, and the wisdom of taking the lower place and letting God make your name great.
So what does all this have to do with Acts 11? Well, by then, the Jesus Way has gotten bogged down in racial and social elitism. God sends Peter this big vision and all this Holy Spirit motivation to tell the story of Jesus to Cornelius, a Gentile who was already totally in love with the God of the Jews. His only balk seems to be at the flick of a certain knife – but as soon as he hears about Jesus, he is ALL IN! Not much of a challenge for The Apostle Peter, you would think.
But while Peter’s having his “big adventure,” we get this offhand remark that just blows me away. You see, what happened with Peter and Cornelius is cool and all, but it doesn’t help me much. Cornelius loves the ways of God already; he’s fully prepared to hear the Message. Me? I wasn’t. Not at all. I couldn’t care less about the things of God when I began to hear the gospel. There was a whole city of people with that identical attitude, just up the coast from Judaea.
In the midst of Peter’s identity crisis, Luke simply says, “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 11:19-20) Nobody had to send a great vision to those guys. These unnamed guys had better theology and more love for their neighbor; they understood the gospel even better than the Great Peter and all the rest of the apostles.
Yes, Pentecost was awesome, and I look forward to meeting Peter!
Yes, Romans is incredible, and I really want to sit down with Paul!
But first, I think I will celebrate these unnamed heroes, because the gospel would never have reached a heathen like me except for people like them who were so swept up in the mission of God and driven by the love of Jesus, they’d give up every bit of honor and pride to share the gospel with whoever they met.
THAT is an Acts 11 hero.
And when that day comes, when the Lord appears, we will ALL know their names – the Master of the feast will say, “Friends, move up higher,” and they will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with them.