God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your iniquities.”Acts 3:26 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Peter… Peter… Sometimes the things you are recorded as saying surprise me. Especially when given your actions that ensure years afterward.
You know, I think lots of people might believe that in the Old Covenant, only Jewish folk could be believers and get to heaven. Maybe it’s because I once held to that long ago that I think that way. Part of that erroneous belief begins with the idea folks are saved by the sacrifices and offerings contained in the law.
To hold to those ideas is understandable, but as I handily learned, they are rather shallow conclusions that lack real study.
People were being saved in the Old Testament long before The Law came to be. People have known their need for a Savior since Eden. The Law serves only to make this necessity painfully evident. It was given to a set-aside vessel for service. That vessel is Israel. The service is to make God known to the nations of the world. (I cheated you out of discovering that fit yourself.)
There is this encounter of a gentile Canaanite with Jesus.
Then Jesus went from there and departed into the regions of Tyre and Sidon. There, a woman of Canaan came out of the same regions and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David. My daughter is severely possessed by a demon.”Matthew 15:21–24 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
This woman persistently pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus’ reply might come as a shock to some. Read it carefully. Jesus said He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.
What did Jesus mean?
Perhaps one could make the statement imply that salvation was only intended for Jewish folk. But we know better. Gentiles were being saved long before Israel came to be. They were being saved by this same Seed promised to Eve.
There’s this noisy woman. The disciples are tired of her cries. Jesus seems to side with them.
Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, “Lord, help me.”Matthew 15:25 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This woman was devout. She knew the only place to get help was from Him. She was insistent.
But He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and to throw it to dogs.”Matthew 15:26 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
The children’s bread, the gifts God would bestow on His people. God sent manna to the Israelites in the wilderness to provide sustenance for them. This is exactly what the manna provided by God pointed to… The bread of heaven… Jesus. That bread to make folks whole was only for the children.
There is an order to things. But didn’t Gentiles in the mixed multitude that left Egypt also eat of and thrive by the manna?
She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”Matthew 15:27–28 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
She didn’t ask to take anything from Israel. In the scheme of things, what she was asking of Jesus was insignificant considering Who He is. He was going to show how significant her belief in Him is.
Back to Peter.
Peter was echoing the same thing Jesus said. That is, Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. Peter was preaching this message to those lost sheep. We come to that last sentence in his sermon where Peter says Jesus was sent to them first. That implies something greater follows.
Like the word only in what Jesus said, here’s this word first. Jesus came first to Israel. He was rejected by them. Yet the fact remains, He came to only them first.
Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first. But seeing you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For thus has the Lord commanded us:Acts 13:46–47 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
‘I have established you to be a light of the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”