Smells have never been far away from me. I notice other folks often screwed up their noses as we pulled in after a solid night’s work. It was probably the potpourri of sweat, wet boats and soggy nets augmenting the aroma of the fish we’d caught. Still, they were happy enough to shell out their shekels before they took our fish home.
That’s a while ago now, because I’ve done a lot of travelling lately and I’ve come across a whole range of new smells. Most of these smells come from sick people like Aeneas, up in the coastal hills at Lydda. He’d been bedridden for eight years, so you can just imagine how much stale air was floating around his house. Not even the sea breezes could dispel it all.
Down here on the coast I’ve had an interesting aromatic mix at Joppa, while staying at Simon’s house. He is a tanner, so the atmosphere was loading my nostrils with leather smells. Pretty strong stuff, that leather; but it was having to compete with some tantalising wafts rising up from the kitchen.
I’d had a busy morning and I was hungry, so I was stretched out – well out of the kitchen - under a shade canopy on the roof while waiting for the meal to be ready. I don’t know if the food fragrance was meant to be a sedative, but my eyelids were getting so heavy that I felt myself drifting off. But then sleep evaporated, because suddenly it seemed like a whole zoo was floating down on a sheet from a cloud above me!
It kept coming down, until I could see all kinds of animals and birds, reptiles and creepy-crawlies. Then there was no chance for sleep, because a voice boomed out of the cloud: “On your feet, Peter. Kill something and get it into you!” A voice I knew well, because I’d often heard it before – usually when I’d had my foot in my mouth – but I couldn’t allow my reputation to let me down.
“But Lord, you know how I’ve never eaten anything that is unclean,” I protested, “Why should I start now?”
“Don’t call anything unclean if I’ve made it clean!” God shot back at me.
Wow – what was he getting at? There was little time for debate – and I’ve since found that advising God is not a good career move for any apostle – for the sheet headed back to the clouds, before it came back with the same invitation. Which drew the same response from me.
But when God produced a threepeat, I realised it was time to listen up. To hear that three men were waiting downstairs for me and that I should go with them!
I hurried down to meet them, and learned that they were servants of a Roman army sergeant called Cornelius further up the coast at Caesarea, who had been praying for God’s guidance. And God had told him to send for me.
What else could I do but go with them?
That trip opened my eyes to how big God’s love is, for he wanted Gentiles as well as Jews to know him.
We Jews have a direct bloodline to Abraham, as part of God’s covenant, but now, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, anyone – Jew or Gentile – can have a direct connection with him through the blood of Jesus!
My lunch went cold that day as I followed my three new friends, because I realised that God was opening up an eternal banquet for anyone to share in - and he was inviting me to be hiw maitre de!
Food for eternal life – at a table that will keep getting bigger, with appetizing smells and noursihment for all.
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