Caesarea, a city named in honor of Caesar Augustus, was the headquarters of the Roman Legion. It makes sense, then, that Cornelius would live there, being a centurion in that Legion. But it doesn’t make any sense that Peter would go with him into the mouth of the oppressor. Not only would a resident of the oppressed people find it ludicrous to willingly enter the home of a commander of the oppressive regime, but as he mentions, it is against Jewish law.
You see, not only is Cornelius a Roman Centurion, he is a gentile. As such he is by definition unclean, and according to Jewish law, uncleanness is contagious. Peter was not only forced to act against his political expectations but also his spiritual ones.
But this is not the story of Peter sharing the gospel with a random Gentile to make a theological point. This is Cornelius, a God-fearing man who received an angelic visitation as well as the Holy Spirit. But even more importantly is his attitude in bringing Peter to his house in the first place. He doesn’t come to claim his right to be a Christian. He doesn’t come to force a revolution in Jewish thought (Christians at this point still thought of themselves as reformed Jews rather than Christians as we think of them). Instead, he comes to Peter with this: “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” The humility is astonishing for a military leader.
How do you approach those whom God has sent to you? This could be parents, mentors, Godly friends, authors, theologians, or anyone God has put in your life to bring His word. What can we learn from Cornelius’ attitude in the midst of a pride-based society?