In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.
— Acts 10:1-2 NLT
Caesarea was a Roman city built by Herod the Great to curry the favor of Rome, to promote trade, and to provide seaport access to Galilee, Samaria, and Judea for Roman soldiers. We should not be surprised that there was a Roman army officer from Italy in the city. (Some translations identify the Roman army officers as centurions.*) Like nearly every other Roman soldier of rank in Luke and Acts, Cornelius is open to the Good News of Jesus. He is already a God-fearer, someone seeking to honor God. The story about Cornelius marks the start of Luke's focus in Acts on the early disciples beginning to include Gentiles in the family of Jesus.** In retrospect, we can understand God's timing in sending Jesus. Roman roads and safety made sea and land travel relatively easy. Roman laws generally protected the innocent, especially if they were Roman citizens. Multicultural experiences opened those who traveled to new ideas and opened hearts for the Good News of Jesus. No wonder that the acceptance of Gentiles by the Jewish believers in Jesus hinged on a God-fearing, generous, and passionately prayerful Roman soldier (Acts 10:48-11:3, 11:18).