Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)
The Humble Pebble
Peter is my favorite character in scripture because I find a lot of Peter’s character flaws in my life. I can relate to him as he puts his foot in his mouth repeatedly and frustrates the Lord with his impetuous zeal gone wrong. Poor Peter. He is a fun study. His early life is on the water learning the trade of fishing. A teacher comes to town that changes his life as nothing he could have imagined. The next thing you know he has left his nets behind and follows Jesus from town to town until that awful day in Jerusalem. He fails his Lord at the most crucial time because he was ashamed to admit he knew Him. Three days later his spirits revive as he sees his risen savior. Life is now filled with preaching the good news of salvation in Christ.
Being an apostle was a wonderful experience. Filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and witnessing the new birth of three thousand souls would have been beyond description. Later suffering for preaching had its own reward. A Hollywood story would have us believe that Peter was on target and all would go well as he ‘rode off into the sunset a hero of the grand story.’ Not so. Then comes Galatians 2.
Paul is the late arrival. He is not one of the original twelve, did not see the miracles Jesus performed nor walk on the water like Peter. Simon has tenure and it would be easy to use that to his advantage. It happened in Antioch. The apostle Paul openly chastised the apostle Peter. Rebuked him right there in front of everyone.
Here is what I LOVE about Peter. He did not react as many today would. He was wrong and he knew it. His position as a ‘first apostle’ did not make him right in what he did. Paul uses the story without telling the end of the story but it is inferred Peter accepted the rebuke of his brother Paul in the spirit it was given. Peter had learned humility. His anger did not charge back at Paul. He accepted criticism and I believe asked for forgiveness for the sinful attitude he manifested toward the Gentiles.
Big men in the church are small. Those who become small are great men. Paul’s challenge to Peter openly displayed before the church must have hurt. But Peter loved his Lord so much he did not let it create hard feelings. I love this story. Isn’t this a great story for all of us?