Today’s Nudge was inspired by Paul’s telling in Galatians 2, our reading for today, about Peter caving in to the Judaizers in Antioch. Since no one mentioned it, I’ll choose it for my case. NLT gives the sense of verse 12:
When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. (emphasis mine)
With this step back, the very gospel was at stake, so Paul got in his face and rebuked him. The NLT Study Bible has an interesting comment on Peter’s fear:
The friends of James intimidated Peter, who had previously withstood the same sort of criticism with power and eloquence (Acts 11:2-18). Peter might have been trying to avoid creating a barrier for the evangelism of Jews, or he might have been concerned for the safety and well-being of the Jewish Christians in Judea, who experienced persecution from non-Christian Jews (cp. 5:11; 6:12). In any case, his actions were inexcusable.
For all the explanations, I don’t think Peter thought it through, he merely reacted. He saw the pressure coming and ran from it. Was he intimidated by the James party, so called, as an extension of James’ powerful influence in the Jerusalem church? (That’s stretching, I know; also, there’s no indication that this party actually represented James’ position; to the contrary.)
He might have tried one of those explanations on for later defense, but fear reacts first and then reaches for justification.
Paul doesn’t reveal Peter’s response to his rebuke, but knowing the foot-in-mouth apostle, he was one to back up when he realized his error.