Peter saw animals of all kinds ascending and descending from the heavens, which was God's declaration of not only what is permissible, but who is acceptable. From that moment on he lived under the umbrella of widespread Grace, which allows not only Jews into the kingdom, but all who would come to Jesus, regardless of previous affiliations.
In Antioch Peter feasted with those he formerly viewed as unclean, inadmissible. It was his calling, his reckoning for living a life that excluded all, save for himself and the righteous few. He ate, drank, and celebrated Grace that was for everyone.
Yet as Magnolia taught us, the past is never done with us. The past clings and haunts and always seeks to be our home base.
Others from Jerusalem arrived, those who believed only those converted to the law were allowed to be converted to Jesus, and Peter put his fork down. Embarrassed by his company, he excused himself and eventually landed at the table of the new arrivals, the old guard. It was as if the status-wars of Junior High lunch hour had returned.
Paul saw this and, in his letter to the Galatians, notes how he confronted Peter of his hypocrisy in front of the entire group of people eating.
But that's all we get. Just that Paul confronted Peter. We don't get Peter's reaction, or anyone else's for that matter. I read this and actually feel a little sympathy for everyone's favorite New Testament stomping boy, Peter. Of course, he was clearly being inconsistent with what he knew to be the inclusive nature of the Good News, and needed someone like Paul to help remind him. But if I was Peter, I would have been a little defensive at being called out in front of everyone. Because, after all, who the hell did Paul think he was? My desire to win-and-be-better-than-you would have mentioned something about Paul's history of murder and persecution of Christians.
But we don't know, and maybe this is best. Perhaps Peter did have a golden comeback for Paul, but Paul left it out of his description out of self-preservation, and also to prevent people like me from using excuses for my bad behavior. Or maybe Peter recoiled in shame, which is also not a healthy response at being told you are wrong.
I suppose it will make a good conversation some day on the other end...