Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And if we all had the opportunities to go back and correct the mistakes that we’ve made—to change our actions and decisions, knowing what we know now—what a wonderful thing it would be.
Because in life, we all get muddled, we all make mistakes, we all make errors of judgement. And sometimes we make decisions without having all the facts. So if we all had the opportunity to look at things anew—and re-live our choices and our actions with the benefit of that hindsight—what a wonderful thing that would be.
Unfortunately, as you know and I know, that sort of thing just isn’t possible. We cannot change what we’ve done. We cannot undo the mistakes that we’ve made. But that doesn’t mean we are totally helpless regarding our past. Because we can re-evaluate what we’ve done, and we can often take action to limit or change the consequences.
And the reason we know that is from our own personal experience and the effect that damage control has had on our lives. And we know that too, through the effect of seeing how re-evaluating the past has had on other people’s lives. And the Apostle Peter, is a great example of that.
Because Peter was noted for being one of the inner three—one of the closest of Jesus’s disciples. But he was impetuous by nature and full of contradictions.
On the one hand he gave the impression of someone who was confident in faith. Indeed, he left his family and livelihood behind to follow Jesus. He often acted as a spokesman for the twelve. He went on missions with Jesus—and was sent on missions by Jesus. And Peter was the one who made the most outstanding proclamation of who Jesus was. “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29b).
But on the other hand, Peter was also someone who really didn’t know what it was about at all. Because almost immediately after he had made his famous statement “You are the Christ”, when Jesus began talking about being killed and resurrected on the third day, it was Peter who rebuked Jesus, telling him that there must be another way (Mark 8:31-32). At the last supper when Jesus warned Peter about his imminent arrest, it was Peter who assured him that even if everyone else deserted him, he would remain faithful (Mark 14:27-31). And yet, after Jesus was arrested and was on trial, it was Peter who denied three times that he even knew him. And when Mary Magdalene told Peter that Jesus’s tomb had been raided and someone had stolen the body (John 20:1-9), the only thing on Peter’s mind was to find the dead body. He wasn’t expecting a resurrected Jesus at all.
When it comes to the issue of hindsight, then, there could, perhaps, be no better example of someone in need of it than Peter. Peter is a prime example of someone who needed a chance to re-evaluate his life and have an opportunity of fixing up past mistakes. Because, whilst he made some wonderful statements, he made some terrible blunders too.
But you know, Peter did just that. Because although he was unable to re-live history and prevent himself from making those mistakes, he was, in a sense, able to fix them up. And the one event that was pivotal in changing his life around—in him leaving the past behind and getting a new start—was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
B. PETER’S STATEMENT TO CORNELIUS
1. A New Understanding (34-35)
Because shortly after Jesus’s resurrection—when it had been proven that the body had not been stolen, but that Jesus had indeed been resurrected from the dead—Peter re-evaluated his life. And with all his experience, and filled with the Holy Spirit, he was able tell a gentile—Cornelius—all that had happened and all that he’d experienced.
And he did so from the benefit of hindsight—from knowing “now” what he should have known “then.” The jig-saw pieces had finally come together. He’d realised what faith in Jesus, and a relationship with God, was all about. He understood that God didn’t discriminate between people but would accept anyone who truly believed. Having said that, he also realised what would happen to those who were not genuine in their beliefs—those who would not afford God the proper place in their lives.
2. The Role of Jesus (36-38)
So Peter was able to reinterpret his time with Jesus. He was able to tell Cornelius about Jesus—the Messiah that God had sent, fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament. Yes, Jesus had spent his whole life in one small part of the world, but his message was for all mankind. Jesus’s message of peace and reconciliation with God had been started deliberately in Galilee, but with the view of spreading it to the entire world. And that all this was possible, because Jesus had been anointed by the Holy Spirit, who had given him the power and authority to proclaim his message to the world.
So after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter may still have been impetuous by nature. But he was no longer a person who was with Jesus one minute and not with him the next. Something had happened to change Peter; something had happened to make all things clear. And what that thing was—was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
3. The Role of the Disciples (39-41)
And so with his new understanding of Jesus, Peter was then able to continue to Cornelius, with his new insights, and with the role that he had to play.
Because he, Peter, had been one of the witnesses. He’d been there from the beginning of Jesus’s earthly ministry. He’d also been there at the end. He’d been one of the first disciples and seen more of Jesus than most. He’d been around when Jesus had been put to death. But more than that, he’d been a witness to the resurrection itself, being one of the select group to whom had Jesus. And as a consequence of all that, he now realised his special role in sharing what he had seen with everyone he could meet.
4. The Point of It All (42-43)
And one thing about this story, Peter knew above else, was that this wasn’t just a story to tell, so that it could be told and passed down from family to family. It wasn’t a fairy story. The point of the story, as far as Peter was concerned, was that Jesus had died for a purpose. He had died to reconcile people with God; to save people from the consequences of their sins. As a consequence, all who believed have an obligation to encourage each other and tell the story to others. There was a responsibility to retell the story and to pull out its meaning to all. But not just in matter of words but in actions too.
And, as a consequence of the resurrection, people needed to be warned that Jesus had been appointed by God to act as judge of all men, both living and dead. And those who accepted Jesus as their Saviour would have their sins forgiven and would be rewarded with eternal life with God. But those who don’t accept him—those who carry on as though God isn’t important . . . Well the only thing that would be theirs is eternal life without God—eternal damnation.
When we compare Peter’s life before the resurrection with what it was like afterwards, we can see a dramatic change in his life. Indeed, the difference couldn’t be more dramatic.
Before the resurrection, Peter sometimes got it right, but often he got it wrong. But after the resurrection, Peter was confident, he knew exactly where he’d been and where he was headed.
Now I’m not saying that after the resurrection Peter was perfect, nor that he was able to undo all of his mistakes. No! But after the resurrection, Peter faced up to his past, and was much more confident and less likely to make so many mistakes. For the first time he was sure about his faith and his life. He knew exactly where he was going. And all of that because of one pivotal event in his life—the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
1. Putting the Jigsaw Together
Now, as I said, hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s wonderful for us and it was wonderful for Peter. And no doubt Peter had much help from God—and guidance in the Holy Spirit—in putting all the jigsaw pieces together. The question for us today, though, is if Peter, faced with the resurrected Lord, was able to put all the pieces together, come to grips with his mistakes, and become much more confident regarding his faith, couldn’t an understanding or realisation of that same pivotal event do the same for us today too?
Indeed, if we could take a look at our past lives, particular regarding all the religious influences that we’ve had where we’ve had the opportunity to meet Jesus . . . influences like Sunday School, scripture classes, baptisms, weddings, funerals, church services, and religious discussions . . . and if we could bring all those things together and re-examine them in the light of the realisation of the resurrection of Jesus, what would that do for us?
If we could take a look at all our mistakes, all the decisions we’ve made that were wrong—decisions that we made either on impulse or without having all the facts—and if we then re-examined them in the light of the resurrection of Jesus, where would that take us too?
For Peter the opportunity came, and he took full advantage of it—going through all his mistakes and religious experiences—and he came out a new man. And all because of the resurrection of Jesus. Imagine, then, what that same practice could do for people like us today.
2. Putting the Church Together
Furthermore, when we consider the responsibilities that God has given his people—the church . . . to share the things that we know; to meet regularly; to worship, to build each other up; to encourage one another; to be involved in ministry of some description, like visiting the lonely, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick; and to speak out on issues of poverty, injustice, and making this world a better place . . . indeed, if we could re-examine our place within God’s church from the realisation of the resurrection, where would that take us too?
Imagine! A church where there was no need for fundraising; where even the biggest buildings would have to be pulled down and rebuilt because they were too small, and because they were totally inadequate for the ministry needs to the local community and beyond. And all because of the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection, then, the pivotal event in Peter’s life; the thing that changed him from a bumbling disciple to a confident man of faith that he became. And if the resurrection could do that for someone like Peter, imagine what a difference it could make for us too.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And sometimes we might wish that we could relive past events, so that we could change our decisions, based on what we know now. However, as we all know, that just isn’t possible. But we can take the past and look at it anew.
Peter with all his religious background—and with all his mistakes and failings—did exactly that. And all because of the resurrection of Jesus.
No! he couldn’t undo the mistakes of the past. But he certainly was able, with God’s help, to change his own future. He changed from a man who really didn’t know what was going on or where he was going, to a man who knew very much what life was all about. He became very clear about where he stood in his relationship with God, and what his obligation to God entailed.
And if that is the kind of result that we see when we look at someone like Peter, imagine what it could do for us today too.
Posted: 24th December 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis