There is a sobering story – for me – in the New Testament apocryphal book Acta Petri, or Acts of Peter. which reminds me of the significance of coming to senses. In this story, at the height of emperor Nero’s persecutions, Christians were fleeing from Rome. Peter’s colleagues advised him to leave Rome too.
“Shall we be runaways brethren?” he struggled with the idea.
“Not quite”, they responded. “But you may be able to serve the Lord better”.
“Let none of you come with me, but I’ll go forth alone having changed my appearance”.
And so, as he fled from the city, he came face to face with the Lord, headed in the opposite direction.
“Domine quo vadis?” (Lord where are you going?), Peter asked.
“I’m going to Rome to be crucified”, Jesus answered.
“Lord, are you being crucified again?”
The text says, Peter then came to himself and the Lord disappeared. Peter went back to Rome and would eventually be crucified upside down according to the same Acta Petri.
The expression “he came to himself” reminds me of Luke’s story of the prodigal son who in Luke 15: 17 “came to his senses” and reversed course.
By the way, on Rome’s Appian Way today, there is a small church of the same name, Domine Quo Vadis, built at the site of Peter’s yet another encounter with the Lord when he (Peter) was off course. And in the National Gallery in London, there is a painting of the same name by the Italian artist, Annibale Carracci, painted in 1601-02.
This is a story which, from time to time, serves to bring me to my senses.