March 1, 2015: Like Peter – so afraid, we deny ourselves

Posted on : Feb 26th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Fear. Fear can do strange things to us. What is Fear?

One definition is this:  Fear is an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing from traumatic events. Fear may occur in response to a specific stimulus happening in the present, or to a future situation, which is perceived as risk to health or life, status, power, security, or in the case of humans, wealth or anything held valuable. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response), which in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) can be a freeze response or paralysis.

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions known to human beings. Politicians know that if they want to make people agree to something they would not normally agree to, all they need to do is create a high enough level of fear and people will agree to it. When we humans are afraid, we will do almost anything to protect ourselves; even turn on those we love.

I’ve often wondered how Jesus must have felt when Peter turned on him. Peter, after all, is “the rock” on which Jesus said the church will be built. One would think Jesus would have picked someone with a little more courage than Peter exhibits as Jesus is arrested and led away before the authorities.

In this week’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples of what was to come. Jesus said to the disciples while in the Garden of Gethsemane (the garden of prayer):

“You will all become deserters because of me this night.”

But Peter said to Jesus, “Though all of them may desert you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to Peter, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

Peter said to Jesus, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”

And all the disciples said the same.”

Fast forward a few hours and the situation took a radically different turn. Jesus had been arrested and a mob mentality was emerging. It was clear the religious authorities had created a lot of fear in the people. They wanted Jesus put to death. This person whom they loved so much earlier in his life, was now seen as a threat to them and their beliefs. One would think that Peter, if not all of the disciples, would be in a different place. But they weren’t. They were all terrified. Most of the disciples fled. But Peter chose to hang out in the shadows. Then he was recognized. It didn’t go well from then on. Here is how Matthew tells the story:

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Again Peter denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

Then Peter began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!”

At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

And Peter went out and wept bitterly.

If this is the behavior of “the Rock” – the one on whom the Christian Church is to be built – it seems to me that we’re in deep trouble. Couldn’t Jesus pick someone with a little more backbone? A bit more courage? A faith that is stronger than this?

I would think so. But then that leads me to ask, “Why then does Jesus stick with and trust Peter even when Jesus predicts beforehand that Peter is going to cave under pressure?” And in that same light, “How are we like Peter – the Rock on whom the faith is built?” Could it be that fear is not the opposite of faith?

Lenten Blessings to you,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Matthew 26: 30-35 and 69-75
Peter denies even knowing Jesus

Peter’s Denial Foretold (Matthew 26: 30-35)

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter said to Jesus, “Though all of them may be deserters, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to Peter, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

Peter said to Jesus, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”

And so said all the disciples.

 

Peter’s Denial of Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75)

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!”

At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

And Peter went out and wept bitterly.

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