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Scriptural Stations of the Cross: Station 4

January 7, 2013

Jesus is Denied by Peter.IMG_7822

Fear is a powerful force. When we are afraid, our bodies physically gear up to fight or flee, preparing us to react to whatever threat we fear.

Peter knew this fear, sitting in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. We need to give him credit. He was there, waiting and hoping against hope that things would not turn out as he feared. He was right to be afraid. Jesus was accused as a revolutionary, a threat to both the Roman and Jewish authorities—and both powers were known to deal brutally with what they perceived as threats.

Then a woman looked closely at Peter and publicly questioned him about whether he was with Jesus. To have said yes might have subjected Peter to the same condemnation that Jesus faced. Peter’s fear took over. He didn’t physically flee, but his words distanced himself from Jesus. Verbally, he fled as far as he could go, denying Jesus and betraying Peter’s commitment to His Lord.

Flee or fight. That’s what our bodies tell us to do when we are threatened. That’s what is natural to the Israeli Jew sitting at a bus stop, knowing that others have been killed by suicide bombers in similar places. So she stares at the approaching Palestinian, wondering, “Does she too have a bomb strapped to his body that I can’t see?”

Fear is natural to the Palestinian sitting tensely on a couch in an apartment at Gaza, who knows that an Israeli bomb strike could come at any minute. The attack might be targeted at a military target, but there is often “collateral damage” that destroys and kills far more than the intended target.

We may not be able to stop our bodies’ internal processes that prepare us to attack or run, but we can choose how we react to our fear. Do we let our fear impel us into actions that betray our humanity and our deeply held beliefs, or do we try to transcend our fears and do what is right?

Pray that fear will not rule our lives and the lives of those in the Holy Land. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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