When Peter's Anger Causes Him to Lie and Deny
The Emotions of Peter and the Passion of Christ (part 3 of 4)
I’m a typical guy for whom it is culturally acceptable to get angry. And that’s because for the longest time, I didn’t really know what my other emotions were.
I was either doing fine—happy and relaxed.
Or I was at different levels of anger: from mildly impatient, then visibly frustrated, or outright mad.
I didn’t really know the other emotions.
And Paul, tells us, "Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).
But how exactly do you do that?
If you read the gospels, Jesus seemed to be angry with people quite a bit (angry at his disciples and the religious authorities).
And it seemed, Peter didn’t really learn from Jesus the whole “be angry but do not sin” thing.
In fact, Peter’s anger consumed him.
The Sadness and Fear Behind Anger
It took me a while to learn that often behind anger was fear or sadness, or both.
Fear that something I valued might be lost.
Sadness that something I valued was lost.
Anger, at its best, gives us the energy to do something productive about that fear or sadness, the energy to make things right, to make something happen.
That is why anger is a hot emotion. We can feel it in our bodies as our heart rate and blood pressure go up. You notice it in rapid breathing and tense muscles.
Anger boils over through yelling and storming around.
Or for Peter…
through cutting off an ear
and denying a friend, mentor, and Lord.
Learn about the ATTACHING TO GOD Beyond Anxious and Avoidant Spiritualities Learning Cohort (beginning April 18th).
Peter’s Anger For Jesus - Fight Response
After falling into parasympathetic collapse, Peter is energized again when a mob comes to arrest Jesus.
And as they come for Jesus, Peter pulls out a sword and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest (John 18:10).
That kind of violence doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Peter is angry.
Peter is fighting.
Peter is fighting for Jesus— the person.
And he is probably fighting for his dream of “Jesus”—the earthly messiah that was going to be the hero (a misconception that Jesus had long been trying to cure his disciples).
Peter is fighting against the fear of losing the person he loves. And he is fighting against losing the dream of Israel freed from Roman oppression.
Peter’s anger response—one that is based in fear—leads him to sin.
Peter’s Anger Against Jesus - Flight Response
But then Peter’s anger cools down, shifting to resignation before Jesus’ fate. But his fear is still near.
As he is warming himself before the fire outside (Luke 22:55), someone recognizes him as a follower of Jesus and begins telling others about him.
The fear suddenly moves out of the cold.
Fear that he’ll be found out.
Fear that he’ll end up like Jesus.
Fear for his life—that he too might die.
Now—as hot anger irrupts out of the fear—Peter lies and denies (Luke 22: 57-60).
“I don’t know him.”
“I am not” a disciples of Jesus.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Peter’s anger is escalating into irrationality.
It’s not like Peter just stumbled onto some fire at the high priest’s house by accident. And yet now he’s shouting about his total ignorance about what is going on!
Peter is fighting against Jesus.
And Peter is fighting by fleeing.
Fleeing any associate with Jesus.
Fleeing any knowledge about Jesus.
Fleeing any knowledge of the entire situation.
Once again, Peter’s anger response leads him to sin.
Peter’s anger causes him to fight.
Peter’s anger causes him to flee.
Peter’s Fear Turns Into Bitter Weeping
And we know how the story ends:
Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)
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Taking Our Emotions to the Cross
When it comes to our emotions, especially anger, let us never deny them, ignore them, or avoid them.
But also let us discern them, sift them, and sanctify them.
Let us bring them to the cross, where we can stop fighting and fleeing. Where they can be transfigured by the one on the cross.
In the next post, we will ask what was on Jesus’ face when he “looked straight at Peter” and ask why Peter “wept bitterly”.
Series: The Emotions of Peter and the Passion of Christ (in 4 parts)