Luke 22:61: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”
Observation: Jesus had been arrested by a combination of Roman soldiers and Jewish Sanhedrin. From the place of arrest He was taken to Caiaphas’ home, the ruling high priest, where the Jewish phase of His trial was to begin. Having followed at a distance (v. 54), Peter found himself at a fire in the courtyard where three times he was challenged: “You were with Him; you are one of them”. To each such statement Peter issued increasingly vigorous denials. With Jesus just across the courtyard being spat upon and pummeled by Caiaphas and the religious elite (see Matthew 26:67), the crowing of a rooster froze Peter in his tracks. It was precisely then that the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.
Application: For Peter, earth’s spinning must have stopped with Jesus’ piercing gaze. Jesus had predicted this moment: three denials, then the cock would crow as if punctuating Peter’s sin (v. 34). Three Gospel writers report that at least one of his courtyard questioners was a mere girl. Bold, confident, “walking-on-water” Peter, undone by the question of a child. Stricken by the enormity of what he had done, Peter rushed outside and wept bitterly.
I wonder what was communicated in Jesus’ look. Mark 14:71 says that Peter, in the moment before the cock’s crowing, had called “down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’” No polite dinner conversation, this. Suddenly Peter found himself looking into eyes surely puffy and bloodied from the beginning of beatings. But what Peter saw wasn’t condemnation or judgment. Jesus’ gaze bespoke forgiveness. “It’s OK Peter. I understand. I love you. I understand the shame you feel, but I forgive you.” Peter’s healing had begun.
It isn’t hard to see myself in the place of Peter. My sin has loomed like a roiling black cloud in my mind. Cock-sure confidence has reigned where humility was called for. Overwhelming guilt has been allowed to build ‘til it becomes a rain-swollen dam with still-invisible fissures straining against a rising tide of self-condemnation. What of the woman who has had an abortion, or the man who paid for it? What of the adulterous among us, or the tax cheaters, or the liars?
In that moment of deepest remorse, Christ’s loving gaze pierces the darkness and conveys His pure love. No lectures, no finger-pointing. No black-robed judge banging his gavel. Just a look of love that says, “I understand. I forgive you.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have locked eyes with me so many times. In those moments when my self-assessment has been utterly condemning you have granted the freedom of forgiveness. Thank you for not giving up on me as you allow my sin to become the chisel that conforms me more to your image.