“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Luke 22:61
I’m not sure there are many verses that pierce my heart more than this one does. Peter’s denial of Christ reminds me of my own faithlessness.
Peter was a disciple of Jesus, called on the shore of Galilee when Jesus promised the fisherman He would make him a fisher of men. “Follow me,” Jesus had said and Peter did.
Peter saw the storm calmed and the five thousand fed, he was rescued from the water when his fear overtook him and witnessed glory up on that mountain. He understood Jesus to be the Christ, the Holy One of God, and the only way.
Peter knew Jesus and loved him - earnestly...but imperfectly.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus foretold that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Peter, in all his defiant zeal, insisted, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.”
But later that evening, as Jesus stood bound before the high priest, nearby Peter was distancing himself from his Messiah, lying to those around him, “I do not know the man.” Twice more he denied knowing Jesus - then the rooster crowed.
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
Oh, the agony of looking into the eyes of the one you love and have failed! To feel the shame of your foolishness...your cowardice...your fickle, divided, selfish, stupid heart in the very moment your Savior stands ready to endure the beating and flogging and stripping and dying - on your behalf.
Yes, Peter reminds me of my own faithlessness. I imagine the sweet face of Jesus turning and looking at me. For as sincerely and intensely and gratefully as I may love Jesus, I still love Him wretchedly. And my imperfect love is the very reason I need Him so desperately.
Peter went away and wept bitterly. Jesus suffered and died, abandoned. On that Saturday, Peter’s Teacher, Friend, and Messiah lay lifeless in a tomb. I doubt Peter had a moment’s peace. This Saturday before Easter, I will feel with him the weight of my own sin and betrayal.
But praise God for Sunday!
When the women arrived at the tomb at sunrise on Sunday to anoint their Lord’s body, they found the stone rolled away. An angel inside shared the joyful news, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter...”
Jesus’ death and resurrection made a way for us to be restored to God. Christ is the Great Reconciler and He had a message for Peter - for me, for everyone who believes: I am alive. You are forgiven. Be at peace.
After appearing to his disciples, the risen Jesus surprised them again one morning with a seaside meal. Peter and a few others had been unsuccessfully fishing through the night and at daybreak, Jesus arrived on the beach, filled their nets with fish, then called them to breakfast. Eager Peter threw himself into the water to swim ashore to Jesus.
After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Then he asked again, “Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
“Tend my sheep. Do you love me?”
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to look into the Face of Grace and declare his love for His Savior - his ardent, imperfect love. Jesus gave Peter the chance to speak one “I love you” for every “I do not know him.”
Then the living and loved Jesus gave the forgiven and loved fisherman the same mission he had given him on a beach years before, “Follow me.”
Fervently, if imperfectly, may we do the same.