Each of the four gospel writers record that faithful night when the apostle Peter denied our Lord with three statements of increasing rejection. They tell us of Peter’s bitter weeping when he realized that Jesus correctly predicted his denials before the rooster crowed. But Luke includes a profound little detail.
Luke 22:61 says that just as Peter was denying Jesus for the third time and the rooster crowed, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him….”
That look must have killed Peter a thousand ways! When the Lord looks at us in our sin and rejection we can’t help but be stricken with grief. And the truth is, the Lord sees us all the time in our various faults, sins, denials, and rejections.
But what was this look. What did Peter see in Jesus’ eyes? Did the look say, “I told you so”? I don’t think Jesus was gloating over Peter’s failure.
Did Jesus look at Peter with eyes of fire, angry. I don’t think so. Jesus will not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoking candle.
Did the look say, “How could you?” I don’t think the look communicated personal hurt. Jesus did not come to burden us with guilt, but to take it away.
I think the look was pure and holy love… which we cannot bear to see in our sin. In our self-righteousness, we could understand—even want—anger or disappointment or hurt or even an “I told you so!” But when the Lord continues to look at us with unfeigned and unblemished love… it robs us of all self-righteousness and makes us see what holy love we rejected… and what wretched messes we are. We can’t bear to see him look at us with such pure and holy love when we’ve failed so miserably. So, like Peter, we turn our faces away and weep bitterly when we fail our Lord.
And that’s a terrible mistake. If when we sinned against our Lord, we could continue to look in His face, we would eventually see that this holy love accepts us. It pardons. It cleanses. It relieves guilt and removes shame. It heals the broken and lifts the worthless. If we could but look in His face, we’d see a loving look that says, “Come unto me.”
It’s a face of One who loves in such a way as to overcome our sin… to take our sin as His own… to bear our guilt as if it were His… a love that joins us to himself. To look into that face by faith… is to feel and know the holiest, most sacrificial, redeeming love possible.
Peter’s biggest problem isn’t that he denied Jesus three times. He will be restored from that. Our biggest problem isn’t our failing or denying Jesus.
Peter’s biggest problem is that he wept alone and turned away… rather than run to Jesus’ loving face. Our biggest problem is looking away from Jesus. He has taken away our sins. Now we must look to Him and continue looking to Him until we rejoice in His loving acceptance.
If we’re Christians for any length of time, we come to discover that our lives are full of failure and sin… even denials of various sorts. But we also discover that He keeps looking on… and He keeps calling us to himself. Christian… look to Jesus. Do not turn away.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.