We live in an age in which we are barraged by information. Often it is quite difficult for us to determine truth from a lie, mere opinion or even preference. Sometimes we think we know more than we actually do. Sometimes we are convinced that we need additional or unavailable information. However many times we are convinced before we consider all of the obtainable or important data.
Apparently this common human tendency is not new. For instance, this morning I was reading the Gospel of Luke, which reports “trial” of Jesus before the High Priest in Jerusalem, during which Peter denies his Lord. Although Peter’s denial was predicted by Jesus earlier in the chapter, it came as a complete surprise to Peter, who had pledged to support Jesus even if he died doing it. Jesus, however, was adamant and insisted on Peter’s future failure.
You probably know the story. During Jesus’ trial, Peter does in fact deny Jesus three times. Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows Peter! It is here, however, that Luke adds an insightful detail. It seems that as soon as the words come out of Peter’s mouth, “I do not know the man” that Jesus turns and looks directly at Peter, who now recalls Jesus’ prediction. Peter responded with immediate sorrow and repentance.
I’ve often pondered the “look” of Jesus towards Peter. It was if it was merely a glance or casual look, it is likely that Luke would not mention it. Of course a dirty look or a haughty “I told you so look” would be totally out of character for Jesus. But I wonder, if it was a look of disappointment. Surely Peter was disappointed in himself. And although Jesus may have been disappointed with Peter’s conduct, it surely was no surprise to Jesus. Could it have been a “hurt” look? No doubt Peter’s denial would have emotionally wounded Jesus and add to his emotional suffering. That empty feeling of personal rejection by one of his closest allies surely hurt him deeply.
I think the “look” was one of compassion and love. The New Testament describes this as a life-changing moment for Peter. In an instant, he was overcome by the vast love of the Lord Jesus towards him. Peter recognized that Jesus really loved him despite of all of his failures. Apparently he was overwhelmed by the undeserved love and compassion of Jesus, who was then voluntarily experiencing judgment and wrath for him.
Although he may not have realized it immediately, Peter soon became aware that through the cruel death of Jesus God was providing salvation for sinners. Later in his first letter Peter writes about Jesus: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
So what? Consider Jesus’ “look” towards Peter as his look towards you. Learn of his deep love, compassion and commitment to you. Rejoice in his forgiveness and healing. Even when we are afraid that we have worn out Jesus’ patience and compassion, Peter’s experience reminds us that Jesus really loves us. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, claims us for himself, atones for our sins, compensates for our errors and is changing us into his image.