We have all made eye contact with a stranger. Both parties look away quickly to avoid being caught staring at the other. There is no real guilt on anyone’s part, but we try to avoid having to confront our awkward reality.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Bible is Peter’s denial of Jesus. We all know the story. Jesus told Peter at the passover that before that night was over, he would deny him. Despite this prophesy, Peter quickly rejected the prophesy affirming his love for Jesus.
Once Jesus was arrested and events developed, Peter’s resolve withered like a flower in the desert heat. Of course the prophesy came true. Peter was asked three different times if he was a disciple of the man being put to death, and Peter not only denied knowing Jesus, but he even cursed the idea of it.
Then, in a story that could not be made up, Peter hears the rooster crow and he is condemned. He has denied his Lord, his Christ, his Savior.
Graciously, the story does not end there. We do not know the exact circumstances, but the gospels tell us that Peter was close enough to see Jesus at this moment. Once he realizes his fault, he looks up at the man on the cross and they make eye contact.
I imagine that Peter was looking at him first and then Jesus directed his eyes towards the broken man. Unlike me accidentally making eye contact with a stranger, Peter would not have looked away to try to absolve himself of guilt. He knew his transgression and at this point there was no use in trying to hide.
Have you ever wondered what Peter saw in those eyes? In the midst of his suffering and physical and spiritual torment, what message did Jesus communicate to Peter in his gaze? Did he see condemnation, judgement, anger?
No, he saw love. In that moment and in that look Jesus shared with Peter the whole of the gospel. “This is why I am dying, this is why I am being crucified, because I love you. For God so loved you, that he sent me to do this. Even this sin is forgiven. No matter what you do Peter, I love you.”
No doubt Peter loved Jesus. They were friends. Peter understood that Jesus was God and confessed his love for him. But Peter had not fully experienced that love, the perfect love of God. Peter’s denial was such an intense revelation of his need for forgiveness that when he saw that Jesus loved him right then at that moment, he was changed forever.
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