“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).
Just a day before; A Passover meal, that would forever be referred to as “The Last Supper”, actually included a conversation about “who is the greatest” quickly followed by a clear correction from the Lord. This correction is followed by a word directed at Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat (Lu 22:31), implying an upcoming challenge he would soon face. One that would reveal the how anemic Peter’s resolve really was, his denial, prompted by his fear when now was the time to deliver. His response, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Lu 22:33). He never dreamed of such failure now intensified by a rooster’s squawk and the piercing gaze of the one whom he just denied. All he has left, bitter weeping.
Now what? Watch from a distance as thing go from bad to worse tormented by that “look” He last gave. It was not a look of anger or disgust, perhaps it would have been easier if it was. It was a piercing look that could see into the shallowness of his soul. Peter was undone. His whole world was undone. He had betrayed a sacred trust, as did his fellow disciple, Judas, who also publicly sold out the Lord. How overwhelmed Peter must have been when he heard how Judas responded to his grief. How did he survive those first two sleepless nights pondering resent events, remembering that “look”?
Early morning the next day a strange word is heard, the grave has been vacated and some say, “He is alive”. Peter runs to investigate, filled with an array of mixed emotion and confusion, what will he find when he gets there? He enters the tomb, it’s only contents, folded burial cloths, no body. That evening the disciples find themselves huddled together with doors and windows locked and shades pulled tight in fear. Jesus, undaunted by the fortress they erected, enters the room and says, “’peace be with you! As the father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”(John 20:21-22).
Remember, the last time Peter saw the “look” of the Lord was at the moment of denial. Perhaps he now recalls the rest of the Lord’s words when He first warned him of Satan’s plans of sifting. “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lu 22:32). If he still has a chance for a promising future what he needs now is, perhaps, another “look”.
Another day passes, Peter, along with his former fishermen colleagues go back to a familiar setting. Back at the nets with nothing to haul. Peter has been here before. No fish, till the word comes from a somewhat familiar form on the beach, “throw your net on the right side”(John 21:6). What happens next has happened before and leads to a far more significant encounter for Peter.
The dialogue continues on the beach. “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’”(John 21:15) Three times asked and answered. With these words Jesus wiped Peter’s bitter tears of remorse, over his former denial. But I think more than the words that restored him was the “look” in Jesus eyes. Few people ever ask the question “do you love me” without that passionate “look”. It is a look that reveals the greatest desire of the one who asks. It is not a look of anger or disgust, but one of invitation and hope.
The extent of God’s love is revealed at the cross. It is advanced by the resurrection. It is, however, experienced by the sense of His favored look. We all experience times of testing that we may not always face great success. Bitter tears are often, shed by those, like Peter, who have regrets. It is the resurrection we celebrate, but greater still is the comfort we feel from the knowledge of a savior whose eye is on us. He looks past our sin and offers us hope. As we consider our desire for a favorable look, let us also respond to His desire as He looks at us and asks, “do you love me?”.