One of the most powerful scenes in the New Testament, in my opinion, is when Peter denies Jesus three times, as Jesus predicted he would. All four gospels report this. But it was brought to my attention recently that Luke includes a detail the other three gospel writers do not. And I don’t know how I missed it in my previous readings of Luke, because it’s an eye-popper: The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Luke 22:61 (NIV). Luke then reports, as the other gospels do, that Peter then remembered what Jesus had said and wept bitterly. “The Look.” We’ve all had the look: from parents, spouses, teachers, employers, even our own children. We did something to offend or disappoint, and we draw “The Look.”
I cannot imagine what Peter felt like when Jesus turned and looked at him. Was it an “I told you so” look? Was it a “how could you?” look (That’s doubtful, given that Jesus had predicted the denial)? Was it a “I’m so disappointed in you even though I knew this was coming” look? We can’t know for sure, but I’m inclined to agree with Thabiti Anyabwile, writing at the Gospel Coalition, that it was a look of love:
“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.”
I don’t know about you, but Anyabwile is spot on where I am concerned: I am often inclined to look away from Jesus when I have disappointed Him. I should know better. All Christ-followers should. A syrupy book and movie, “Love Story,” coined the phrase “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” The grace of God is never having to turn away when we’re less than perfect. In fact, what Jesus desires is for us to lean into Him when we fall short. The dangerous guilt that prompts us to look away from Him in those times comes from the enemy, not from God. In fact, Jesus warned Peter that Satan had asked (and received) permission to sift Peter. And Peter ultimately would pass the test.
After the resurrection, Jesus would ask Peter three times if Peter loved Him; one for each earlier denial. Peter, of course, would say yes and play a crucial role in the foundation of the early church. What a comfort to know that when we disappoint Jesus, He will continue to look directly at us. But there is no need to avert our gaze. We can look right into His eyes. And if we fail to do that, He will restore us, just as He did Peter, after the apostle jumped from a fishing boat and swam to shore to be with the Lord.
In our human relationships, we can work very hard to avoid “The Look.” Seek His face, always, regardless of what you have done. And He will look back in love, always.
This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI.