Arresting Jesus, they marched him off and took him into the house of the Chief Priest. Peter followed, but at a safe distance. In the middle of the courtyard some people had started a fire and were sitting around it, trying to keep warm. One of the serving maids sitting at the fire noticed him, then took a second look and said, "This man was with him!"
He denied it, "Woman, I don't even know him."
A short time later, someone else noticed him and said, "You're one of them."
But Peter denied it: "Man, I am not."
About an hour later, someone else spoke up, really adamant: "He's got to have been with him! He's got 'Galilean' written all over him."
Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about." At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and cried and cried and cried.
This is one of the most heart wrenching stories we have the in the Scriptures. The worst part is when you realize that Peter’s denials come within earshot of Jesus. It’s not like Jesus was somewhere that he couldn’t see or hear what was happening. Nope, he was right there, probably being held in the courtyard so that folks could mock him. Peter tried to be brave, but he broke. He wilted in the face of standing with Jesus.
And Jesus turned and looked at Peter.
There it is. That’s the sentence. He turned and looked at Peter.
One little word, at. It makes the whole thing so personal and damning and heartbreaking.
As I process this story this morning I am struck by the absolutely personal and specific nature of the interaction.
Jesus turned and looked at Peter.
I think the reality is for those of us who are trying to pursue God we must realize that it’s personal as well as communal. Yes, Christ saved a people. But Christ also is about our personal transformation. The intimacy of this moment with Peter is the great reminder that our spirituality is intimate and it is personal.
Do you notice the gentleness of this too? Jesus doesn’t call him out. He doesn’t belittle him. He doesn’t “put him on blast” (as the kids say). Jesus turns and looks at him. That’s all it took. The holy one looking at him made him realize what had happened.
We must also not miss the inherent detail in all this either. Peter was looking at Jesus too. If he wasn’t then he would not have noticed the fact that Jesus was looking at him.
You see the intimacy of our faith must go both ways. It is when we are most intimately looking at Christ that we will see how he looks at us. There is something in the look that is filled with grace, mercy, love, and truth. As we look at Christ and Christ looks at us, we begin to see ourselves for who we really are.
It is in this moment that we may feel some conviction. We may experience the heartbreak of Peter. But, as we learn later in the story, he doesn’t hide from his faith family. Christ, after the resurrection, finds him in community.
This is the difference between Judas and Peter. Judas kills himself. He hid away, he isolated. Peter weeps but moves into relationship to find life.
I have to wonder if the difference between Peter and Judas was that Peter was looking at Jesus. His eyes were on the Christ. Perhaps Judas was simply looking at himself?
How am I living? I am looking at Christ or am I looking at myself? Where are my spiritual eyes fixed?
This song written by Derek Webb hits this morning, Faith My Eyes, the chorus goes like this:
So keep'em coming these lines on the road
And keep me responsible be it a light or heavy load
And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes
That’s what I’m praying this morning. What about you?