(Matthew 26.57,58,67-75; Mark 14.53,54,66-72; John 18.12-18,25-27)
54Jesus was arrested and led away to the house of the high priest, while Peter followed at a distance. 55Some people built a fire in the middle of the courtyard and were sitting around it. Peter sat there with them, 56and a servant girl saw him. Then after she had looked at him carefully, she said, “This man was with Jesus!”
57Peter said, “Woman, I don't even know that man!”
58A little later someone else saw Peter and said, “You are one of them!”
“No, I'm not!” Peter replied.
59About an hour later another man insisted, “This man must have been with Jesus. They both come from Galilee.”
60Peter replied, “I don't know what you are talking about!” Right then, while Peter was still speaking, a rooster crowed.
61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered that the Lord had said, “Before a rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will say three times that you don't know me.” 62Then Peter went out and cried bitterly.
When you’ve just lied three times, you don’t want your teachers, mentors or friends to find you out.
Jesus has just told Peter that he (Peter) will be tested the way a farmer separates wheat from husks – with focused intensity and power that shreds living material apart – but that he has prayed for Peter’s faith. Peter declares (v 33) that he’s ready to go with Jesus to jail. He’s even ready to die. Jesus responds to Peter’s fervency with a painful truth: Peter will deny Christ three times.
And he does. The test has begun.
Following Jesus into the high priest’s house from a distance, Peter disowns the physical and emotional geography of his relationship with Jesus . . . as quickly and fervently as he’d vowed to follow Jesus to jail or to death. No, he doesn’t even know that man (he can’t even say the name Jesus now); he’s not one of them (Jesus’ followers) and he doesn’t know what they’re talking about (were he and Jesus from Galilee?).
A rooster crows. Jesus turns and looks at Peter with love, concern and interest (all translations of the Greek text). Peter understands.
Jesus’ look bridges the distance – Peter’s disavowal of Christ. That look offers Peter a holy terrible weight of understanding . . . for Jesus himself has already drunk from the cup of self-denial: Not my will but yours be done. That look reminds Peter of Jesus’ heart: “But Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to me, help the others” (v 32).
Jesus’ look of love. It’s the least casual look you’ll ever receive for it comes at a price.
Lover of our souls, your look of love makes us feel the weight of our daily denials. It shows up our lack of understanding of the big Story you’ve written. Help us to listen to your words about the height and breadth and depth of your grace and concern for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.