February 16, 2013

Keep looking at Jesus

Our kids call it “the look” — that glance from mom that shoots a message (usually “quit it”) without saying a word. But “the look” only works if the children are looking at mom. 

God’s child Peter has been called the “bruised and bleeding disciple” because the Bible indicates that he walked so close to Jesus that every time Jesus stopped, Peter ran into the back of him! With that same eager zeal, he’d told Jesus that he would never deny Him, but Jesus said that he would.

When Jesus was arrested, Peter put himself in the danger zone, the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. Jesus was going to be tried and crucified. The others had fled, but Peter didn’t. However, when confronted by onlookers that he was a follower of Jesus, he denied it.

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60–62)

Peter was determined, just as I can be about my commitment to follow Jesus. Yet just as he learned, and I have learned, human determination is hardly enough to stay close, never mind stick to it under the threat of death. Peter denied Jesus and for decades has been scorned for his faithlessness. Yet Peter was there, as close as he could get. Where were the other disciples? 

Peter wasn’t perfect, yet he cared deeply about Jesus. As he warmed his hands at the fire in that courtyard, no doubt his eyes constantly looked in the direction of Jesus. As today’s devotional says, “While he wandered about among the maids and serving men, talking to them—fool that he was—yet still he would steal a glance to see how it fared with the man he loved. He had not given up the habit of looking to his Lord.”

This catches my heart. I know that I also must look at Jesus if I am going to see His eyes looking at me. In Peter’s case, whatever the “look” meant he would have missed it if he had remained in hiding with the others, or furtively kept his eyes turned downward in his denial.

Besides that, the Bible does not explain Jesus’ look. We easily assume it was the stern look of rebuke, but it could easily have been that look that says, “You blew it Peter, but I will never stop loving you.” Either way, Peter was deeply affected and wept.

For me, the point of this story is that despite Peter’s denial, he had enough faith that the Lord could “blow on the ashes and raise a fire.” By looking at Jesus, this impetuous disciple was able to receive whatever it was that Jesus gave to him without words. Just as a sensitive child responds to “that look” so also did Peter. Later, he became a strong leader for the family of God.

Also, it wasn’t the denial that revealed Peter’s heart, but that look. He was fearful and he denied that he knew Jesus, but one glance from the Master and he felt the humiliation of what he had done under the burning eyes of this One who still loved him. 

Sin is a bitter thing, but even the sin of a fear-filled denial can be forgiven. No matter what I do or how often I mess up and sin, Peter reminds me that I must keep looking to Jesus. 

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