Annas had failed in his attempt to successfully question Jesus, so the guards took the accused to the house of Caiaphas the high priest. Peter followed along at some distance but when he arrived he joined the guards around the fire. At one point, a maid of the high priest asked Peter if he were not one of the Jesus group. Peter denied it, and when he was asked for the third time, he swore by God that he did not know the man. Just then as Jesus was being taken through the courtyard, a rooster crowed. Jesus turned and looked Peter “straight in the eye.” Suddenly Peter remembered the words of Jesus that before the cock would crow that very night he would have denied him three times. To have his master look so directly into his eyes, and realizing that he was fully aware of what Peter had done, was simply too much for the Galilean fisherman. He went out and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:60-61).
What I would like to know is what happened in that moment. What was Jesus “saying” by his direct look into Peter’s eyes? What passed through Peter’s mind just then? What we do know is that Peter broke into tears. The sudden awareness of having denied the One who so recently he had declared to be the very Son of God was more than he could handle. For Peter it was an encounter with reality. He, a believer, had betrayed the One in whom he claimed to bellieve. How could that be? How corrupt is the human heart?
I think several things happened when Jesus looked Peter “straight in the eye.” One is that he wanted his disciple to realize that he knew about his failure to remain true under trial. The failure was not something that could be swept under the rug as though it never happened. Sin needs to be clearly labeled as sin. You have to get it out to get over it. However, it was not a look of condemnation. It had never been a policy of Jesus’ to use shame as a way to achieve his goal. Peter was guilty, that was true, but Jesus wanted him to know that he was not abandoned. The bonds of genuine friendship are not so easily broken. Jesus wanted Peter to understand that while his denial was wrong restoration was his for the asking.
How does this event inform us as we consider our desire to reflect Christ in our life? The two things that stand out to me are first, the willingness not to retaliate, and the desire to restore broken relationships. The two are inseparably joined: Satisfy self (retaliate) and you can’t achieve the other (restoration). Should we not let the other know by our look that their offence against us, although wrong, cannot break the relationship