I suppose the night was not unlike any other, if it weren’t for the shouts of soldiers, the clamor of armor and swords startling the sleeping disciples awake. As they tried to rally themselves, they were completely unprepared for the sight of their beloved master being escorted away by the temple guards into the night.
Frightened and afraid, Peter found himself following at a safe distance and watching as the Lord was taken hastily into the palace of the High Priest. Listen to the account from Luke’s Gospel: “Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while, another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” What an amazing moment! Now, as we prepare to enter Easter week, I would like for us to grasp in these verses is that moment frozen in time when Jesus’ eyes met Peter’s.
What happened in that moment of time is important to remember and well worth our consideration. You see, the moment is memorable, not so much because of what Jesus was experiencing, but what he sees. First, I notice that when Jesus looked at Peter, Peter was denying he even knew who Jesus was! Three times, in fact, Peter vividly denied he knew Jesus. Now Peter was guilty of denying verbally, but many today are guilty of denying they know Jesus simply by their actions. We deny him when it doesn’t benefit us at the time. We deny him when we think people might make fun of us. We deny him when it’s just not popular to be identified with Jesus. Also, notice with me that when Jesus looked at Peter, Peter was found standing in the shadows. Many still find themselves standing in the shadows warming their hands by the fire. They are warming their hands by the fire of excuse. Many are warming their hands by the fire of compromise. Not guilty of saying there is no God, but simply trying to mix Christianity with other belief systems of the world.
One more thing I notice before I move on, and that is that many are warming their spiritual hands by the fire of procrastination. They are simply close enough to feel a little something, but not willing to get close enough for the Lord to make a real difference in their lives. Lastly, when Jesus looked at Peter, Peter was doing the very thing that he told Jesus he wouldn’t do. Ever been guilty? Lord, if you’ll answer this prayer for me, I promise I’ll serve you and do whatever you want me to do. Peter assured the Lord, no matter what anyone else would do, that he would fight to the death for him. And yet when the moment came, he was found where he shouldn’t be, saying what he shouldn’t say, thinking what he shouldn’t think, and doing what he said he’d never do.
Let me allow Peter himself to say a word here. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” What words of warning and encouragement form the lips of the very man who knew from experience what it was like to fail, to be forgiven, restored and then used by God to live, preach and die for his faith.
So, allow me to ask you this question. When Jesus looks at you today, where does he see you? Are you where you should be? Are you saying what you should be saying and thinking what you should be thinking? In this whole account, I don’t find that Jesus uttered a word to Peter — he didn’t have to. You see, it wasn’t from where Jesus was looking that made the difference, but it was where Peter was when Jesus caught his glance that broke Peter’s heart. Where does Jesus see you right now?
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.
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