You know the look; the soul stirring look; the look that dives deep inside of you. It is the look of a mother as she sees her child with their hand in the cookie jar after being told to wait until after supper. The look of that same mother when the child proceeds to deny they were taking a cookie. I heard of a mother in Belgium, whose glare was so intense that no matter where her children were sitting in church, if they were misbehaving, they could feel the heat of her look boring into them. They would turn and shudder underneath the mother glare; the soul shaking stare. “I see you” that look says. And as uncomfortable as it feels, it is a good thing; maybe even a life altering thing. Because it is not an “I see you and now I must detest you.” No. Of course not. It is I see you messing up. I am still your mother and you will answer to me. And as healing as this is, it is still scary stuff.
Luke 22:54-62 is all about denial and betrayal. Peter may not have handed Jesus over to the authorities with a kiss, but it is a betrayal nonetheless. They arrested Jesus, led him away, and brought him to the house of the high priest. Peter followed, but kept himself far away. This is not the following of a disciple. This is the following of fear. To Peter’s credit, most of the other disciples are no where to be found. Sometimes bravery and fear can dance together. Peter makes his way to the center of the courtyard where a fire has been set ablaze; where a group of people gathered to warm themselves this chilly night. His goal was probably to blend in; to be invisible; to find out what was going to happen to Jesus and then sneak away unscathed. I can und
Ah but here’s the thing: Jesus’ ministry was very public and Peter had been walking with him in that very public ministry. A slave girl fixes her gaze on him. Did they lock eyes? Did Peter cringe as he saw recognition set in? I don’t know. The woman said, “This man was with him.” One source claims that there was probably not a threat of being arrested here. Afterall, they had been allowed to leave the garden unshackled. Well, maybe, but these things sometimes happen in stages. Arrest the leader first and then round up the followers later. And who knows what this warming themselves by the fire crowd might do if they knew Peter was a disciple of the arrested man. So, Peter denies it. He rejects any association. He said, “Woman, I do not know him.” This is not, in any way, meant to be demeaning. He doesn’t know this woman’s name. It was a common address for a stranger who happened to be a woman.
A little later a man pipes up with “You are one of them too!” Peter responds with an emphatic “Man, I am not!” An hour passed. Did Peter begin to breathe easier? Being invisible is hard work. And maybe there is a lesson here. You cannot be a disciple and be invisible. Just as things seemed to calm down a third person burst out insistently. This guy was not going to let it drop. “Truly this man was with him, for he is a Galilean as well.” Matthew tells us that Peter’s speech gave him away. Either his accent or dialect was showing. You and I know that not all Galileans were disciples. We also know that these kind of associations get made all the time. You didn’t want to have a German accent or name during or shortly after World War II. Peter answered again with a strong denial. You can almost translate his words as “You are all crazy, I don’t know what you mean with your crazy accusations.”
At that very moment, as he was still speaking a rooster crowed. And at that very moment, Jesus turns and looks intently at Peter. Luke is the only one to throw in this detail. It may be that they were transporting Jesus at this very moment. We don’t know. What we know is that Peter could not remain invisible from Jesus. He could not spew out his denial and avoid the look of his master. The crowing of the rooster and the look of Jesus combine forces and break Peter down. He goes out and wails bitterly. It seems likely that this bitter wailing is the turning back that Jesus was confident would happen.
What is the difference between Peter and Judas? Judas felt remorse afterward. But it was a remorse without hope. There is a sorrow that leads to healing; a bitter shaking of the soul. Peter, in this moment, felt the weight of his betrayal. There is redemption here. When that weeping turns us toward God that is. As much as you may want to be invisible, Jesus always sees you. Whether you are busy denying or obeying, he sees you. And that is a good thing; a healing thing. Even when it shakes your soul and maybe especially when it shakes your soul.