A Fragile Stone: pg. 111-112
"The Despairing Denier"
September 27th, 2019
While Peter was in the courtyard below, one of the high priest's servants came. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus."
But he denied it: "I don't know or understand what you're talking about!" Then he went out to the entryway, and a rooster crowed.
When the servant saw him again she began to tell those standing nearby, "This man is one of them!"
But again he denied it. After a little while those standing there said to Peter again, "You certainly are one of them, since you're also a Galilean!"
Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, "I don't know this man you're talking about!"
Immediately a rooster crowed a second time, and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." When he thought about it, he began to wee
Luke uses a specific word for Jesus' glance. It is, interestingly enough, the same word John used to describe the very first time Jesus looked at Peter. It is the Greek word emblepo. Jesus uses it when he tells the disciples to "consider" the lilies of the field. It means to see with your mind, to understand. It is sometimes translated "look straight at." But this fails to capture the force of this moment.
The understanding gaze of Jesus could not have been one of disdain or condemnation. That was not Jesus' way. After all, Jesus would be condemned for Peter. I believe the only look that could have broken Simon as it did was one of love and forgiveness. Which is just what we would expect from the Savior.
Upon first seeing him, Jesus knew all there was to know about Simon, the son of Jonah. He was able to give him in that first meeting (according to John's Gospel) his prophetic title, Cephas, the Rock. And just now, seeing Peter at his absolute worst, Jesus is willing to turn and go to the cross for Peter–and for you and me. After all, he sees us just the same way as he first did Peter. He gazes at us with that understanding stare and sees all our potential, all our frailties and faults. And yet he was willing, even while we were still sinners, to take up that cross for us. If, every time we read these passages about the failure and heartbreak of Peter, our hearts don't at the same time break a little more, we have failed to interact with the details of Scripture at the level of our imaginations.
That's one of the wonderful qualities about having our corporate identity in someone like Simon. He is us! Jesus could have no one better. Even as he cried out when he began to sink into the sea, so now as he begins to sink into his own despair Peter goes out and weeps bitterly. He cries once more and will once more be rescued and forgiven by Jesus.
Though we can know for certain that he was completely forgiven, one wonders if he ever completely forgave himself.
There is one more interesting omission. At the conclusion of his version of the story, John simply says the cock crowed. He omits the heartbreak of Peter. Since he alone was there to witness this total breaking of his companion, it is not hard to understand why he could not find the words to tell us about it.