Holy Week Thoughts to Ponder – Maundy Thursday

The Look

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Luke 22:61

Only Luke has this little detail, that at Peter’s moment of denial, Jesus “looked at Peter.” It’s a detail that adds much drama and depth to the story. The gospels present Peter as a fascinating study in courage and cowardice, success and failure, agony and ecstasy. Of all the biblical characters, he comes across as the most human. Peter could span the spectrum of behavior and emotion as quickly as a pendulum swings on the grandfather clock.

Apparently Peter had a widely known reputation. The first time Jesus laid eyes on him he said, “So you are Simon, the son of John” (John 1:42), and then Jesus said from that moment on he’d call him Cephas, which is Aramaic for Peter, which is Greek for “rock.”   Simon Peter-the rock.

Jesus had been taken into custody, and Peter was following, but keeping his distance. A servant-girl noticed him and said, “This man here was also one of them.” Peter denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

Someone else saw him and said, “You are one of them!” “No I am not,” insisted Peter.

Then another kept insisting, “Surely this man was also with him.” Once again, Peter vehemently denied it saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

The cock then crowed. At that moment, Jesus still close by, turned and made eye contact with Peter. Those few moments must have seemed as if time had stopped. Frozen in time their eyes locked. Peter then remembered Jesus’ words that before the cock crowed he would deny him three times. It was then that the great hunk of granite-like “rock” crumbled into fragments. Peter ran off to a desolate place, broke down and wept. Tears streamed down his face like rain running off a rock.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”   The Look!   What kind of look was it, do you suppose?

You have heard the cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Well, so is a look.  About a year ago I was at the Community Rec Center.  I was in the locker room dressing and there were three younger boys goofing around as boys will do.  They were snapping their towels at each other and throwing stuff at each other, and I was caught in the crossfire. I was the only adult around. A pair of swim trunks came flying toward my face. I snatched them out of air, and then, I just stared at them. I didn’t say a word, but just gave them “the look.”   It was amazing how they immediately mellowed out.

Most parents have mastered the art of “the look.” There are looks of concern, affirmation, consternation, pride, agitation, admonishment, love and many more. If you are a parent, you know what I mean.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”

Had you been in Jesus’ place,  what kind of look would you have given Peter?  Your best friend had just denied even knowing you at your most desperate hour.  For three years you and your friend had walked side by side through thick and thin. You had loved him, cared for him and stuck by him through all of his fickle pendulum-like-swings between brilliance and stupidity, agony and ecstasy, commitment and fickleness.  Just before this he said he would go to the death for you.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” If it would have been me, it would have been a look of anger and scorn. I would have felt deeply wounded and betrayed, abandoned by my best friend. My look would have been one those “if looks could kill” kind of looks.

But I don’t believe that’s the look that Jesus had for Peter. “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”   When you look at the passion of Jesus as a whole, he never lashed out; never made threats; never cursed his accusers and executioners; never did any of the things that I know that I am prone to do for far lesser offenses.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” I believe it was a look of unfathomable love. Of course, Jesus was wounded and hurt by Peter’s denial and that was included in “the look.” But Jesus didn’t allow his injured feelings to dominate him, not only with Peter, but throughout an entire week of being the victim of unmitigated injustice.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” I believe it was the same look he gave the crowd and his executioners from the cross when he extended forgiveness to them, “Father forgive them.”

Jesus did not allow his injured feelings to rule him. I know that I have a hard time getting past my injured feelings. When I have been wronged by someone, I struggle immensely to get past it. Sometimes I hang on to the stuff for days, weeks, months or years.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”  What kind of look was it? It was a look of love that would not allow his injured feelings to dominate him.

It was also a look that would not allow his injured feelings to blind him. The look of Jesus is always a look that sees deeper than the offense. The look he gave Peter and the look he gave to the crowds and his executioners looked beyond the offense. The look of Jesus peers into our souls, hearts, minds, and he sees us how vulnerable we are to the power of fear and insecurity that can cause us to do irrational sometimes and injurious things.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”  It was a look that would not allow his injured feelings to blind him to the frightened little boy inside of Peter that lived deeper than his offense; deeper than his denial.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”Finally it was a look of forgiveness and invitation. From the cross Jesus forgave those who had participated in inflicting injury upon him. But with his forgiving grace also comes an invitation. John reports in his gospel that, after the resurrection, the disciples experienced Jesus on a beach. Peter, in a personal experience of the risen Presence, heard Jesus ask him, “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep!” (John 21)

With grace always comes a renewed invitation to come home to our relationship with Divine love and begin anew: with a new mission; a new purpose; a new focus; a new center; a new beginning.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter, you and me.  What kind of look is it when you and I cave in to something less than love and commitment?

  • It’s a look that will not allow injuries that we inflict to dim the brightness of his love that shines for you and me.
  • It’s a look that will not allow the injuries that we inflict to blind him to the fear and insecurity that lives deep within us.
  • It’s a look that extends grace and invites us back home into a new beginning.
  • It’s a look that embraces us with unfathomable Divine love.

How can we be sure that’s the kind of look it is?   We are assured at the Lord’s table of grace as we celebrate the astounding love and amazing grace that lives behind “the look.”



1 thought on “

  1. Rod Schofield

    Joe, we so appreciate your Lenten meditations and this one was one of the most insightful and meaningful ones we have read this Lenten season. It’s so good to experience your theological insights and compassion in this way since we miss you in the pulpit.


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