Jesus Turned And Looked Back At Him
The Strong Peter
1. Appearing in the storyline of today's passage of scripture is a man named Peter. He is a Jew. If his house is a typical Jewish home, then he also probably has an education in the law. He will also be considered an adult upon turning thirteen years of age and be called "a son of the law." He will be charged with the responsibility of the law as a member in the community. He will be required [to have] the strength to properly fulfill that which is prescribed for him as a responsible adult. To be unable to keep the law would not only be an accusation against him of breaking the law, but it would have been truly embarrassing to him as a full grown man.
2. He is also the son of a fisherman. He took lessons to be a fisherman along with his brothers at home and he soon turned into a full grown fisherman. Turning into a grown fisherman must not have been too easy of a thing. He had to fulfill his responsibilities on the ship. So, he was expected [to be ] strong enough to bear the responsibility for his role. It no doubt would have been embarrassing for him to show any weakness on his part on the ship, letting down the others, and being a drag on the other fishermen.
3. But, so far what I have mentioned about Peter is not any thing special. It is familiar to us, too. Many of the children in our country are brought up with the saying, "Don't be a bother to others." Not borrowing a hand from others for himself or herself, but the child who can do things right on his or her own is called a "good solid kid with two feet on the ground." The child, who only makes a nuisance of the hands of others, will set off a bad tone of gossip, "That kid'll be helpless for ever." Just the same even in this country, it is a strong and self-sufficient person who is admired. Being weak and needing other people's help is considered embarrassing. So, there are more than a few people who idealize being able to live with the claim to the end of one's life that "I'll never commit myself to the care of my kids or grand kids for anything!"
4. But yet, the real world is different from the ideal. We will end up with our weaknesses out in the open. We will become a bother to someone. There will be a time that unless we get help we will be desperate. We'll do embarrassing things so many times we can't count them. But, since we think that by nature being strong is good, such weaknesses will often be covered up. We will put up a good front somehow. We'll not show weakness. We'll do it so that we don't even see it. We're even ready to erase it from memory.
5. Somehow it seems that Peter was even like that. In the Gospels, both Peter and the other disciples often showed forth their weaknesses. For example, there's this: One day, when Jesus and his disciples were at the Sea of Galilee, the Lord came up with, "Let's cross to the other side of the lake." So then, Jesus and the disciples set the boat out. But then as a blast of wind blew down into the lake, they took in water and it became dangerous. The disciples got upset and confused. As they watched, Jesus wasn't asleep, was he? They woke the Lord up. "Master, master, we're gonna drown." Whereupon, the Lord rebuked the storm and the wild waves and calmed them, then he said to his disciples, "Where is your faith?," (8:25). It was quite enough to ruin one's name as a professional fisherman. It was embarrassing. But, even when things like that happen, it seems they are soon tucked away in the back of one's mind.
6. Then, they soon come to the scene of "The Last Supper" with the Lord. What were Peter and the other disciples doing there, can you imagine? The Bible tells us how these men really [acted] there. "Among the apostles an argument arose of who among them would be the greatest?," (22:24). In The New Interconfessional Version they translate the ones doing the arguing here as "apostles." (The original Greek has "they." Refer to 22:14). In this case, in saying apostles it means the twelve among the disciples who were especially closest to Jesus. The top leader among them was Peter.
7. So far, the Bible has recorded in it encounters of Jesus with many people. A man possessed by an unclean spirit is set free. A person suffering from a burdensome skin disorder is cleansed and returns back to society. A man with the palsy who is brought in by his friends receives the message of the forgiveness of sin and is healed. Bread is given to over five thousand hungry people. The sight of a blind beggar is healed. Also, now, many are following Jesus seeking the deliverance of the messiah. The group with him has formed into a huge crowd. But, where have "the apostles" been amid all the dealings with these people? They have always been at the side of the healer Jesus and not at the side of the healed people. They have been putting themselves on the helping side, not on the side that was getting helped. I suppose they were clearly drawing a line between themselves and the likes of the healed blind beggar or the person with the severe skin disorder; for, if for no other reason, they themselves had no need for any such healing. Even when the bread was given to the five thousand people, they were "the ones distributing the bread." They were the one and only "apostles." But, now they were arguing who was the greatest among them. No doubt, Peter probably made his claim that he was the greatest.
The Weak Peter
8. It was his turn. The Lord made a surprising statement to Simon Peter. "Simon, Simon, Satan has begged God and asked that he might sift you all like wheat. But, I have prayed for you that your faith would not disappear. Therefore, when you get back on your feet, strengthen your brothers," (22:31-32).
9. Peter is spoken of as an utterly powerless weak human being in the face of Satan's testing. Had there not been the intercessory prayer of Jesus, he could not maintain his faith. It is being told to Simon himself that he is in need of Jesus' help. But, Simon is not about to admit his weakness. He doesn't recall here his own figure on the boat when all he could do was wake Jesus up. The events of that hour when he was asked, "Where is your faith?" have been tucked away in the deep recesses of the heart. As a result, Peter repeats again, "O Lord, if with you, I am ready if I have to go to jail or if I have to die," (verse thirty-three). Yet, the Lord said to him, "Peter, I say this though, today, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me," (verse thirty-four).
10. What actually happened then? It is recorded in the passage of scripture I read you today. When Jesus was arrested and brought to the house of the high priest, Peter followed along from a distance. Then he entered as far as the courtyard of the mansion and while warming himself at the fire along with the others there, he kept an eye on the turn of events. Whereupon, about then, a certain young lady, as she stared at Peter, said "This man was with him, too." Surprised at being fingered out so suddenly, without hesitation Peter denied it. He countered with "I do not know that man." A while after that, another person looked at Peter and said, "You are a member of his gang." Peter denied it again, "No way, that can't be." Then, after about an hour goes by, another person repeats that "Surely, this man was with him, too. Because he is a Galilean." Peter flat out denies for the third time that he was with Jesus. "I don't understand what you're saying." Whereupon, while he was hardly finished saying that, all of a sudden, the rooster crowed.
11. It is short, though, but only Luke's Gospel paints the scene at this point and does it with very impressionable words. It continues next in the story [after "Peter denied for the third time and the rooster crowed"] with this: "The Lord turned around and looked at Peter," (verse sixty-one). So far, Peter was used to seeing the many people upon whom Jesus turned his gaze. There was the gaze of Jesus' mercy when he turned to the blind beggar who had kept shouting, "O Jesus son of David, have mercy on me," (18:38). Perhaps Peter had stood right near Jesus and must have cast a glance of mercy [upon the beggar] along with the Lord. Peter never became one with those crying out for mercy out there. The blind man stood in a position of weakness in need of compassion and on the other side standing with Jesus was the strong man Peter. Until the end, he was strong, following Jesus at risk to his life, sharing in the activities with Jesus, and trying to do the will of the Lord. But, at this point here, the glance of Jesus was now cast onto Peter. Peter came to discover that the glance of Jesus was being turned upon none other than himself.
12. Then he remembered. He remembered the words of the Lord that "Today, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me." But, that wasn't all that Peter was supposed to have remembered. Because the Lord said something else to him. "Simon, Simon, Satan has begged God and asked that he might sift you all like wheat. But, I have prayed for you that your faith would not disappear. Therefore, when you get back on your feet, strengthen your brothers." Peter must have remembered these words from the Lord which he had spoken to him. Peter was certainly here directly in the merciful glance of the Lord. He was in the glance of the Lord as a man prayed for by Jesus.
13. Thus, he wept. He wept out loud very hard. Suffering over his weak self, suffering over his sinful self, he wept hard. He could weep. As a Jew, and as one of the apostles, he had to be strong for the future, as the person who was supposedly number two in the kingdom of the messiah. He may cry for others, but [no one] was expecting him to cry for his own weakness and sinfulness. But, forget it. Jesus knew it all any way. He might pretend to be tough and put up a brave front, but Jesus knew everything. Thus, Peter wept. He acknowledged how he really was deep down inside and wept hard.
14. This is Peter. It is Peter, later the great apostle. This story is recorded in all four of the gospels. Peter, the apostle afterwards, must have told people what happened over and over. Because had there not been the tears of that hour, there would not have been the Peter after it.
15. It is the third week since entering Lent. This period of time is when we should be crying hard before the gaze of the Lord upon us. Because of our sins, because of our wretched pitiful condition, let us cry hard. Indeed, it is not by our own strength [that we are able to stand], but we can be given strength to stand again through the mercy of the Lord and together we want to receive from the table of the risen Lord Jesus the bread of life to do so. That we might be as Peter was!