After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. (Luke 22: 54-62)
How did Jesus look at Peter? What was on his face that made Peter remember that he had denied Christ, just as Jesus had predicted? What did Jesus’ expression say that made Peter go out and weep bitterly?
Jesus could have looked at Peter with a smug face that said, “I told you so!” How many of us would give someone a smug expression after being proved right?
He could have looked at Peter with anger. “How could you deny me, after everything I’ve taught you, everything I’ve done for you!?!?” How many of us would respond in anger, upon discovering that someone we loved denied even knowing us?
Christ could have looked at Peter with hurt and sadness, where his eyes said it all: “All I ever asked from you was to follow me, and you can’t even do that when I need you the most…” How many of us would respond to being betrayed with tears in our eyes?
Jesus could have looked at Peter in any of those ways – they are all certainly human responses – and any of these responses could certainly lead Peter to weep.
But these looks don’t belong on the face of Jesus that Peter knew; the Jesus that we all know.
I believe that Jesus looked at Peter with love. When I read and reflect on this passage, I picture Jesus’ eyes saying, “I forgive you. I am with you to the end. I still love you, no matter what you do.”
And that kind of expression – that look of love, even when we feel unworthy of being loved – is what made Peter weep.