"I thought I could handle it. I knew it would be a little dangerous and that someone might recognize me, but I had to do something Luke! So I followed John who was able to get us into the courtyard as we waited to figure out what was going to happen to Jesus. I thought, maybe there was a rescue, but you know I did tell him that I would die for him. I tried to do it with my little short sword in the Garden, but the Master wasn't pleased with that effort. So while I was in the courtyard some people started to ask me questions. I tried to shake it off and get them to move on. I evaded... OK, I denied I knew Jesus quietly the first time, but they were persistent. Finally I had had enough and I started calling down curses in my denial. I heard a sound behind me and it triggered a memory of something Jesus said. 'Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times'. As I recognized the sound of the rooster and the words of denial coming out of my mouth, Jesus was being led through the courtyard.
Luke... He looked right at me".
Luke was a very detailed writer and likely spent a lot of time interviewing people. As God led him to write down the accounts of the people to help tell the narrative of the Gospel of Christ, we can almost picture Peter and Luke sitting down as Luke perhaps asked him all the hard questions. Later on, in the letters that Peter wrote to the church, you have the much older and wiser friend of Jesus who speaks with the maturity that only failing, repenting, trusting God's forgiveness and then getting up again, can bring to a person. After his denials of Christ, he weeps bitterly. He hides with the other disciples after Jesus death is confirmed. He cowers in fear at what the Jewish elite might do to him. And then - a glimmer of hope.
Perhaps the first glimmer of hope came from the very face of Jesus. Jesus wasn't surprised, he predicted it would happen. I picture Jesus continuing his prayer at the time of the prediction "Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32).
Fast Forward: At the news of women that they had seen an angel, all the other disciples refused to believe them. It was just utter nonsense. But the thought of those words "JESUS IS ALIVE!!", caused his broken heart to dare to hope again. "Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb" (Luke 24:12). In John's Gospel, John beat Peter to the tomb, but Peter was the one to go in. That day they would see Jesus in person. Some days later, Jesus would again look into the eyes of Peter and ask him three times "Do You Love Me?". He would restore Peter and weeks later, Peter would preach one of the most pointed sermons ever at Pentecost, setting the foundation for what the church would be in the millennia ahead.
So what about you? What about me? I just keep coming back to the look on Jesus face and the prayer for Peter who he knew would blow it. Maybe nobody knows the doubts that you wrestle with. Maybe nobody knows the secret sins I've committed. Maybe nobody knows the fear we carry and the real consequences of truthful answers. God does.
As we walk with Jesus this Holy week, to the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the empty grave, consider the fact that in your darkest times, Jesus is looking right at you. With the words "He is not here, he has risen, just as he said", may God melt our fears into joy. First, that his sacrifice for my sin was enough!! That by it, my identity is "LOVED CHILD OF GOD!". That "Life to the Full", heaven, perfect relationship with God is something that we will experience when our bodies die.
This Easter season, when Jesus looks straight at Peter... at you... at me - consider JESUS hope for you and me in the wake of the Easter Resurrection - "I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen others". Yeah - He's looking at You :)
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!