The gaze of Jesus
"The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter."
If you imagine Jesus turning and looking straight at you, what do you see in His face?
Do you see joy and delight? Fierceness? Disappointment?
What you imagine in the face of Jesus tells you a lot about how you see God. Do you know that Jesus has such deep affection for you? I have often felt like God was pleased with me when I behaved well and He was distant and uncaring when I messed up. My picture of God has been so wrong.
Let's take a look at that part of the book of Luke we were talking about yesterday, where Peter disowns Jesus, because it will help us understand how Jesus responds to us when we fail.
Now, remember, Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny Him and He said that he would pray for Peter that his faith wouldn't fail. It was no surprise to Jesus that Peter disowned him three times, but Peter was so disappointed in himself because he really believed that he was ready to follow the Lord to prison and to death. But Peter couldn't follow through.
Peter is standing in the courtyard outside the area where the Pharisees and soldiers are interrogating Jesus. Peter tells everyone he doesn't know Jesus for the third time, the rooster crows and then the Lord turns and looks straight at Peter. His face is not filled with condemnation and disgust, disappointment or accusation, but with love for Peter.
Remember Jesus' prayer - "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail" (Lk.22:32). Jesus is praying that Peter would continue to trust in the faithfulness of God to forgive him, to sustain him and strengthen him.
God is so patient with us. He doesn't expect perfection from us, in fact He knows that we can't be perfect. He wants us to grow, but only in the context of knowing His great love for us which is completely unconditional. He loves us when we fail and He loves us when we succeed. His love for us doesn't change based on our performance. Faith that doesn't fail isn't about being a superhero that can overcome all sorts of amazing things, faith that doesn't fail is about knowing that our Father in heaven still loves us and wants to be with us when we feel unlovely, disappointing and ugly on the inside. This is good news!
The end of the story for Peter is that Jesus returns and restores him as the leader of the church, and Peter leads from a place of knowing the great kindness and mercy of God.
Our sorrow over our failure isn't the end of our story because we can run back into the arms of our loving Father and find the peace and reassurance we need to know that we are loved right as we are.