And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. (Lk. 22:61a)
This observation is unique to Luke’s account. From a reader’s perspective it takes us by surprise. We knew Peter followed Jesus from a distance (vs.54) but we were unaware of the possibility of each being in each other’s line of sight. Perhaps Jesus was in transit in between trials. Whatever the case was, the providence of God, and the control of Christ, is at this point noticeably incredible. At the rooster’s crowing, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Despite being like a lamb before His shearers, the Good Shepherd still had His eyes on His sheep.
Notice how the text says that the Lord “turned and looked” at Peter. It’s hard to imagine a more penetrating look. At just the right moment, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power looked at His disciple as His word yet again came to pass (cf. Lk. 22:34, 56-61). The text calls our attention to Peter’s reaction (vs.61b-62), and how Jesus’ look did what the first and second crowing of the rooster did not do – it prompted Peter to remember the word of the Lord, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (vs.61c). Peter’s heart was pierced. Jesus had been right. And Peter began to weep bitterly (vs.62).
And why did Peter weep the way that he did? I would venture to think that he wept bitter tears not only because he was overwhelmed by the sorrow of failing his Lord, and not only because he had failed the Lord at a time when, humanly-speaking, he should have ‘been there for Him,’ but also because of the conspicuous absence of certain characteristics in ‘Jesus’ look. Doubtless, Jesus didn’t look at Peter with a face of disgust, frustrated anger, or a kind of disappointment that was a prelude to resentment and abandonment. Rather, the face that looked at Peter with a likely mix of sadness, love, and grace, was already at this point bruised, bloodied, and spat upon for him (Mt. 26:67-68).
And while there’s more that can be said about Peter’s reaction, I think we can, perhaps, look too quickly at verse sixty-two without considering the first half of verse sixty-one. We can look at Peter’s remorse without considering what Jesus’ reaction might have been. I don’t think we’d be correct to assume Jesus’ foreknowledge anesthetized His emotions. Don’t make the mistake of thinking omniscience negates feelings. Having read plotline spoilers, you may watch a movie un-swayed by the scenes you see because you know the outcome; but the Bible does not at all depict God like that. Listen, for example, to the words Yahweh spoke concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel through the prophet Hosea centuries earlier,
“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.” (Hos. 11:8)
Suffice it to say, God’s omniscience clearly does not make Him emotionless. Using anthropomorphic language, His heart could churn; furthermore, His sympathy could be stirred. Using New Testament revelation, God’s Spirit, the One who indwells His people, can be grieved (Eph. 4:30); and are we not to think that Jesus was in some way emotionally affected by Peter’s denial? If the Spirit is grieved over our sin, shouldn’t it stand to reason that Jesus was grieved by Peter’s denial. The Bible depicts God as relational and, in a perfectly holy way – emotive. Therefore, Jesus’ look and probability of the emotions contained therein, again – likely a mix of sadness, love, and grace, ought to be a reminder of the relational nature of our God and an incentive to appreciate it. Just because we cannot pinpoint what those exact emotions were because the text does not tell us, and just because the text doesn’t quantify how much Jesus felt whatever He felt, we should be careful not to impugn upon the text what we might esteem to be a logical conclusion when it contradicts Biblical revelation. How blessed God’s people are to be able to pray to a Father that feels and a Savior that sees…yet still loves and restores.