Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Devotion for today: Jesus looked at him...

As I read this part of the passion of Christ on Sunday, the words jumped off the page and into my heart. I was utterly struck by the image of Peter, so bold and brave as to follow Jesus in this dangerous situation, yet overcome with such fear for his mortal life that he would deny his dearest friend. How many times have I purposefully and with great resolve turned my life over to Jesus, promising to follow Him no matter where, only to cave in fear as I am challenged by the outside world, cave to the imagined fear of mocking and ridicule if I remain true to Jesus and openly profess my relationship with Him through direct action, words, or by rejecting popular yet sinful conversation and activities. Peter wanted to be faithful, but fear got in the way. Remember Peter said in Luke 22:33 that he would die for Jesus, yet here he is, refusing to even acknowledge Jesus as someone he knew. Haven’t we all, some time in our lives, turned our backs on our only hope of salvation in order to fit in, or be loved, or gain worldly respect? Haven’t we all sold out at some time to the fear we might be recognized as “on fire” for Christ? I think through Peter we learn that the difference between the brave heart in us and the coward in us is very tenuous at best, and that we can fall at any time. That is why our lives must be steeped in Scripture reading, service, and Sacraments. We must cultivate our faith to such a point that it totally outweighs the fear that exists in us all.

How can we even read the following verse without being struck by the horrible pain that Peter must have felt?  “…and the Lord turned and looked at Peter;” I can only imagine how Peter felt as he looked up from his adamant denial of any relationship with Jesus, only to see Jesus looking at him! The word in Greek translates as “to look at something directly and therefore intently.” This was not a mere glance; this was a gaze. Were Jesus’ eyes filled with pain? Did they reflect pity? Was Jesus only showing more love through His eyes at that moment than Peter had ever experienced in his life? My guess is all three, and I think I am right. When I knowingly commit a sin, no matter how small, I picture Jesus looking right at me. His eyes reflect the sorrow He is feeling at my denial of Him, for every single sin is nothing more than a denial of the One who sets us free. I see Him gazing at me with love and mercy, telling me that I may have pained Him at this moment, but if I ask Him for it, He will give me the grace to get up and get going again. I know this must be true. Jesus took Peter’s contrition to heart and made Him the head of His Church on earth. He will give us great blessings if we acknowledge our sin, ask forgiveness, and start again more determined than ever to stay close to Christ, so that the only gaze we receive from Him is one filled with pride. Peter wept as do we. This week we will weep for our sins and what they did to Christ. Let us never forget, however, that He loved us to death. We can be brave enough to do the same for Him by putting to death our sinful practices and habits, and turning our eyes upon Jesus.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

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