The power of our averted eyes

Danish Painter Carl Bloch’s (1834-1890) THE DENIAL OF PETER


Luke 22:61 tells us that after Peter’s third denial, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord has spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And Peter went outside and wept bitterly.”

In my imagination as I look at this sobering painting by Danish Painter Carl Bloch, I try and imagine the few seconds before Peter averted his eyes and quickly fled the scene, weeping bitterly.  In those few seconds before — maybe just 2 or 3 seconds — Peter’s eyes had indeed met Jesus’ eyes.

We humans all know what happens when eyes meet. Biola University journalism professor Mike Longinow describes it with these words, “There’s a non-verbal language we all learn early on. It’s in the eyes. Psychologists, criminologists, journalists, and education theorists agree that when two people make eye contact, there are complex things that happen, things that are irrefutable.  A life can be changed in an instant, in a look.”

In my imagination, I try and imagine what Jesus would have said after Peter’s third denial, the very moment his eyes met Peter’s eyes:

“Oh, my dear friend.”

“Peter.  O Peter, you and I, we know each other.”

“Why?  Peter, it is I, Jesus, your friend.  We love each other.”

Luke, with sparse language, poignantly describes what led up to that moment. It is a powerful moment in history, one we can but read and try to imagine:

And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 

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