It happened instantaneously. His beloved teacher had just washed his feet. Hours earlier he reclined at the table with his Lord and recalled the Passover. Now, his regret was beyond comprehension. Everyone and everything around him disappeared as the Lord turned and caught his eye.
Jesus knew. Jesus told him exactly what he would do; how he would deny knowing him three times before the break of dawn. How he would renounce his best friend, his teacher, his Lord, and his God.
But, how could he? He loved Jesus. He was bold to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He would die for Jesus a thousand times before he could even fathom hurting or denying his beloved Lord.
Jesus had been taken from him and the greatest horror imaginable was becoming reality. As the crows from the rooster sank into his ears, Jesus turned and beheld his rock, his beloved disciple and friend. Some rock he was.
The image of his captive Lord observing his treason seared itself into his memory. The earth became saturated with his guilt and shame as he dissolved into tears. The conversation with the servant girl by the fire haunted him as it played over and over and over in his mind. He had betrayed his Lord in the midst of His very death. "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (Romans 7:15).
Peter had boasted in his own strength as his Old Adam was at work deceiving him. The rooster's call made his sinful weakness clear as the words of Jesus echoed in his ears. But, as much as Jesus was Peter's beloved teacher and friend, Peter was foremost Jesus' beloved.
Jesus knew. Jesus knew exactly what Peter would do. He knew Peter would fail time and time again. Jesus knew Peter would not just make a mistake or two. Peter committed sin after blatant sin. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself.
Peter had made an audacious confession denying he knew Christ. He wished to separate himself from Christ in order to, for a brief moment, spare his life and reputation. Jesus, however, made an even more audacious confession; "It is finished" (John 19:30). While Peter fled the Lord, the Lord through His death and resurrection came running after His prodigal.
Satan demanded to have Peter, but Jesus would have the ultimate word (John 19:30). Sin demanded Peter pay for his iniquities, but Jesus claimed the charges instead(2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus did not abandon Peter because of his unfaithfulness. Jesus demonstrated His unyielding faithfulness to the faithless as he willingly journeys to the cross.
As the smell of the fire from that Friday morning still lingers in Peter's memory, Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him. As Peter's stomach churns with the guilt and shame of his transgression Jesus looks at him. Peter responds, "Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you" (John 21:17). Jesus does not seek out Peter to condemn, but to restore his precious lost sheep, His dearly loved prodigal son.
As Jesus restored Peter, He restores us. We have denied our Lord in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We have not feared, loved, and trusted in Him above all things. Jesus knows and sees us in the midst of our sin but refuses to leave us there. He restores our souls through water and the Word. He refreshes our faith with His very body and blood in, with, and under bread and wine.
Jesus knows everything about us and still turns his face towards us in mercy. Our Lord does not deny us, but calls us by name placing the Name of the Triune God on us in Holy Baptism. He intimately knows us and continually cares for us through Word and Sacrament. He will never deny us. Even when we are faithless, He is faithful to His promise of claiming us as His own.