In 1967, when I was a wee lass, Dusty Springfield recorded the Burt Bacharach song, “The Look of Love.”
“The look of love is in your eyes, a look your smile can’t disguise. The look of love — it’s saying so much more than just words could ever say.
“And what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath away.”
This past week at church, the pastor talked about the look of love, although that wasn’t exactly his sermon message.
His message was about God’s people mending the world, doing good, bringing beauty and healing and flourishing through God’s love to hurting people.
But as he always emphasizes, you first have to get loved before you can give love. You have to know how much you have been and are loved, how much you’ve been and are forgiven.
At my church we call it “getting the gospel.”
He told us about an encounter between Jesus and his disciple, Peter.
Peter was bold and brash, cocksure. He was the one who, when Jesus walked on water, he thought he could do it, too. He did, until he got scared and took his eyes off Jesus and sank, crying out to Jesus to save him.
On the night before Jesus died, after the famous last supper when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter is the one who says, “You’re not washing my feet — ever!” But when Jesus tells him, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing,” Peter says, “Then not just just my feet, wash my hands — wash my head!”
Also on that same night Peter declares to Jesus, “I’m all in. I’m ready to go to prison with you. I’m ready to die with you.”
Jesus tells him, “Peter, by the time the rooster crows you will deny knowing me three times.”
Later, Jesus is in a garden where Judas betrays him, then a band of soldiers and some religious leaders come and Peter lops the ear off the high priest’s servant (which Jesus puts back on). Then Jesus is arrested and is taken away.
Peter follows him, sort of. He’s not bold and brash and cocksure anymore.
A servant girl says to him, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?”
Peter says, “I am not.”
Then two more times other people ask the same question, and both times — three times in all — Peter says no. Adamantly, furiously no.
Immediately, a rooster crows and Jesus “turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61).
What a chilling sentence.
Except, my pastor said, in the original language (Greek), the word for the look Jesus gave Peter was not a look of anger or disappointment or disgust.
“Jesus looked at Peter and loved him,” the pastor said.
Earlier, before Jesus tells Peter he will deny him, he says, “Peter, Satan has demanded to have (all of) you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you (Peter), that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus knows Peter, knows he’s about to cower before a young servant girl, and yet he already plans to forgive and restore Peter.
One of the most powerful statements made about the way God loves us is this: “But God demonstrates his own love for us because while we were still being sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
I love that, every time I read it.
And what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath away.
Nancy Kennedy can be reached at (352) 564-2927 or by email at email@example.com.