Some of you may recall the well-known German children’s fairytale about two children named Hansel and Gretel who went walking in the deep woods leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back home. Sadly, it didn’t work out very well for them because the breadcrumbs are eaten by various animals and they are lured into a trap by a wicked witch in a house made of gingerbread and candy.
Most of us would never trust a trail made of breadcrumbs and in the modern era we would be pulling out our phones to GPS our way into the woods and back home again.
The image of a breadcrumb trail also can be a metaphor of how we follow a path little-by-little without being clear of the direction it will sometimes take us to lead us to the place we are to go.
Eric and Kristen Hill use that metaphor in their powerful book, The First Breakfast, to describe how Jesus, the Bread of Life, led his disciples little by little along a path to deepen their understanding of who He really was as well as show them who they really were.
In this Lenten season when our attention it being pulled to stories of pandemic and economic collapse, is it possible that we have forgotten He is leading us through this time as He led them through those last days and hours to show us more of who He is as well as who we are?
It was a time of testing for the disciples of Jesus during those last precious days and hours as He talked intimately with them, shared a meal with them, prayed with them, and gently told them who they would show themselves to be in the terrible hours of his arrest and crucifixion.
This is a time of testing for us even as it was for the disciples then that will reveal who He is and how we relate to Him, if we not only know about Him but enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. Some of us might already be discovering our words spoken so assuredly just weeks ago when life was easier fall silent now. Deep inside we may wonder if we will pass this test or like Peter, proclaim without question that we will do so.
So much is written about Peter during those last hours before the cross. Much of what is said is negative because it appears, he failed the test. But when you think of those passages, take another look. In the midst of a large group of soldiers armed to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where the odds were not in Peter’s favor, he was willing to take up a sword against all caution to try to defend Jesus. You might say he was impulsive and perhaps he was, but he also displayed courage.
It was also Peter of all the disciples who followed after Jesus to where He would be questioned and beaten. Peter came as close as he could be to be near Jesus. I have no doubt the words Jesus had spoken to him about denying him were long forgotten until after the rooster crowed.
It is at that moment that Peter can also look across the courtyard as Jesus is being led away and for this last time Jesus looks directly into Peter’s eyes according to Luke 22:60-62.
What must that have been like for him?
In The First Breakfast Eric and Kristen Hill write that the Greek word used to describe the look between them is one that means an “earnest look that penetrates the heart.” “It is to look in a sustained, concentrated way, with special ‘interest, love, or concern’.” It is also the same word used in John 1:42 when Jesus first called Peter and Andrew to follow Him.
So how could Peter deny Him?
Was he simply a coward when he had not given that impression as he traveled for three years with Jesus?
Eric and Kristen Hill posit a different perspective to consider:
“…underneath his denial is a current of pain and confusion, and a deep desire for the script to be different. Maybe his mind was filled with thoughts like, “No! This isn’t how It is supposed to be! He’s God! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! And he’s just giving up? I guess He isn’t who I thought He was at all. He winningly gave Himself over to be arrested, beaten, and spit on – I don’t know that man at all.”
We cannot say what the truth is, but when I consider the words of these writers it is not hard to imagine given my own life experience of how I respond to someone doing something so different than what I believe they would ever do.
This part of the gospel story is poignant for so many reasons, but during this troubling time in our own world we may yet be surprised at our own response to and about the Lord. If we do not respond as we think we might or hope we would, there is also another image in this story we must not miss.
Both times Jesus looked at Peter, there was only love in his eyes
How can that be? Wouldn’t He have been disappointed even though Jesus knew what Peter would say and do?
That’s where the stunning truth shines clearly:
“But in the eyes of Jesus, there is only love. The gaze of Jesus holds forgiveness for sin. He sees us not as we are, but as we are in Him.”
Eric and Kristen Hill
“38 So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. 39 There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”
Romans 8:38-39 (TPT)