The Merciful Priest

“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” ” (Luke 23:61).

It was natural to turn to the experience of Peter in the passion account of Luke, when I preached on the theme of mercy in Hebrews 2:16-18. Luke’s description of Jesus who ‘looked at Peter’ at that moment, is such a powerful illustration of what a merciful and faithful high priest we have in Jesus.

Gary A. Anderson turns to Karl Barth’s analysis of Peter denial which helps unpack the significance:

“Those graced by the very presence of God are the very persons who reflect most poignantly on their sinful human condition.” Anderson comments: “Peter learns of his sinful predisposition, not as a sterile dogma, nor solely as a moment of hatred and loathing turned inward. His sinful inclination becomes clear only through the loving glance of his Lord, a glance that forgives even as it renders judgement.”

“It is from precisely this nexus – the merciful approach of God to an unexpectant person – that the notion of original sin takes life. And so Barth’s profound insight: original sin is not a reasoned, philosophical consideration of human waywardness and evil, however true these concepts might be on their own terms. The doctrine of original sin is a theological attempt to sketch how profound this mystery and experience of redemption truly is.” (Sin, Death & the Devil, p 43)

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