A very important part of this picture of Peter betraying Jesus is the look that Peter sees on Jesus’ face when he catches his eye in the crowd. The text tells us that Jesus turned around and looked straight at Peter. Whenever the gospels tell us that Jesus looked at someone, generally that means that he looked at the other person with love and understanding, with a look that blesses.
What Peter saw on Jesus’ face (in Jesus’ ultimate moment of humiliation and Peter’s ultimate moment of betrayal) was not, as we would expect, a look of disappointment and reproach (How could you?), but something Peter had likely never seen or experienced before in his whole life, namely, a look that holds you in warmth and understanding even when you sin and betray. No doubt this was a defining moment in Peter’s understanding of Jesus because, at that moment, he experienced something that releases a different kind of tears, unconditional love.
The tears we weep when we are loved despite weakness are very different from the ones we weep when we feel judged and humiliated by our weakness. To experience love when we don’t deserve it is the one grace that cleanses us of sin and gives us strength against sin.
--Fr. Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I.
Image source: William Hole, Peter's Denial