Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial foretold by Jesus
Today I’ll be talking about Judas and Peter, and how their stories differ from each other, why their stories differ, and what we can learn from that. Let me pray and then I’ll read from John 13:21-38.
There’s a beautiful part there in the middle about the new commandment, but I’m going to be focusing on the first bit and the last bit.
So in this, Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. In essence though, Peter betrayed Jesus. So we have these two disciples, people who have followed Jesus for three years, who have been in his inner circle, who now turn around and betray him. But their stories turn out very differently- Jesus restores Peter, and Peter leads the early church, while Judas dies.
Before we look at these things, we first have to understand a bit about Judas and Peter. Judas was one of the twelve, but not one of those closest to Jesus. He followed Jesus in his three year ministry, and the Bible tells us that he was in charge of the money- in verse 29 it tells us that Judas had the money box. Other than this, we know very little about Judas. The only other time he really features is earlier in Bethany, when he condemns Mary for pouring the perfume on Jesus’ feet. In John 12:5-6, it says “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. That’s very interesting, because all four gospels have that, and there are very few places where the gospel writers all record the exact same thing in the same way. But basically, we know nothing about Judas before the betrayal except that he was one of the twelve, and that was a bit of a shady character. The gospels also, interestingly, don’t record whether they knew he was a thief at the time, or only after.
And Peter, we know a lot more about Peter, he was one the inner circle, a fisherman, and he spoke often with Jesus. He also had a bit of a temper, we see him attack the soldiers in the garden before being rebuked. He was incredibly proud and arrogant, we see him saying that he loved Jesus more than the other disciples, telling Jesus he would die for him, in verse 37. And his little freak-out in the foot washing scene. It’s almost like Peter is trying to impress Jesus. And he does stupid stuff, like the foot washing thing, and one time he rebukes Jesus for speaking about his death- and Jesus says “get behind me Satan”.
So we have these two people- a thief, and a fool. And both betray Jesus. Both fall short. And this is a really important point- we all fall short. The standard of God is absolute perfection, and only one man in all history has achieved that-Jesus. We all fall short. Like Peter, like Judas, like Moses when he struck the rock, like Abraham when he tried to make his own way, like David with Bathsheba. We all fall short. Judas is the betrayer, he sells Jesus to those who want to kill him, he gets 30 pieces of silver. That’s bad.
Peter abandoned Jesus. After loudly proclaiming his love and devotion, he hides, he runs. And he doesn’t only deny his saviour, his Messiah, he abandons his friend. He abandons his friend in his darkest and most difficult hour. And maybe we don’t fall short in these spectacular ways, but we definitely do.
But here’s the cool thing, these guys are like us, they mess up, they’re not perfect, and that means that we can learn from them. We can learn from what they did, how they reacted to their failure.
Both of them were ashamed. Both of them regretted the things they did. In Matthew 27:3-5, it says, Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Judas changed his mind, he knew what he had done was wrong, and he wanted to undo it. In Matthew 26:75, it says that Peter wept bitterly when he heard the rooster crow, knowing that he had denied Jesus. There’s no difference yet between them really, both have sinned, both have betrayed Jesus. The difference comes in now.
The difference comes after they realise what they have done. After they realise that they don’t meet the standard. The difference lies in who they turn to. Judas goes straight to the priests. He goes to men. He tries to give back the money, thinking that he can undo the fault. Judas tries to make himself right, he tries to create his own salvation, and it fails. And he knows it fails. And he’s destroyed. The Priests say to him, “what is that to us? See to it yourself.” Judas turns to the law, and he finds no comfort in it, no help, only condemnation, only shame.
Peter goes to Jesus. Peter knows he has fallen short, but he also knows that Jesus is the Messiah. He knows that he can’t make it on his own, he can’t fix it. But Jesus can. And at this point they’re not really 100% sure about the whole resurrection thing yet, but when it happens, Peter is there. He races John to the tomb. And in John 21:15-17, Jesus restores Peter. Three times he asks Peter if he loves him, and Peter replies yes
He doesn’t turn to the law, because he knows that under the law, he is dead. He turns to Jesus, and he is resurrected with him. And when he turns to Jesus, he doesn’t find condemnation and shame, he finds love and forgiveness. And yes, conviction, definitely, but its positive, it makes him want to change, its repentance- re- Again pent-to think- to think again, to rethink, to acknowledge you were wrong, and to renew your mind, so that you don’t make the same mistake again. It’s one of the greatest gifts God has given us.
Or we can just be sorry, we can feel shame, we can feel bad. Like Judas. And that’s pointless, because its death.
Judas turns to the law, and it shows him his death, and he dies, he hangs himself.
Peter turns to Jesus, and he shows him life, and he lives, because Jesus hung for him.
And that’s what Holy week is all about its what this coming weekend is all about- its about recognizing that we all fall short, about recognizing that we can’t win this life on our own. We fall short, but we are justified by Jesus’ death and resurrection. The price is paid, and we are made right, we are made to meet the standard in God’s eyes.
This is the basics of Christianity- Jesus died the death we deserved, but like Judas, we can choose to ignore that, and die the death anyway, or like Peter we can turn to Jesus, take the new life he offers us, and let the debt be paid.