I want to take you back to the last Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. It would have been early April. It’s just after sundown on Thursday evening, Jesus and the disciples were all gathered in the upper room around a table. Two of the disciples, Judas and Peter who were reclining at the table with Jesus would fail him within the next couple of hours. But the reason for their failure and their response to their failure would be decisively different.
As Jesus is sharing the Passover meal with the disciples, He tells them that from that table, one of the twelve would deliver Him up to be crucified. (The Greek word for “betray” and “deliver up” is the same.) Just 24 hours before, on Wednesday evening, Judas using his own wisdom and for his own reasons decides to betray Jesus by handing Him over to the Chief Priests. (If you want the passages, Luke 22:3-6, Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11)
Skip ahead to Thursday evening after the Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples are together and Jesus looks at Peter and tells him that Peter’s going to deny Jesus three times that night. Peter says, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You (Mt. 26:35).” Peter had already decided to die with the Lord because he truly trusted that Jesus was the Messiah, he just wasn’t as ready as he thought he was! Both of these men failed, both of these men betrayed the Lord Jesus, but just as their actual betrayals were different the word “betrayal” has different meanings and the differences are important. One definition means: “to deliver a person into someone’s hands.” Another definition means: “to fail or desert especially in time of need.” . Judas never really sees Jesus as Lord, and so in his own thinking he doesn’t fully realize the choice he has made. Peter on the other hand, is so in love with Jesus as the Lord that Peter is trying to serve faithfully but is overconfident in his human strength. Both men had betrayed Christ, but their reasons were different and as we shall see their responses are quite different also, which reflects their relationship with Christ.
Matthew records Judas’ response with these details: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood (Matt. 27:1-4).” Judas felt remorse, and that’s it. The Greek word means to regret a decision, to be sorry afterwards. In English, the word remorse means: to have a deep torturing sense of guilt felt over a wrong that one has done, and that’s exactly how Judas probably felt. He felt terrible, for what he had did, and confessed his wrong to the Chief Priests.
I want you to flash back to a couple of hours earlier. Jesus has been lead away to Caiaphas’ it’s around 3am on Friday morning. Peter is sitting in the courtyard, and a servant girl asks Peter if he was with Jesus and Peter denies it, a little while later another girl asks Peter if he was associated with Jesus and again he denies it, and still later some others come and say, “You have to be one of the disciples, you talk just like them, and for the third time Peter denies Him. And just then Jesus’ words hit him. ‘”Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly (Mt. 26:75).” Peter starts to weep bitterly. Peter runs off, because he knows that he has betrayed Christ, but he runs off still very much in love with Christ and still trusting Him. The Apostle Paul, years later would write, “Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which brings salvation, and leaves no regret (2. Cor. 7:10). Do you see the difference in their responses?
Judas felt “remorse” — the terrible self-condemnation when one realizes that they have done a really bad thing. But Judas trusted himself all along and when he realized he had sinned, he punished himself for his sin by killing himself. He never let the Lord actually be the Lord at any point in the transaction.
Peter “repented” — the turning around of mind and life and throwing ones self on the mercy of the Lord. He trusted the Lord all along, even when he himself failed. He felt terrible, too, but it was because he knew Jesus is Lord and he had failed to live up to his own knowledge of Christ.
Both men had high standards; both men took responsibility for their sins, both men felt terrible for what they did. But Judas, who never trusted the Lord, in the first place (John 6:70) let his bad feeling about himself turn him further away from the Lord, committing murder against himself. Peter was driven by his moral failure to the Lord in humility and sorrow. Remorse just feels bad for itself. Repentance runs to the Lord’s grace (John 21:7).
Their responses and my own failures cause me to think about the Cross of Christ
1. The Cross reminds us to turn and run to the Lord instead of away from Him when we fail.
2. The Cross reminds us that the grace we live in is not cheap! The purchase price for betraying Jesus was cheap, but the purchase prize for your soul was not. It cost Jesus everything.
3. The Cross reminds us that we will never be in a state where we do not need grace, and as believer’s we’ll never be in a state where we don’t have it.