Peter and Judas - Betrayers with a Different End
Denial and Betrayal
In the last 24 hours of Jesus' life all but one of His disciples abandoned Him, running away in fear. The Bible notes the abandonment and betrayal of Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot in specific detail. Both stories look very different. Judas' betrayal would mark him forever as the "Betrayer," a notorious and evil man who got what he deserved. Peter's betrayal would mark him as a weak man and a failure as a disciple and friend of Jesus. We tend to judge them rather rather harshly.
Judas to this day is held as a sinister, evil, character with a heart of stone. He's the villain we love to hate. But Jesus didn't hate him, he loved him, and had Judas understood the true depths of Jesus love for him, and His forgiveness, the outcome of his life would have been far different.
Peter on the other hand was the impetuous, impulsive, passionate Galilean who had the bravado of a gorilla, but the heart of a lamb. He wore his heart on his sleeve and we all love him for it. We never doubt that Peter loved Jesus, just that his faith was weak, and who can't relate to that? Jesus loved him. That love led Peter back to Jesus, and his life was transformed.
Though both Peter and Judas grievously betrayed Jesus in His darkest hour, they both felt deep remorse. Their actions upon that remorse were very different however.
Peter - passion, bravado, lacking in faith
Peter - Peter's intentions were honest and sincere to remain true to Christ and go to any lengths to defend Him, even if it meant dying for Him. Had he not been so impulsive and taken the time to really contemplate his true thoughts and feelings he might not have made such a rash vow. Peter's problem was that often times his bravado and passion were greater than his faith. We can be so like Peter.
During the last supper Jesus dropped a bomb on Peter - "Simon, Simon! Indeed Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31).
In typical Peter fashion he postured like a true, brawny, Galilean fisherman and declared, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death!" Peter meant what he said in the heat of the moment. He had every intention of doing what he so passionately vowed if it came down to it, but Jesus told him "I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me” (vs. 24). And when the time came, fear overtook him, his faith failed him, and he denied the Lord three times. Betrayal!
Peter's problem was that often times his bravado and passion were greater than his faith. We can be so like Peter.
Thirty for Jesus
Judas - greed, malice and forethought
Judas - Judas Iscariot acted with malice and forethought to betray Jesus. He did not know Jesus as the other disciples, otherwise he wouldn't have done what he did. He kept the collection purse, and what went into it was his main concern. Jesus had thousands of people following Him, there were probably some generous donors. But Judas didn't fool anyone. When Mary of Bethany worshiped Jesus by pouring out a very costly pound of oil of spikenard on his feet, it was Judas who feigned concern for the poor by suggesting the money paid for the oil would have been better spent feeding the hungry (John 12:5). The gospel writer follows this with, "This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it" (vs 6). Judas pretended to care for the poor because he was a thief, wishing he could have had the money for himself.
Prior to the Passover supper we read in Luke 22:1-6 that Satan entered Judas' heart. His tools were secrecy and deception. Judas approached the religious leaders with a deal - the delivery of Jesus for a handsome purse:
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him" (Matthew 26:14-16).
They cut the deal - Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of silver - about 5 weeks wages (6 work days per week). Then Judas went to the Passover meal, dining and reclining with Jesus and his fellow disciples as if nothing were out of the ordinary; as if he were a committed disciple; he was the consummate actor. As we know from the biblical accounts of the Passover supper, Jesus had his number and told him to go and do what he planned to do. This was God's will, for it would accomplish God's plan for Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.
Peter's response to his betrayal of Jesus
When the mob showed up to arrest Jesus, Peter turned on his bravado and good intentions and cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest named Malchus. Jesus rebuked Peter and put the ear back on Malchus. They led Jesus away and Peter followed from a distance. As they took Jesus in before the High Priest, Peter waited in the courtyard with others who had come to wait for news. Peter was recognized as one of Jesus' disciples by a servant girl. He denied knowing Jesus, and a rooster crowed. He went to the gate and yet another servant girl recognized him. Again He denied knowing Jesus. Still others recognized him by his accent and insisted he was a disciple. He was so angry he began to call down curses and denied knowing Jesus for the third time. Then the rooster crowed the second time. In the Luke 22 account we read that upon the last crow of the cock, the Lord turned and looked at Peter, then Peter remembered what the Lord had said (vs. 61). Imagine that gut wrenching, stomach sinking, moment when Peter and Jesus locked eyes and he realized with terrible shame that he had denied Jesus. It was a betrayal. Full of remorse Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Peter's denial of Christ
Judas' response to his betrayal
Judas' story ends worse than Peter's. Matthew 26 tells us that when the religious leaders showed up to arrest Jesus, Judas identified Jesus to them with a greeting and a kiss (vs 49). Then they led Jesus away to seek a death sentence from Pilate, Judas was deeply remorseful. In his remorse he went back to the chief priests he had made the deal with and tried to give the money back, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood" (Matt. 27:4). The chief priests said, paraphrased, "Tough luck, it's your problem, not ours." Throwing the coins down on the temple ground, he fled. His remorse was so great he saw no hope of forgiveness, no second chance. As Satan had entered his heart earlier, he bought the lie that he was irredeemable - so he went out and hung himself.
Perhaps if he had paid more attention to Jesus and His teaching and placed his faith in Him, instead of robbing the coffers, he might have realized that there was hope for restoration upon repentance. The thirty pieces of silver were, interestingly, used by the chief priests to buy a potter's field to bury strangers. It was blood money, therefore unfit for offering at the temple. From then on the field was called the "field of blood" as Jeremiah had prophesied.
With a kiss, and for a purse, Judas betrayed Jesus.
Peter to the right, Judas to the left
Forgiven, restored, commissioned
The story ends here for Judas, but not for Peter. After Jesus died on the cross, he was resurrected from the dead, bringing hope to all who would call on Him for salvation. Going back to Luke 22, after Jesus told Peter that Satan requested to sift Peter like wheat, He ended with, "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” This gives us a clue that Peter would repent (turned back), be restored, and commissioned to ministry. That is exactly what happened. John tells us that after Jesus was resurrected, He appeared on the beach one day and had breakfast with the disciples. After their meal Jesus spoke to Peter, asking him if he loved Him. He assured Jesus he did. Jesus replied, "Feed my lambs." Strangely, Jesus asked Peter again, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Once again Peter answered in the affirmative. Again, a third time Jesus asked if Peter loved Him. Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
It is interesting that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter denied Jesus three times previously; now he was able to tell Jesus three times that he loved Him. Jesus believed him because he commissioned Peter to feed His sheep three times. The sheep were believers, the Church. When the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2, Peter was empowered to do just that. And eventually he did die for his faith in Christ. But he was forgiven and victorious. Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace.
Judas and Peter both betrayed Jesus. The only difference was that Judas fell into despair and took his own life, Peter saw hope and gained new life.