Conversations with Peter: Peter and Judas

I’m going to pause for this week on the next conversation with Peter so we can take a closer look at the dynamic between Judas and Peter.  Both men walked with Jesus for three years, had been trained by HIM and were given responsibilities, yet both men were complete opposites and in failure made choices that were completely opposite. In the previous conversation, I touched on this a little, but I want to look at this closer because we need to understand the choices that each men made at the crossroads of their life so that we can understand how to recover from failure and the resulting grief that follows so that we don’t make the same choice as Judas, but be like Peter who went on to be a world changer.

We know very little about Judas Iscariot, about his particular call to be an apostle, the authors of the four gospels didn’t share that, they only include him in a list of the 12 apostles with the footnote that he would later betray Jesus.  Peter, as we have been reading about, is a different case.  His narrative is all over the place in the gospels because he was one of Jesus’s central characters.   Peter was a giant character, full of bluster, bravery, and good intentions with a slightly damaged filter and completely oblivious to great moments when he shouldn’t open his mouth.    The Gospels only give us a brief glimpse of the day-to-day interactions between Jesus and the apostles, I would have loved to been able to see the everyday moments that Jesus had with them, the moments that people often take for granted like waking up in the morning, working together, the conversations they had while traveling or right before they go to sleep.  You have to ask yourself why if Judas experienced the same things Peter and the other apostles did, why did he make the choice he made?   The only glimpse we get into the character of Judas is found in John 12:

 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume;she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b] He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it

At first glance, we see that Judas is called out by John as being a thief because he had been helping himself to the groups funds that he was in charge of.   But let’s step back and look at that a little closer.  John refers to him as the “keeper of the money bag”, which, for all intents and purposes designates him as the treasurer for the group.   Now, wait a minute.   Treasurer? Jesus must have known from day one what Judas was going to do?  He must have known that Judas was helping himself to the funds?   So is this a mistake?  WHY in Heaven’s name would Jesus give responsibility to a man that he knew would betray everything?   That’s a very good question.   One I intend to ask when I get to Heaven, but for now, well, I can only guess.  Christ’s leadership style is one of putting his disciples (us) in positions in which they (we) have to stretch themselves, be accountable to others, and sometimes learn the job by being thrown into the fire.   Jesus knew Judas’s past, present and future, and still included him, still poured into him like all the other disciples.  HE gave him responsibility even though HE knew Judas would abuse it.  I believe it was intentional.    At every point in Judas’s life, Judas had a choice.   Possibly not in the fact that he would be the one betraying Jesus, but everything that led up to that and following that, he had a choice.   He is a classic example of one who follows Jesus not for the purpose, but for the position.   He liked the position of being one of Jesus’s inner circle, the attention it brought him, and no doubt the fact that there was money involved.   There are many in the Christian community that are like this today.   They hold positions of leadership not so much because they love GOD and have a passion and calling, but because they like the attention, oh sure, they acknowledge GOD and say the right things, but their motives and character paint a different picture.   You see it in some of the really big names in Christianity, the men and women who “Serve” GOD, yet are benefiting from the notoriety and taking advantage of the flock instead of pouring into the flock that GOD has entrusted them.   I believe this is what Judas was doing the whole three years he was with Jesus.   This is proven in Matthew 26:

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

For Judas, it was about the money, not the relationship.   When it finally hit him what he had done, the betrayal that he committed, not only of Jesus, but of his friends that he had spent three years with, it was devastating.  Matthew 27:

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So 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 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Filled with remorse.   Was he expecting Jesus killed?  Did he know the Chief Priest and other authorities wanted him killed?   Maybe, possibly.   Maybe he just thought they wanted him out-of-the-way, put him prison maybe, whatever the reason he did it, when the realization hit him it was devastating. He made the ultimate wrong choice and that was to commit suicide.   Suicide is a choice one makes when they don’t see hope   Hope is the key word here.    Judas had none, even though he had heard the message of grace and hope, it never sank into him, it never formed a foundation for him.   Could he have recovered from this?   Is it possible that he could have become a great story of redemption to rival that of Paul?  Maybe.   It didn’t happen though because he gave in to the remorse and allowed Satan to blind him from his options.   That’s Satan’s specialty.  He blinds us to the options that are available to us and when he locks us into a pattern, the only thing that can save us is that grace that only comes from CHRIST.   I believe forgiveness was possible for Judas, if he had of just asked and sought it.   He didn’t, and he became a tragic footnote of history.

Peter’s life is the complete opposite however.   When Peter publicly denied Christ, its recorded that he went away and wept.   It isn’t recorded if he watched the crucifixion at all, but if you were in Jerusalem at that time, you couldn’t escape it.   Peter must have been devastated as well, he may not of sold out Jesus, but he had ignored and denied his best friend in his time of need.  He may have initially stood up and defended him when the guards came, but once Christ was arrested, and he had to make a choice, he drug his feet and then he denied HIM.  As we’ll see in later conversations, Peter moved forward, he overcame his failure.   Later in his life as an elder of the church, he would write in I Peter 1:

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 1But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a]

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

This is a man writing in hindsight, looking back over a life serving CHRIST.  When you read I Peter, it is filled with references to hope, grace, freedom, love, the very foundation blocks that CHRIST set in Peter’s life in the three years HE was on earth.  Peter understood the hope, the grace, the love that CHRIST offered him and gave him for failing HIM and denying HIM and he embraced it and was teaching it to others.   The lesson in the contrasting lives of Peter and Judas is one of grace and hope versus remorse and regret.   Grace and hope offer life; remorse and regret, well, they offer nothing and in the end, they take the life away.   The point of the crucifixion wasn’t about the taking of a life, because it wasn’t an end.   There was a resurrection.   Christ didn’t stay dead, HE IS ALIVE and that brings hope….grace….life to those who seek and ask for it.   Judas didn’t get it, Peter did.   Why didn’t Judas get it?   Who knows, he had the same opportunities as Peter did, yet he allowed Satan to blind him to the options, to the opportunities for grace, freedom and life.   Those same opportunities are available to us if we seek the giver of grace and hope.   I hope you see the contrasts in these two men.  If you’re at a crossroads in life were you can’t see the options, maybe suicide is always just a thought away, choose life…..Christ offers grace, hope, redemption, another chance, and so many options other than the one that drastically ends the opportunities that CHRIST gives us everyday.   Maybe you’re not that far gone, but you’re drowning in regret and remorse for a stupid mistake, there’s hope and renewal in CHRIST.   GOD isn’t a GOD of second chances, HE is a the GOD of another chance.   That’s what grace is about.   Choose grace and don’t be afraid to start from the point you’re at and move forward.

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