Matthew 26 & 27

Matthew 26 & 27: Peter and Judas

We are moving into familiar territory once again with the story of the arrest, trials, and subsequent scourging, beating and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.  I want to focus on two of the twelve disciples and their actions during this brief, but fast moving period of time.   Jesus told the eleven disciples, (for Judas had already left) they would all abandon him.  He said: “ This very night you will fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘ I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ( Quote from Zec. 13)  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declares- ‘ even if all fall away, I never will.’ Jesus then tells him: “ I tell you the truth this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three time.”  Now for the second time- Peter tells the Lord Jesus he is wrong. Peter says with great assurance: “ Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you. “  ( And Matthew records all the other disciples said the same.)

Now we know they went to a place on the Mount of Olives called the Garden of Gethsemane where Peter, James and John went apart from the others with Jesus who told them to pray with him. It would be there the first drops of blood were shed as Jesus prayed with such intensity his sweat was like drops of blood dropping to the ground.

Then the mob of temple guards and Roman soldiers armed with swords and clubs come to this place led by the traitor, Judas who betrays the Lord with a kiss. Peter wanting to protect his Lord drew his sword and struck the high priest’s, Malchus, and cut of his ear. ( which the Lord replaced)

Now let’s follow the story of Peter and Judas. Two of the twelve- one of who became a revered leader the other one whose name is synonymous with traitor.  Interesting that Peter’s name meant –‘ stone’; and Judas’ name meant ‘ praise’.  Today many are named Peter in honor of this disciple while none are named after Judas.

Listen to these verses for they describe Judas.  “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” ( I John 2: 15)   If we turn this statement around it tells us:  anyone who does not love the Father- loves the world and the things of the world. We are made to love someone or something. If one does not love the Father, they will love this world and the things of this world.  This is the opposite of the first and greatest commandment- to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. It is also the opposite of the 2nd most important commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  Judas loved himself and this world that could satisfy his flesh. These verses describe Judas, because Judas loved the world and the things of the world.  The word – world in this verse is the Greek word- ‘cosmos’.  This does not refer to the physical planet of earth, nor does it refer to the world of people. This word refers to a system, an order of things. For example we refer to :  the ‘world of finance’, the world of sports, the world of fashion..   The Word of God says do not love the world, this system and order of things- do not love the things of this world.  Why? John tells us in I John 5- “ We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  The devil is the prince of this world and has created a world system or order that is against God.  John describes this system which is anti-God: “ For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life is not of the Father but of the world.”

We all have been conformed by this world system. A system that places personal self worth that is validated by success according to the world standards.  Your appearance, your possessions, your standing in the community.

You want to know why Peter ended up in heaven and Judas in hell?  Was it a lack of knowledge? No, both men had been with Jesus for three years. In the end both men betrayed him.  The story tells us why this happened. It happened because of their attitude toward Jesus. Bottom line- Peter loved Jesus. Judas hated him. Hated Him? How do we come to that conclusion? We will see it by their actions.

We see the first clue of Judas’ attitude when Mary anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume. Judas speaks up almost immediately and reveals what is in his heart:  “ Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It was worth a year’s wages.”( John tells us in the next verse something they did not know at the time, but discovered after Judas’ death.)  ‘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. “( John 12)

Judas loved the things of this world. Money was what enabled him to enjoy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He has seen what Jesus could do- he had witnessed his miracles, his healing, his raising the dead, his powerful teaching and was convinced Jesus was his way to get all the things of the world he wanted. Power, possessions, prominence- all the things of the world he loved. He was willing to follow Jesus for his own enrichment. Judas did not have the heart of a servant- he wanted to be served. He was a classic user.

In Judas’ mind, he had wanted to climb the ladder of success and Jesus was the wall he was leaning his ladder on. Now with his arrest and crucifixion imminent he had to find a solution to his problem. He is crushed that Jesus is not going to become king- not because of Jesus’ crucifixion, but because he has wasted three years following him. His plans and ambitions are ruined. And who does Judas blame for this situation? Jesus. He is angry at Jesus. He is disappointed with Jesus.  Is it not easy to imagine- this anger, hurt and disappointment plus he may be uncovered as an embezzler all add up to – his hatred of Jesus? Obviously at his point the hatred is confirmed for Luke tells us what happens:

We read in Luke 22:3 “ Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and  discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. Matthew tells us he negotiated with them: ‘ What will you give me if I hand him over to you?’ It was agreed he would receive 30 silver coins.   Greed. Pride. Lover of self. Lover of money, power and possessions.  Judas loved the world and the things of this world. He loved those and self more than the Lord Jesus. Judas was a ‘ user’. Skillful in playing a role to get what he wanted from others.  We have all known users- those who view other people only as stepping stones or step ladders to be climbed over to get what they want. Anyone who thwarted his ambition would be the object of his anger and hatred.

Now let’s follow Peter that evening and see where his actions lead him to and why he ends up in heaven and not hell.

Peter was over-confident. Not the first time he had opened his mouth and told the Lord he knew better than him.  Peter was big on confidence- he had physical strength and courage. He went up against Malchus even though the odds were against him. He was as short on prayer as he was long on courage-as he could not even stay awake that night knowing what Jesus had told them was about to occur.

Peter had every intention of staying true to the Lord, didn’t he? But he panicked, not once but three times before the rooster crowed. Why did he panic?  He feared losing his life more than he feared denying Christ.  If we will be honest with ourselves- we have denied the Lord for fear of intimidation from others, not speaking up for fear of the displeasure of others. Not wanting to cause any strife we may not orally deny the Lord, but by keeping silent, we deny, don’t we?  Peter wanted to be that night what many of us want to be in times of intimidation- we want to be secret Christians.  Why would we be concerned about someone’s opinion of us more than the Lord’s opinion of us?

Look who’s watching you- look at who is looking at you as we read of Peter’s third denial: “ Peter replied, Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. “ ( When the man said he was one of those with Jesus)  “ Just as he was speaking the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter . Then Peter remembered the word the Lord has spoken to him:  “ Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” “And Peter went outside and wept bitterly.”

Do you have a conscious awareness of God at all times?  Do you believe He is within you?- Then he  hears and sees not only all you do and say- but think and believe. Jesus is looking straight at you.  How many times do you deny Him?

Two men who had spent most of their waking hours – day and night with Jesus for the last three years plus. Heard him, watched him, saw and heard the most unbelievable things they could have ever imagined.  Now on this night, both have betrayed him, denied him and both have looked him in the eye.

Judas’ and Jesus’ eyes must have met when Judas kissed him in the Garden. Judas goes to him with a kiss.  This kiss was his signal to the forces with him- this is Jesus.  A kiss by its very nature- a kiss of betrayal.  A kiss of hatred for having ruined his own plans, the kiss of a hypocrite. Many will want to kiss Him that day of judgment  and proclaim their devotion- but it will be too late.  Jesus will say depart from me- I never knew you.  ‘ Kiss the son, lest He be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment, blessed are those who take refuge ( trust) in Him.”  It will be too late to kiss an make up then.

Judas’ looked Jesus in the eye and betrayed Him.  Peter looked Jesus in the eye and went outside and wept bitterly.

By morning after a night of trials Jesus is bound over to Pilate for execution. Now we read of Judas’s remorse:  “ When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty coins of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘ I have sinned for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ What’s that to us?, they replied. That is your responsibility.  So Judas threw the money down in the temple and went away and hanged himself.” ( Matthew 27)

Well, you might say, Judas was sorry for what he did- so sorry in fact he committed suicide. Doesn’t that mean he repented?  Judas was experiencing sorrow and remorse-for what he had done. But godly sorrow leads to repentance and Judas did not repent. He died of self-pity. Perhaps Judas was attempting to find some acceptance from the high priests and elders.  These were after all religious leaders who offered sacrifices on behalf of the people for forgiveness of sins.  There was no forgiveness in them- in fact there never was forgiveness in these hard hearted men who were akin to Judas as lovers of self not God.  These men who were users of God just like Judas was.  If these men would not do anything for Judas- his plans for himself and his success were never to be realized- Judas lost all hope of every becoming what he longed to be- rich, powerful, prominent and enjoying the things of the world. There was nothing else to live for- so he ended his life for he was miserable. Do you see why he was miserable? Judas was without Jesus. And because he was without Jesus , he was without help, without hope and without honor. Judas is one of the most tragic figures in all of history. To have been that close to Jesus and missed the greatest opportunity of a lifetime.  Judas did not love Jesus, he did not love the Father because Judas loved the things of the world and there was no room for his god was himself and the world was his provider of the lust of his flesh, the lust of his eyes and the pride of life. In the end, Judas, the user was used by the prince of users- the one who comes to steal, and kill and destroy.

Now let’s look at Peter’s actions and see what happened to him and why he ended up in heaven.  For both men looked Jesus in the eye that night and  betrayed him.   Let’s look back for we will discover Peter did not always open his mouth and insert his big foot. Sometimes Peter got it right. It was Peter who got it right when Jesus asked the disciples – who do you say I am?  Peter answered and said: “ You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  (Matthew 16)

In John 6, when many of the followers turned away and left Jesus, Jesus asked his disciples ‘ do you want to leave also?’ Again Peter speaks up and out of his mouth flows what is in his heart: “ To whom will we go? You and you alone have the words of life.”

There is also recorded in Luke 22 this encouragement from the Lord to Peter:  “ Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back ,strengthen your brothers.”   A broken bone when it mends, is often stronger than it was before. We are comforted by the Lord during our times of sorrow and failure and restored that we might comfort others who suffer as we do.

Jesus has secured each of us who are his sheep with his intercessory prayer. He asked the Father personally to forgive me of my sins, just as He also asked for yours.  I am with Him and He is with me because He has interceded for my forgiveness.  Peter’s forgiveness and restoration were waiting for him because Peter loved the Lord. Judas’s was not- because he did not love the Lord.

Though we stumble – we will not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds us with His right hand.

Sin and guilt do not always lead or produce true repentance. It is all in how  you look at Jesus, how you view God.  When  I was going to AA meetings and trying to stay sober, work the program and learn more about my Higher Power, there was another young man going through the program with me. He was  a musician, an alcoholic and drug user.  He was having trouble with staying sober, because he continued to play in night clubs and the temptations were more than he could bear. His root  problem was his view of God.  He made this comment to me one night: he said you have this higher power thing figured out, don’t you? I said I was working on it. He then told me to him- God was an old man with a long beard shaking his fist at him in anger telling him to straighten up or he would send him to hell.  What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.  I read in the paper one morning, he had died in a house fire. He was intoxicated and went to sleep and his lit cigarette started a fire.

Judas looked at Jesus but it was not a look of love- it was a look of disappointment, and resentment and hatred for not providing Judas with what he wanted – which was the things of this world. When you are without God- you are without hope. He who has the Son, has the Father.  Judas had neither.

I love John 21. It is the story of Jesus’ restoration and commissioning of Peter to feed His sheep. Failure is always a part of success. Failure is always a hard lesson- and hard lessons teach the most important truths, sometimes, don’t they?

This is during the 40 days of ministry the Resurrected Lord shared with his disciples.  They are out fishing and Jesus appears on the shore and calls out have they caught any fish?  It is a similar situation as to when Jesus first called them to follow him. Remember that situation when Jesus told Peter to push out to the deep and cast out their nets for a catch.  Peter had been fishing all night. They had loaned their boat to the Lord in order for him to have pulpit from which to preach and teach to the crowd on shore. They were cleaning and putting away their nets as the Lord taught. When he finished and said push out to the deep, Peter said, Lord we have been fishing all night and caught nothing.  Nevertheless at thy word we will do it.  The result was a record catch of fish.

This morning he tells them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they will find some fish. The result was a catch so large they were unable to haul the net into the boat.

John recognizes Jesus first and says- It’s the Lord.  No sooner had he said that than Peter impulsively dives in the sea  for he is too anxious to wait for the boat to get to shore- he wants to be with Jesus and he is willing to appear foolish.

Jesus asked him  this questions three times for it was three times Peter had denied Jesus. It is still the question Jesus asked each of us. Don’t make this complicated- it is this simple:  Jesus is asking you – do you love me?  Do you love me?    Three time he asked Peter this question. And the third time, Peter replied : “ Lord you know all things- you know I love you.”

Simple but profound.  For love is what it is all about.  It is the first and greatest commandment and it is the second greatest commandment and it is what all the law and prophets are based on. God is love and we love Him because He first loved us.

Peter knew what it was to disappoint the Lord. ( Don’t you know that also?)

Peter needed to know he could start over.

Restoration happened because there was true repentance. True repentance always has as its motive a love for the Lord. Remorse is not repentance. Remorse is being sorry for your sins. Repentance is godly sorrow that leads to a desire to change. To change direction. To change your life.

Reconciliation is being made right with one whom you have wronged.  Reconciliation is supposed to be what attorneys seek first in a marriage in trouble. Thus the term- irreconcilable differences has been invented to say this cannot be reconciled.  Peter was eager to repair his relationship with Jesus. You need to realize that Jesus loves you –even when you disown Him, deny Him.

In the end, repentance leads to surrender to give up something you love but is sinful because you love Jesus more. Peter had come to love Jesus more than he loved his own life.

What a wonderful story.  How encouraging to know how Jesus was able to use Peter in such a powerful way in spite of his failure, in fact because of his failure.

Do you love Jesus?  It is really the only question you need to answer.  Do you love Him more than anything?  Sometimes we fail Him. But He is faithful  to forgives us and restore us.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14