As Easter approaches, our thoughts turn to Christ's cruxifixion and the events leading up to it. This whole week I've thought alot about the comparison between Judas' betrayal of Jesus and Peter's denial of Him prior to Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus Himself predicted that both Judas and Peter would not stand with Him during His greatest hour of need. Even in Old Testament times, Judas' betrayal was prophesied, even to the 30 pieces of silver he would take to accomplish the task. Neither Judas' betrayal or Peter's denial took Jesus by surprise.
Judas and Peter both were chosen by Jesus to become apostles, men to whom He would teach great truths in order that they might carry on His message of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world. He called them both close friends whom He trusted. They spent three years of their lives listening, learning, watching Jesus perform His miracles, and being convinced that Jesus was truly the Messiah sent by God.
And yet, both men experienced very different end results at the end of their lives. Something happened within Judas' heart as he observed Jesus and His life. Envy, jealousy and greed began to grow deep within his heart. As treasurer, a respected and honorable position that Jesus entrusted to Judas, Judas began to find fault with the manner in which money was spent. He began harboring resentment and anger and he ended up making the choice of his own free will to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss leading the army of soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden.
Peter, having the exact same teaching experiences from Jesus that Judas had, responded very differently. He boldly proclaimed that he would follow Jesus even to death, if necessary, and would never allow harm to come to Jesus. He fought valiantly when Jesus was being arrested by cutting off an ear of a soldier who came too near to Jesus. He was bold and brash in his commitment to follow Jesus to the end.
However, after Jesus was arrested and taken to the court to be charged, both Judas and Peter had changed their attitudes.
Judas began to feel deep remorse and tried his best to undo the harm he had done by giving back the silver to those who had paid him to betray Jesus. He was not successful. He recognized how deeply he had betrayed Jesus and became so deeply grieved that he hung himself in the field that was purchased by the same money in which he took to betray Jesus. They call that field the "Field of Sinners", or the Potters Field. The question often comes up---was Judas' remorse that drove him to suicide, a remorse of repentance or a remorse that he could not live with the guilt of what he had done. No one knows the answer to that question. Scripture does not reveal where Judas is spending eternity. I believe so strongly in Jesus' great mercy and that Jesus' mercy extends so greatly to all men that if Judas had cried out, "Jesus, forgive me" as the rope tightened around his neck, I believe he could've been saved. However, I do know that Judas had no further opportunity to further God's kingdom here on earth! His ministry (if he had any) ended right then and there. He had nothing else to give! So whether he is spending eternity in hell or heaven, the end of Judas' life is very sad and could've been so different if he had made different choices.
Peter, the strong, bold, defiant Peter, also denied Jesus as he watched Jesus being taken away to appear to the court. Jesus had warned Peter that he would do so, but Peter couldn't fathom that he would do such a thing! But he not only denied Jesus once, he denied him three times in a row! At the end of the third denial, a rooster crowed and Peter remembered that Jesus said he would deny him. Scripture says "he wept bitterly." Peter felt deep remorse as did Judas. However, instead of leading to a tree of suicide, Peter's remorse drove him to repentance and led him to the foot of the cross! He watched Jesus die on the cross, he felt great sorrow as he felt that all his hopes had died with Christ, and yet he did not run from it as Judas did.
He and John were the first ones to appear at Jesus' tomb on the third day and realized that Jesus was not dead, He was risen!
Can you imagine the great joy that Peter felt when he saw Jesus in his resurrected body for the first time? Yes, Peter denied him, but his repentance brought him to a much greater end result than Judas. Peter went on to be "The Rock" that the church of Jesus Christ was built on. He testified to all that Jesus did, he performed miracles in Jesus' name, and he was the one chosen to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles. What a greater end result than Judas experienced, and we know that Peter is in heaven spending eternity with His Lord and Savior. Did you know that Peter died a martyr's death and was crucified upside down on a cross? All for the promises of His Savior. He never denied him again!
The choices we make here on earth do make a difference! We have the choice to follow him or deny him.