The Standard April 9, 2020
Between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and Easter two of his twelve disciples behaved in ways that caused them each deep regret. Woven throughout chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew are their stories. One’s remorse became a catalyst for increased wisdom and maturity while the other was not able to recover from what he had done.
Judas was the disciple who kept the money bag. Six days before Passover when Jesus was in Bethany at Lazarus’ home, Mary poured pure nard, an expensive perfume, on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. Judas complained about the waste, saying the nard could have been sold and the money given to the poor. It turned out he was only concerned about having less money to steal for himself. He was a thief.
The apostle Peter was bold, enthusiastic and impetuous. He had a good and early grasp of what Jesus’ mission was all about. At one point, Jesus asked him who the people said The Son of Man was. Then he turned to Peter and asked, “’Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:15-16)
Ten chapters later we come to Jesus’ last days on earth. “Then one of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot- went to the chief priests 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. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26: 14-16) On the night of the first day of the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread, during the Passover meal which we now commemorate as The Last Supper, “Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’ Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’ Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’ Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’” (Matthew 26:20-25)
Jesus told the disciples they would fall away on account of him and would be scattered. “Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:33-35) Jesus later went with three of his disciples to Gethsemane to pray but three times found them sleeping. He reprimanded them and “While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.” (Matthew 26: 47-50) The Gospel of John reveals that it was Peter who drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant.
They took Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest and Peter followed, keeping some distance and getting right up to that courtyard. He listened as the Sanhedrin, the tribunal of appointed Jewish elders, heard accounts of false witnesses. Two different servant girls then a group accused Peter of having been with Jesus. All three times Peter denied knowing him. “Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74b-75)
“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.” (Matthew 27:3-5) Judas was unable to deal with his deep remorse.
In John 21 we see Peter reinstated by Jesus after the Resurrection. Peter humbly and obediently served as a leader of Christ’s church until the end. The early church fathers said that he died by crucifixion in Rome during the persecution of Nero in AD 64. Peter, like Judas, was incredibly ashamed of how he failed Jesus. His regret, with the help of his Lord, became a catalyst for even greater leadership as Peter went out and changed the world.