Peter and Judas are two of the Lord Jesus’ disciples who stand out at the time of the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion (Mark 14). Both are included in the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. Both sin against our Lord. Peter denies Jesus. Judas betrays Jesus. Peter obtains mercy and ends up dying for our Lord. Judas on the other hand does not obtain mercy and ends up committing suicide. What are the differences between these two disciples that their ends are so different?
Firstly, we read in the Bible of Peter’s conversion during one of his first encounters with Jesus. We read about this in Luke chapter 5. Peter and his fellow fishermen have been fishing all night and yet have caught nothing. The Lord Jesus, however, tells them to put out into the deep and to let down their nets. As they obey the Lord, they catch a large multitude of fish. At this Peter falls down at Jesus’ knees and says “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man”. Then we then read how Jesus tells Him not to be afraid as he will be catching men from now on.
In summary the following happens to Peter:
- He comes under conviction of sin.
- He does not hide his sin but confesses it. (There is no hypocrisy in Peter, he is totally honest about himself).
- He cries out to Jesus because of His sin.
- Jesus promises to do the work of regeneration in his life and to make him into a fisher of men.
We never read about any conversion experience in Judas’ life. We just read that Judas is chosen by the Lord to be one of his twelve the disciples and from then on, he is one of them.
Contrary to Peter we read the following about Judas (John 12):
- Judas loves money, not Jesus.
- He is a thief.
- He hides his sin.
- He is not honest. While pretending to care about the poor, he is thinking about his own pocket.
- Never do we read that he asks the Lord for mercy or to save him from his sin.
- He is such a good hypocrite that not one of the disciples suspect him of being the one who will betray Jesus.
If we read the account in Mark 14 where Judas betrays Jesus and where Peter denies Jesus, we find the following:
Judas has planned before hand to deny Jesus. He most probably has meditated about it for a long time and now up front arranges with the chief priests to pay him money for betraying Jesus. Judas perseveres with His sin of loving money even if it would mean betraying Jesus. He does so even though the Lord Jesus loves him and has shown his love to him in many ways.
Peter dearly loves the Lord and boldly states, from the bottom of his heart, that He will never forsake or deny Jesus. Peter tries to fight for the Lord, with his sword, but is reprimanded by the Lord for doing so. Then, in a time of weakness, He denies the Lord three times. Yet we find immediately after He denies the Lord for the third time the rooster crowing for the second time. In another gospel we read that Jesus also turns and looks at Him. Immediately Peter breaks down and weeps. He has severe remorse for his sin.
In Judas we find someone who perseveres in His sin, hides his sin and purposefully hardens His heart against God’s holy Spirit. Eventually Satan enters Judas and He ends up committing suicide.
In Peter we find someone who has the deep desire to please God. He tries in his own strength to do so, but fails. He has deep remorse about his sin.
Praise God, Peter’s story does not end here. We find Jesus reaching out to this Peter, who has failed so miserably and who is now broken hearted.
The Lord Jesus shows that He cares about Peter and has not written him off. We see this when the angel tells the woman in Mark 16:7 to go and tell the disciples and Peter that the Lord is going before them to Galilee. He specifically mentions Peter, so that Peter can see that the Lord still counts him in as one of the disciples.
Then in John 21 we find Jesus restoring Peter. He asks Peter thrice if he loves Him (Once for each time that Peter denied the Lord). The first two times he asks Peter, Peter do you love me (with a Godly love, in the Greek). Peter each time answers, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you (with a human love, in the Greek). Peter does not have the courage to say that he loves Jesus with a Godly love. He has seen how his own love has failed, so typical of human love. The third time Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me with a human love?”. At this Peter is grieved because he asked him, “Do you love me with a human love”, and he replies, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you with a human love”. Each time after Peter says that he loves the Lord, the Lord tells Peter to look after his sheep or lambs. After having asked Peter three times if he loves him, the Lord tells Peter about the type of death that he is going to glorify God with. In other words, He is telling Peter, “Peter, I will impart to you my Godly love. The love that that will enable you to even die for me.”
Later, in Acts we read how Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and how he now boldly proclaims the Gospel. He is no longer afraid. He now has the power of the Holy Spirit in his life that enables him even to be a martyr for the Lord.
Tradition tell us that Peter was eventually crucified. He however asked to be crucified upside down, as he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same way that His Lord died.
In the story of Judas, I see the danger of living a hypocritical, sinful life and of hardening one’s heart against God’s Holy Spirit.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:4-8
In the story of Peter, I see how God’s grace works in the life of person who is repentant, honest and has the deep desire to please God. God’s grace is enough even in times of weakness and failure. God brings us to the end of ourselves and makes us realise that we can not live the Christian life in our own strength. He then fills us with His Spirit and teaches us to walk in the Spirit and no longer in the flesh. Ultimately He glorifies His name through our lives. Having seen that we are nothing out of ourselves, we give all the glory to God.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10