Repentance is the turning of the soul from the way
of midnight to the point of the coming sun.
Henry Ward Beecher
Judas Iscariot and Peter were both disciples of Christ. They lived with the Master, traveled with Him, and ate with Him. Both men shared a unique place in history at the feet of the greatest human being that ever lived. They shared a common religion, they lived a proper Jewish lifestyle, and both were in ministry positions of high esteem. Both witnessed miracles, of missing limbs growing back, of tombs being emptied, multitudes fed with a few fish and loaves. Not only did they witness these supernatural acts, but they both performed miracles themselves and rejoiced that their hands, backed with Christ’s authority, were used to heal the sick. These men experienced great victories but also rejection for Christ’s sake. They identified themselves with public enemy number one, according to the Jewish authorities, even standing by Jesus when all others left Him because of His teachings.
For three and a half years Judas and Peter lived and laughed, and cried together with the Lord, struggled and rejoiced, and then… they both betrayed Him. Just like that. Seemingly, they turned on a dime to reject the One sent to them to lead them into eternal life. Both of them cheapened their relationship with Christ and His life that was given to the whole world. One became a traitor for the warmth of a fire and the other for a few pieces of silver. Peter’s turn was more sudden, while Judas’ path to rejection was more gradual, loving money a little more each day until a demonic line was crossed in his life. Regardless of the process, whether like a lightning bolt or a small meandering stream, the result was the same: their relationship with Christ now brought pain to the One who brought healing into the world. These men gave Christ the first piercings of the crucifixion process, rejection from friends, near brothers, penetrating His flesh as an icy blade that slices through skin and sinew.
We all have had emotional wounds, and those only can come from someone we esteem to be close to us. Many times the severity of this pain is greater than physical pain. Sometimes we may even wish to trade the emotional anguish for a physical wound. This is how Christ started His martyrdom, with wounds from two friends who were trusted completely. They had trust that is built upon years of relationship but was destroyed in an instant.
These two men had much in common as they ministered directly under Jesus but also shared a similar shame. The difference between them was how they responded to their sin, which made all the difference. The story of Judas after his treacherous action is thus:
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:3-5 KJV
Judas, indeed realized he was in trouble, his conscience bearing him record. A line was crossed and things would never be the same between he and the Lord again. The Bible actually says that he “repented” but remember this word simply means to change your mind. Perhaps, Judas already had plans for the silver he received in exchange for the life of his teacher. We know nothing about his carnal lusts, except for money, which was more powerful for him than love for the God he professed to follow. Judas, also correctly identified his wrongdoing and the righteousness of Christ, as noted in this passage. He had all the ingredients for a soul-saving conversion. But he committed suicide instead. The Bible rings true in this verse in the case of Judas:
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
2 Corinthians 7:10 KJV
Apparently, he realized that he could not pay back the debt he incurred for the life he betrayed, nor could he enjoy his life any longer. Instead of changing his appetites and seeking mercy, he escaped, or so he thought. Rather than surrendering, he partook of the sorrow of the world and was destroyed as the verse above states. His sorrow was of the world, in that he was sorry that he would not be able to enjoy the fruits of his wicked hands. The very thing that he strove for, was an illusion of earthly joy, like a mirage of an oasis in the scorching hot desert. His own conscience stole his hopes of enjoyment, dashed on the rocks of guilt, never to be repaired. And so he hung himself.
Peter's sin seems to be generated by fear:
And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
Mark 14:70-72 KJV
This man walked on water with Jesus, he saw Moses and Elijah talking to the glorified Christ, he confessed that Jesus is the Son of God when almost everyone else denied His godly origins. All of that didn't matter now. He denied knowing Christ. He literally disowned the Savior of the world. Like Judas, he realized his guilt and Christ's righteousness, and how far the gulf was between the two. He wept, and in the gospel account of Luke, the scripture says Peter wept bitterly. He was now a broken, sinful, and fallen man who wept and wept bitterly. This was a far cry from the the strong, hard-charging disciple he was just hours before his denial. He had failed. But, here is the difference: he turned to God with his sin and surrendered. Judas died in rebellion, Peter would go on to live in obedience.
We know that Peter repented from his sins, he obeyed Jesus' first command, to repent and believe the gospel. He believed that one can be saved from sins and made to be alive forever more. More importantly Peter acted on that knowledge. We can see the new found joy in Peter, once he heard Jesus fulfilled the prophesy about rising from the dead:
Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb
John 20:3-6 RSV
Running to see the One he betrayed? Peter desired to see Jesus, who a few days before he would not even acknowledge that he knew. He could do so now, because he confronted who he was, wept for this reason and trusted in Christ as his Lord. He wept initially, but not because he could not enjoy sin, nor because he was caught in his sin, but because he was wrong and nearly destroyed the relationship he had with Christ. No doubt, from the depths of Peter's despair he also recognized that God would take him back, even in this vile state of denial. The holy and righteous God would allow someone else to be punished for the sins of this headstrong disciple.
Judas' sins were also paid for, and your sins are paid for, but all of them remain outstanding until there is obedience to Christ's first command. Peter understood this and obeyed. Judas rejected the command to turn from sin, desiring to hold on to his wickedness instead of the grace that is available to him. Consider, not the severity of sins or the source of the sins committed by Judas and Peter, but that all was paid for on the cross. The guilty have their debt, no matter how bad, paid for.
Could not the reaction of these two men been reversed? Imagine, Judas standing up to preach to thousands on the day of Pentecost? Could Judas have laid hands on Lydia for her healing? Or could he have been rescued by an angel out of Herod's prison? Could Peter had thrown himself into the sea to drown since literally he was already drowning in despair? Yes, all this could have happened, but it didn't. The point is, destiny, yours as well as theirs, is in your hands. Repent ye, and believe the gospel...
They, as well as we, must obey Christ's command. Repent, not because we may get caught, or from guilt, but repent of our evil ways. Recognizing who we are and the enormity of our transgression against God is essential for us to experience the power of God in our lives. Consider that, in light of the following: Peter denied Christ three times and then preached to thousands with many people repenting. Judas betrayed Christ once and killed himself. You chose which path to take.
Expanding on a verse quoted earlier this is chapter:
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
2 Corinthians 7:9-11 KJV
Ever experience something bad, but later you realized that it was a benefit to you? Receiving correction is always a good example of this. No one likes correction but a wise person will receive it and try to apply it. As this passage states, the intent of the correction was the long term improvement of the readers. Yes, sorrow comes but is overshadowed by being weighed against the more permanent gain. Sorrow over sin committed, but then repent which brings eternal life. Accepting the medicine for the cure is all important.