Judas and Peter were with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. Both witnessed the same miracles and learned the same teaching. Both helped feed the five-thousand, watched Jesus calm the storm, and marveled at His countless healings.
Both betrayed Him, AFTER Jesus Himself told them they would.
Yet one is searing in hell and the other is seated in heaven.
How could that have happened?
Everyone believed that when Messiah came He would free Israel from the shackles of Roman rule. But three years later, when Jesus had yet to talk about even forming an army, many gave up on Him. Judas wasn’t one of them.
Perhaps Judas thought that by handing Jesus over to His enemies it would force Jesus to go ahead and declare war on Rome. We don’t know, but one thing is certain—it didn’t go the way Judas thought it would. When he realized it he was overcome with sorrow.
Peter, on the other hand, declared his fierce loyalty to Jesus no matter what the status of His Kingdom, even to the point of death. But just a few hours after this bold statement, Peter denied even knowing Him at all. When Peter realized what he had done, he too was overcome with sorrow.
Judas’ and Peter’s stories share similarities with the parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15).
The older brother was angry with their father for not behaving in the way he thought he should. Jesus didn’t behave the way Judas thought He should.
The older brother betrayed his father as much as the younger did. Didn’t the older brother know his father’s heart at all? Surely both brothers knew their father loved them deeply and was a compassionate man. Surely both had seen their father’s good, even extravagant, treatment of his servants. Yet one believed in his father’s love and generosity while the other wouldn’t.
While Judas was sorrowful, we don’t know that he was repentant, although Jesus did forgive him. Perhaps Judas didn’t trust Jesus’ heart in the same way the older brother didn’t trust his father’s heart.
Peter, like the younger son, repented and gave Jesus a chance to forgive him. Perhaps Peter felt, as the younger son did, that even if Jesus didn’t reinstate him as an Apostle, at least he could still be a follower.
Is repentance what made all the difference between where Judas and Peter are today? I don’t know. What I do know is that even our worst betrayal doesn’t have to be the end of our story. There is forgiveness.
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)