These two well-known apostles shared many things in common, yet their lives ended up so different from each. As disciples of Jesus they would have eaten meals together and slept along side one another. They probably became friends. They laughed, prayed and traveled together as they shared their life and listened to their Rabbi over the many weeks and months on the road. Many of them were known to argue with each other as to who would be sitting at His right hand when His Kingdom was established. In the evenings at their campfire they sat at the feet of their Rabbi listening to his teachings. They witnessed many miracles, healings and deliverance’s. The crowds followed Jesus as He traveled through the towns while He taught and healed the sick, yet these twelve men, these select few were chosen to be in His inner circle.
Peter’s Denial and Judas’s Betrayal
Peter and Judas, as most of you know, made terrible mistakes (Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Him) and yet they responded to their failures in completely different ways. Peter went on to be passionate leader of the early church while Judas died a cowardly messy death alone in a field from his own hand. So what did these men do that caused the end of their lives to be so different when their similar failures and mistakes were so egregious? Matthew 26 and 27 speak of these men’s stories. Each failed miserably, deeply, but how they handled their failure made all the difference in their outcome.
Peter was considered impulsive and was known for “sticking his foot in his mouth” and making bold claims. He almost started a minor war by pulling out his sword when he tried to defend Jesus. Three times he denied ever knowing Jesus whom he had been following and professed just a few hours earlier that he would defend Jesus to the death “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” When Peter heard the cock-crow, He realized that Jesus’s prophecy about his denial had just occurred. He was ashamed and felt like a coward. He broke down and wept bitterly. His sorrow was genuine and it led to his repentance. Peter endured what must have been unbearable shame and grief yet he took his sin to Christ.
Judas wanted a warrior Messiah/King who would throw off the oppressive Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of David and Solomon. Jesus was a gentle healer and teacher who had no such plans. So Judas took things into his own hands. He tried to set up a revolt with the intention of having Jesus throw off his attackers like Samson did with the Philistines. His plans failed and his master was crucified. When he realized what he had done, he took the money and went back to the priests and said “I have betrayed an innocent man“. He had no problem admitting the truth what he had done, but it was to the corrupt priests. These priests no longer needed Judas as they now had their prey delivered right into their hands. They said to Judas “What is that to us, see to that yourself”. Judas let his sin crush him and he ran away from Jesus in his guilt and fear. He wallowed in remorse and despair running away out of the temple with no money, no friends, alone. Overwhelmed by shame and guilt he saw suicide as his only escape. Before his death he did however make did make a confession, he just confessed it to the wrong person. He went back to the corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself. Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he needed was to humble himself and ask for it from the man he had kissed and betrayed.
Our Failures and What To Do With Them
One of the biggest obstacles that we face in our lives is how we handle and recover from our failures. Failure is a part of life as we are never going to succeed in everything we encounter. I think our failures can teach us so much more than any of our successes. It is my prayer that all our failures end the same way Peter’s did. Peter embraced the power of forgiveness that the cross offers to all of us. Without this, we can end up in utter hopelessness and despair in our sorrow and grief, as Judas did.
Failure…you know even the cross itself looked like a failure. A man who called himself “The Son of God” was put to death in the most brutal way. A way that was considered a curse and given only to thieves, robbers and the worst of convicted men. That failure was turned to victory in His resurrection and we now can share in that victory.
When we look at this story of two men who utterly failed we can see that we are (as they were) offered forgiveness. No matter how bad the offense, no matter how ugly our sin, no matter how many times we have committed it, no matter how far away we feel we are from God–we are being offered forgiveness. We are being offered a new future, a new hope that will never be found deficient, shallow or empty.
Don’t let your failures define who you are or what you will become. Don’t let them have the last word in your life. We are so much more than our “should have been” or “could have been” because of our failures. You have a calling and a purpose in your life that the Lord has established even before you were in your mother’s womb. Seek to find out what that purpose is. Don’t let your past prevent you from becoming who you are. Learn from your failures and embrace your forgiveness and allow the Lord to continue to mold you into the person He destined you to be. In the final analysis, the thing that separated Peter from Judas is the way he dealt with his failure.
It’s not about your failures -it’s about how you respond to them.