Around the time of his crucifixion, Jesus was let down by his disciples. Although all of them deserted him, the actions of two disciples, Judas and Peter, are specifically highlighted in the Bible. Judas betrayed Jesus by handing him over to the Pharisees in return for 30 pieces of silver. Peter’s betrayal was denying that he knew Jesus.
What is so different about their actions? Judas handing over Jesus may have been more a more serious sin, but the bottom line is that both of them betrayed his trust. And after the action, both of them regretted it. Judas “was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 27:3), before hanging himself. After Peter denied Jesus, “he wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).
However, there are two significant differences between Peter and Judas.
The first difference is the way that they behaved after letting Jesus down.
Both disciples would have been ashamed of what they had done. Judas responded by isolating himself, going off alone and ended up killing himself. It is possible that he was afraid to face the judgement of the other disciples for what he had done. Peter acted differently; despite his feelings of shame, he remained within the community of disciples (who he is still with when Jesus returns).
What can we learn from these contrasting behaviours? Well, everybody sins, even Peter, a disciple that Jesus held in high regard. However, the guilt that we have about our sins should not cause us to alienate ourselves from our church community. Like Peter, we should remain with those who will encourage us in our faith and support us despite our sins. Isolating ourselves, like Judas, will only cause us to fall away from the church.
The second difference between Peter and Judas is their response to their sin.
People can react in different ways when they do something wrong. Regret is feeling disappointed about what we have done. Remorse takes it a step further and is defined as “deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed”, there is a stronger emotional reaction. When a person truly feels sorrow for their sins, they repent. Repentance signifies, not only regret and remorse, but the desire to change oneself to prevent the sin from occurring again.
Judas felt “remorse” for what he had done. However, he did not take it a step further and repent for his sins, which ultimately formed a barrier between him and God. Peter, however, repented for his sins and was forgiven by God. His reward was being tasked by the resurrected Jesus with looking after his flock; the budding Christian church.
Comparing Peter and Judas teaches us the importance of remaining in the church no matter how big our sins seem are or how unworthy we feel. It also shows us that feeling remorse for our sins is not enough, we need to truly repent of them and try to change for the better.