Are You a Peter or a Judas?

I’m trying to keep my reading from Matthew 26 straight—Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied Jesus. Right? Judas didn't really deny Jesus; he acknowledged him with a kiss (Matt 26:49). But Peter denied that he even knew Jesus... three times… with a curse (Matt 26:74). The stories of these two men sound virtually identical up to this point of the story.

  • Both men spent over three years following Jesus and had the inside scoop on His teaching and miracles.

  • Both men were warned by Jesus of their upcoming failure (Matt 26:25,34).

  • Both men were very sorrowful when they realized what they had done (Matt 26:75, 27:4).
And Peter received the keys of the kingdom of God (Matt 16:18) and Judas would have been better off if he had never been born (Matt 26:24). OK, the two stories were very similar until we get to that last picky point.

Why such a dramatic divergence of stories? Was what Judas did really so much worse than what Peter did? Judas identified Jesus to his enemies, but even Jesus noted that this was a more a symbolic than a disastrous betrayal. Jesus told those who arrested Him “Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.” (Matt 26:55). His enemies knew who Jesus was, though perhaps the soldiers who arrested Him needed a positive ID. Couldn't some of the Pharisees have told them in advance, "Jesus will be the one with the halo?" What the soldiers really needed was someone (Judas) to tell them when Jesus was alone and could be taken in secret so the crowds could be manipulated. But they could have just followed him around!

Jesus could have been arrested without Judas, but Peter’s denial must have went straight to Jesus’ heart. Here was his friend who one minute proclaims “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matt 26:35). The next minute he is calling down curses on himself saying “I don’t know the man!” (Matt 26:74). How did Peter take an oath or call down curses? "I swear to Him, I don’t know Him!” That flip-flop was all in the same half-chapter!

Before we shake our heads at Peter’s flip-flop, we need to look back at our own flip-flops. Have you ever gotten in a difficult situation and acted as if you didn't know Jesus? Have you ever decided that it was easier to just go along to get along and let people believe that you aren't one of "those Christian-fanatic" types? Have you ever given a wink and a nod to some action that you know Jesus would not condone because it was easier than taking a stand? If you admit that this has EVER been you, then welcome to Peter’s world. If you say that you have NEVER done that… well, you’d probably lie about others things too!

Why was Peter forgiven and Judas not? OK, I’m assuming that Judas wasn’t forgiven, which isn’t my place to assume—though Jesus’ statement “would be better for him if he had not been born” sorta leaves an impression, right? What was so much worse about what Judas did and what Peter did… and what you and I have done? Judas GAVE UP and Peter GOT UP. Judas killed himself. Peter repented, accepted forgiveness and then on to live the faith he once denied. Giving in and giving up are not the same thing!

So… you gonna be a Peter or a Judas?