Written by Dave Lenehan
There’s always two sides to every story. One side typically is the truth. The other is at most a big fat lie or at the least, a long stretching of the truth. I think the same can be said about how we approach our sin. When I’ve sinned, do I go right to God, confess it all, repent and seek his forgiveness…or do I sort of push it aside, not really tackle the issue and start convincing myself that it was not really a big deal?
The final hours of Jesus life on Earth give us an interesting insight into that internal battle. It’s played out in the apostles Peter and Judas and their involvement in Jesus’ trial, death and resurrection. Matthew records both of these guys’ experiences. Remember that before the Last Supper, Judas had already put things in motion to set Jesus up for betrayal.
“When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.[b] And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:20-25, ESV)
Later on, we see Peter’s denial foretold:
“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:30-35, ESV)
We know how these events play out in the next several hours. But it’s very significant to see how Peter and Judas each handle the realization of what they’ve done – that they’ve betrayed Jesus (yes, Peter’s denial, though never called this in Scripture, was a form of betrayal, too). First, Peter:
“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matt 26:69-75, ESV)
Peter at first skirts the issue, denies he knows or is even associated with Jesus. But then, when the rooster crows, he realizes what he’s done and it wrecks him. “…he went out and wept bitterly.” Though we aren’t given Peter’s words after he ran out, I can imagine he was repenting with great anguish before God.
Judas’ approach is different:
“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Matt. 27:3-5, ESV)
Yes, Judas definitely knew he had done wrong – BIG TIME. But his approach was to just try to change things back, to get himself out of what he had done by returning the 30 pieces of silver to the religious leaders. He seemed that he was more focused on saving face or trying to reset things than of being truly repentant for what he had done. He saw his only way out was not forgiveness but self-destruction.
I know that when I’ve sinned, I’m not always on the level of immediate confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness. Sometimes I just let it sit there and try to ignore it, thinking maybe God will ignore it, too. Sometimes I have tried to excuse the sin out of my mind to try to lessen its impact in my life. But when I really think about it, my only response to any time I sin should be like Peter – fall on my face before God and beg His forgiveness, turn away from it and set my eyes back on Him.
I believe that approach pleases God – who has already forgiven me and welcomes me back with wide open arms.