Both of these men hold important roles in the narrative of Jesus arrest, but both of them hold important roles throughout the story of Jesus. Both were hand picked by Jesus to be called Apostles. Both were given the power to heal, forgive, and cast out demons in the name of Jesus. Both were with Jesus when he taught, performed miracles, and rose the dead by his command. But most importantly both betrayed Jesus in their own way.
The betrayal of Judas is well known. Judas conspired with the temple leadership to hand Jesus over and be arrested. But when we look at Judas' actions we see something that is possibly less sinister than it appears. For all the reputation, Judas' role in the betrayal seemed nothing more than simply pointing Jesus out in the crowd. But Jesus himself makes it clear that he was not hiding, in fact he was in the temple courts every day teaching. Furthermore, Judas gave Jesus over not to the Romans who had the mandate to kill anyone, sometimes even if they're only suspected of, stirring revolution. Instead Judas handed Jesus over to the high priest Caiaphas, who according to the current law of the time, had no right to execute anyone.
Peter's betrayal looked different. While he is known for his denial of Jesus three times at the courtyard, he had his own sort of betrayal at the arrest scene as well. Peter pulled a sword on the crowd and in an attempt to kill one of the high priests servants managed only to cut off his ear. In that moment Peter became the only person in scripture to raise a sword or weapon in the name of Jesus, and he is immediately ostracized by Jesus for doing so. Jesus says "Put your sword away, for those who live by the sword will die by it."
The result that we see is two men who both had a serious misunderstanding of who Jesus was and what his kingdom was all about. Their misunderstanding led to their betraying of Jesus and what Jesus stood for in their own ways. And with all the comparisons we see between these two the question becomes, what is the real difference here. When both these characters lived with Jesus and followed him so closely the same way, how did they end up so differently.
I believe that the answer comes down to one of the most important themes of the Lenten season, which is repentance. Judas ran from Jesus and killed himself rather than face what he'd done and the consequences of his actions. Peter met with Jesus after the resurrection and had to confirm his love and devotion to Jesus three times, the same amount of times he had denied ever knowing him.
It can be hard seeing 'sin' as a betrayal of Jesus. But in essence that is what all sin comes down to in some way. So to think that we're in any way different from Judas can be nothing more than a defense mechanism. We can see that regardless of our personal betrayal our own relationship to Jesus is determined on repentance more than anything else. Repentance is the difference between being called a Judas, or being called the rock on which Jesus would build his church.
- While living in a world based on confirming our own biases, and continually justifying our actions, how do we look realistically at ourselves to find our faults?
- What has repentance looked like to you in the past?
- Is repentance a common aspect of your spiritual practices?