The Betrayers Peter and Judas
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 26:69-75; 27:1-9.
MEMORY TEXT: "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, 'Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times' "(Luke 22:61, RSV).
KEY THOUGHT: First the good news: Both Peter and Judas were capable, aggressive members of Jesus' chosen twelve. Now the bad news: Both betrayed (or denied) Jesus within hours of each other.
YOU TOO, PETER? YOU TOO, JUDAS? By anyone's calculations, Peter and Judas were recognized disciples of Christ. Even as many Bible characters lie in obscurity, Peter and Judas remain two of the best-known. Writers and speakers can allude to either with assurance that the names will be recognized. Even those who read the Bible as great literature only (and not as the Word of God) are familiar with the failure of Peter and Judas.
Historically, most cultures value loyalty of some kindto family, to country, to church, to friends. Hence, stories of a friend betraying a friend compel universal interest. Julius Caesar's famous dying cry, "Tu quoque, fili!" [Latin for, "And you, too, son!"], uttered in agonizing disbelief as he is stabbed by his so-called friend and adopted son, Brutus, still haunts us two millennia later. How much more compelling the betrayal of the Son of God by two close companions.
There are lessons to be learned from their examples.
Read Luke 5:5-11 and think about it as you study the quotes below.
All of the numerous Bible texts that mention Judas are negative, but Ellen White mentions that he had potential.
Judas. He did respond to Jesus: "He [Judas] was not insensible to the beauty of the character of Christ; and often, as he listened to the Savior's words, conviction came to himThe Acts of the Apostles, p. 558.
He wanted to change: "He [Judas] had sincerely desired a change in himself, and had hoped to experience this through a union with Jesus. But this desire did not become predominant."Education, p. 91.
He was multigifted: "When he [Judas] came into association with Jesus, he had some precious traits of character that might have been made a blessing to the church."The Desire of Ages, p. 295.
Peter. Peter also was multigifted: "Peter was prompt and zealous in action, bold and uncompromising; and Christ saw in him material that would be of great value to the church."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 488.
Peter did not want to see Christ humiliated: "Peter could not bear to see his Lord, whom he believed to be the Son of God, acting the part of a servant. His whole soul rose up against this humiliation."The Desire of Ages, pp. 645, 646.
|"Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).|
Satan entered Judas, as opposed to Peter, though Jesus made it clear that Satan wanted Peter as well (Luke 22:31). Obviously, there was something in how these men, both possessing good traits, responded to Christ that made the crucial difference in their lives. However similar their traits, their destinies couldn't be more different. Both were sinners, both needed forgiveness, both failed their Masteryet one went on to receive the promise of eternal life, the other the promise of eternal damnation. How crucial that we understand the difference between these two men!
|What can the story of Judas teach us about the need to surrender ourselves completely to Christ? Why does someone not need to do an act of treachery as blatant as Judas in order to manifest the same spirit toward Christ? What should the fact that Judas was "numbered among the twelve" tell us about assuming that church membership guarantees faithfulness?|
Both Peter and Judas sinned knowingly: Judas, "Saying, 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood' "(Matt. 27:4, RSV); Peter, "And he went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62, RSV).
Scripture is clear about the negative characteristics of Judas. His repentance was, apparently, false (Matt. 27:3). He purposely, with premeditation, worked with evil men to betray Jesus, and he openly betrayed Him (Mark 14:45; John 18:2, 3). Thus, we see here some reasons why Judas's betrayal of Christ was so different from Peter's denial.
Contrast the verses that talk about Judas's plan to betray Jesus with Peter's words in Matthew 26:35: "Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." What do these texts reveal about the difference between what Peter and Judas did to Christ?
It's obvious that Peter never intended to deny Christ; his act was spontaneous, uttered in a moment of fear. In contrast, Scripture shows that Judas acted with premeditation and foresight. In other words, though both men did wrong, and both men revealed character weaknesses, and both men did, indeed, fail their Lord-one carried out his deed with premeditation, while the other acted out of momentary weakness.
In what ways do the different motives of Peter and Judas help explain their different destinies?
Like Judas, Peter also displayed some very negative characteristics. He cursed (Matt. 26:74), he had violent tendencies (John 18:10), and he acted like a coward (Luke 22:57). Peter was very self-assured, very self-confident, very convinced of his loyalty to Christ. However, when the first real test came, he failed miserably.
|What do you say to someone who has openly, and with premeditation, sinned against the Lord, as Judas did? In what ways could you give him or her hope that the future does not have to be hopeless? Give some biblical examples of those who have sinned in the same open and planned way that Judas did, and yet who found forgiveness with God. What Christian, at some point in his or her experience, hasn't been able to relate to Judas?|
One with curses, one with coinsthe two disciples failed their best Friend on the same day. Yet their acts did not come in a vacuum. Each man had a history that clearly paved the way for his subsequent actions.
Judas: At some point, Judas saw that Christ was offering spiritual promises rather than worldly gain. After hoping for worldly honor and glory, Judas could finally see that Jesus would get no earthly honor or glory for Himself; thus, it was clear to Judas that by following Jesus he would get no honor and glory either. It was at this point that Judas began to draw away from the Master.
Christ bore long with Judas, seeking to save him. At the Last Supper, however, Judas rejected mercy's pleading one last time. Angered at an implied rebuke and disappointed at the failure of his dreams, he refused to surrender and, ultimately, gave his soul to the demon of greed that had long been stalking him.
What examples can we find from Judas's life that showed the direction he had been moving in all along?
Peter: In the same way as Judas, Peter's fall was not instantaneous; it was gradual. Self-confidence led him to the belief that nothing could turn him away from Christ. "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both to prison and to death" (Luke 22:33). His bold confession itself showed just how self-deceived Peter was regarding his faith and his relationship to Christ.
In many ways, self-confidence has to be one of the most dangerous sins for Christians because our faith is based on the notion of our own utter helplessness and inability to save ourselves. Peter, obviously, did not understand this principle yet, and so step after step he moved in the path of self-confidence until that trait led him to an open denial of his Lord.
|Salvation is found only in the righteousness of Christ, not in ourselves. Yet, what can we learn from the experience of Judas and Peter about the importance of not allowing Satan any inroad into our lives? How does Judas's experience reveal the danger of clinging to cherished sin?|
After he betrayed Christ, Judas hanged himself (Matt. 27:5). In contrast, after he denied Christ, Peter became a trusted apostle (1 Pet. 1:1), a high-powered force leading the early Christian church, and a writer leaving a testimony that would echo down through the centuries. Yet both men outwardly showed repentance for their deeds! What was the difference?
Judas had the wrong type of repentance. Judas, after betraying Christ, returned to the priests and exclaimed: "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matt. 27:4). But his confession was not a true biblical confession, not one born out of true sorrow for his actions but born instead only out of sorrow for the consequences of his actions. The consequences, not the act itself, drew out this acknowledgment of his sin, but there was (apparently) no deep, heartbreaking grief in his soul over the evil he had done in betraying His Lord.
Peter's remorse was sincere. Peter denied His Lord during Christ's time of greatest need and humiliation. But afterward, Peter repented and was reconverted. He had true contrition of soul for the act itself, not just the consequences. His repentance showed that the Holy Spirit was able to work on his heart and change him. He was truly broken by his sin, and out of that contrition of heart the Lord was able to bring Peter to true repentance and conversion. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17).
Name a Bible character who sinned greatly and then repented and one who sinned greatly and did not repent.
|Antonio had committed terrible sins that brought a lot of suffering to himself and his family. Though he loved God and felt sorry for his actions, he wasn't sure if his repentance were genuine, if he were truly sorry for his sins, or just for the terrible consequences of them. What could someone do to help him come to true repentance? (Hint: see Acts 5:31; 2 Tim 2:25) What do these verses say about the source of true repentance, and how could this give someone like Antonio hope? How do we help such people understand that repentance comes from God?|
"But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table" (Luke 22:21).
Luke 22:21 shows that, though Jesus knew what Judas would do, He still kept Judas in the group. What lessons, if any, can we learn from Christ's act? Do you think that Judas could have changed his mind and not betrayed Christ? Explain your answer.
Though a question fraught with certain difficulties, free will is clearly taught in the Bible. Little of what we believe as Christians, much less Adventists, makes sense without free will. Though the Lord knew that Judas would betray Him, God did not predetermine that Judas would do it; otherwise, what sense would it make for Judas to be punished for his betrayal of Christ? Judas obviously had free will, and because the Bible says that the Lord wants all to come to salvation (2 Pet. 3:9), Judas had a chance to be saved as well. Thus, Jesus kept Judas around, not in order to give him ample opportunity to betray Him but, more than likely, to give him ample opportunity to be saved.
Along with Judas, there was Peter, whom Christ wanted to be saved as well. "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31, 32, emphasis supplied). By these words, Jesus revealed that He knew not only that Peter would one day be converted but that he would be a powerful force in the church. As with Judas, Christ's foreknowledge did not mean He predestined Peter to be this great apostle; rather, Christ, with His foreknowledge, knew what Peter and Judas would do with their free will. In both cases, each man was given the opportunity to react to what Christ offered him. Their biographies reveal the choices they made.
All of us who claim to follow Christ are in the same position as both Peter and Judas. We have been given opportunities to make choices regarding how we will respond to the salvation Christ freely offers. Each of us ought to clearly ask ourselves What are we doing with these opportunities? In the end, only one of two eternal destinies awaits us: the one of Peter or the one of Judas. In what ways are our daily decisions moving us in the path of one or the other? What can we do if we see that perhaps our choices are indeed pointing us in the wrong direction?
FURTHER STUDY: Lessons From Their Lives. What lessons can we learn from these statements regarding the lives of both Peter and Judas?
"No man can tell how far he may go in sin when once he yields himself to the power of the great deceiver. Satan entered into Judas Iscariot and induced him to betray his Lord "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 103.
"At the reproof from Jesus his [Judas's] very spirit seemed turned to gall. Wounded pride and desire for revenge broke down the barriers, and the greed so long indulged held him in control. This will be the experience of everyone who persists in tampering with sin."The Desire of Ages, p. 720.
"The Saviour gave him [Peter] opportunity to regain the confidence of his brethren, and, so far as possible, to remove the reproach he had brought upon the gospel.
"When trouble comes upon us, how often we are like Peter! We look upon the waves, instead of keeping our eyes fixed upon the Saviour. Our footsteps slide, and the proud waters go over our souls. Jesus did not bid Peter come to Him that he should perish; He does not call us to follow Him, and then forsake us. 'Fear not,' He says; 'for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.'"The Desire of ages, p. 382.
SUMMARY: Peter and Judas will forever be remembered for their betrayals of ChristJudas only for that act, Peter for that act plus many positive ones. Both disciples had desirable and undesirable character traits. The difference is that one responded to Jesus' power, the other did not; one had genuine repentance, the other did not.
The children from Lapangon Mission School had never been away from their mountain homes before they traveled to the lowlands of southern Philippines to raise money to build a new school. Their nervous parents feared for their safety.
As the children boarded a bus in the capital city, five policemen approached and accused the teachers of kidnapping the children.
"We are not kidnappers," Romel answered. "We are missionaries. We are on a field trip, and the children will present a concert."
"Look at the rags these children are wearing," the police officer roared. "How can you say that these children are singers?"
The two student missionaries showed the police their student missionary identification cards, but the police were not convinced. Romel prayed silently, Lord, please make this police officer understand.
"Do we look like kidnappers?" asked Romel. "These children are our pupils at a government recognized mission school in Lapangon village. They have come to the city to raise money to build a new school."
"Prove it!" one police officer ordered. "Have them sing one song."
Romel turned to the children, who had entered the bus, and spoke a few words. Immediately the bus was filled with the sound of trained young voices. They sang a song in Cebuan, the language the police officers could understand. A crowd gathered to listen to the unlikely looking choir.
After the melody faded away, the head officer spoke with a voice choked with tears. "I am sorry to hold you. You may go now."Rendy and Romel breathed a silent prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit who had turned a difficult situation into an opportunity to witness for Christ.
Pray that the villagers will raise the needed funds to build their new school. And pray for the student missionaries who teach Manobo children in a dozen mission schools scattered through the mountains of southern Philippines.
Daryl Famisaran is director of the SULADS, the student missionary program at Mountain View College in Mindinao, Philippines.
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