Judas and Peter
Lent 2020 Message #6
Throughout this year’s Lenten season, we have been considering several examples of Jesus suffering, such as frustration with His disciples, the demands of very busy ministry, physical threats, being rejected, being tempted by Satan, and seeing the Temple in Jerusalem - His house - being misused.
There were of course many very good days for Jesus. Days of teaching and healing and doing other miracles to help people. As was discussed in last week’s message, there was also Palm Sunday, on which thousands and thousands of people shouted His praises.
But there were also times of suffering. Including two things that happened the day before Jesus’ ultimate suffering, which was His death on a cross. Suffering at the hands of two people. Two of His disciples. Judas Iscariot and Peter.
First, Judas Iscariot. A disciple who had an important role in the group of Jesus’ closest followers. He was in charge of the money box, holding the funds needed to sustain Jesus’ ministry.
A passage that lets us know that was his role is in John 12. In the first part of the chapter, we are told of something that happened right before Palm Sunday.
Jesus and His disciples were gathered for an evening meal in the home of some friends. During the meal, Mary, who was one of the friends, took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard. Nard is a plant known for its pleasant aroma. Pure nard means it was a valuable ointment. A pound of it was worth a great deal of money.
Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and poured it on Jesus’ feet. Remember that at the time of Jesus, the custom was for people not to sit at a table, but rather recline, resting an elbow on it. The feet were behind those eating, which means Mary went behind Jesus, then stooped down, and poured the ointment on His feet. She then wiped His feet with her hair, which is another significant act. It seems that women in public always kept their hair up. Proper, moral women did that. The only ones who let their hair down in front of others were immoral women.
What a display of Mary’s willingness to be vulnerable before Jesus. Mary was more interested in her opportunity to serve Jesus than she was in what people thought of her.
Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. As she then dried His feet, the whole house was filled with the wonderful smell of the ointment she used.
What an honor that was for Jesus. However, one of the disciples took exception to what Mary did. He criticized the honor. That one was Judas Iscariot, who asked, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii?” One denarius was what a common working man made in a day. That indicates how valuable the ointment was. What was used to anoint Jesus would have cost a common worker almost a year’s worth of wages.
Why was the ointment wasted, Judas wanted to know. Why was it not sold and, he added, “the money given to the poor?”
That sounds like a noble question. However, the Bible then provides some important information. Judas said that, it is recorded, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, proved by the fact he, who had the money box, used to take what was put into it.
Judas was an embezzler. He most certainly did not steal everything in the money box used by Jesus and His disciples. That would have been detected easily and early. He no doubt took a little at a time, I assume using the stolen money for himself. But the fact is, Judas Iscariot was a thief.
It should be mentioned Jesus defended Mary, stating that the poor will always be around, and that, in essence, Mary was indicating Jesus was soon to die. Jesus being anointed that evening was a prediction of when He would be prepared for burial just a few days later.
Sometime after that, Judas did something very critical. It is reported in Luke 22. It began when Satan entered into Judas, which is the first part of what Judas was about to do. I put the blame on Judas because Satan cannot enter into anyone unless that person allows him to do so.
Judas allowed Satan to enter him. Satan then directed Judas to a group of chief priests and officers. Some of the group of religious leaders who were so opposed to Jesus, they were seeking ways to destroy Him. The leaders and Judas conferred. The agreement they reached was that Judas would betray Jesus to them in exchange for some money - 30 pieces of silver.
Why do you suppose Judas wanted to betray Jesus? That is a mystery. And yes, Satan led him to it, but Judas had to agree.
Some suggest Judas did not want to hurt Jesus but instead, if He was arrested, force Him to be a stronger leader than He was turning out to be. But maybe it was the money in which Judas was interested.
For whatever reason, from that moment on, Judas joined the religious leaders in searching for just the right moment to arrest Jesus. A moment that arrived the night before the Lord’s crucifixion.
Earlier that night, Jesus had a meal with His disciples, during which Judas left to get ready for the betrayal. After the meal, Jesus and the rest of His disciples went to a nearby Garden of Gethsemane. It was there Jesus prayed. Remember Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him. That He would be crucified. Three times He asked God to relieve Him from what was about to happen. But all three times, He said He was committed to God’s plan. Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done.
After the prayers, a large group entered the Garden. In the crowd were religious leaders, some soldiers, and some other guards. Leading the pack was Judas. The arrangement was that Judas would identify Jesus, doing so with a kiss. That way, being dark, the arresting mob would be sure they got the one they were after.
Judas did what he was supposed to do. He went to Jesus and kissed Him. So it was Jesus was arrested.
The next morning, when word got out that Jesus had been condemned, Judas was sorry for what he had done. What an interesting turn of emotions. Maybe Satan had left him. Maybe, if Judas’ goal had been to get Jesus to be forceful, it became clear that was not going to happen. That instead, Jesus was going to die. For whatever reason, Judas was sorry he had betrayed Jesus.
His sorrow caused Judas to repent. He returned to the religious leaders, taking with him the money he had received from them. He tried to give it back to them, I assume hoping they would change their minds and decide to release Jesus. However, that did not happen. In fact, the religious leaders would not take back the pieces of silver.
That led Judas to throw down the money before leaving. The report ends with some very sad words. Judas went out and hanged himself.
What a tragic figure Judas was. The report on him was tragic from beginning to end. Let’s now think about Peter, who also had lots of downs, but also lots of ups.
Peter was one of three disciples especially close to Jesus. The other two were James and John. Jesus was very closely associated with all His disciples, but Peter, James, and John had more access to Him as He took just them with Him from time to time.
For instance, when Jesus performed the miracle of raising a 12-year-old girl from death, He took only the girl’s parents and Peter, James, and John with Him to witness the miracle.
Another time, Jesus went up a mountain, taking only Peter, James, and John with Him. At that spot, Jesus was transfigured. His face shone like the sun. His garments became as white as light. He was then joined by Moses and Elijah.
During that time, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed the three disciples and they heard the voice of God saying, “This [referring to Jesus] is My beloved Son, with whom I am pleased. Listen to Him.”
Then, shortly before Jesus was arrested, when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane for the time of prayer, all the disciples - except Judas - were with Him. But Peter, James, and John were the closest to Him as He prayed.
Peter was one of three disciples closest to Jesus. At times, it appeared He was in fact the main disciple.
For instance, Jesus called Peter “the rock,” upon which the church would be built.
And Peter at least appeared to be the strongest - the bravest - disciple.
One example of that was when the disciples were, one night, on the Sea of Galilee, sailing against a storm. Jesus, who had seen their struggles, walked to them, doing so on the water. Peter was so impressed, he offered, if it really was Jesus, to join Him on the water. When Jesus invited him, Peter did indeed leave the boat. Talk about bravery. He did indeed walk on the water. Which he did until he took his eyes off Jesus, at which time he sank into the stormy sea.
Jesus saved Peter. Jesus then boarded the boat and calmed the storm, thereby saving all the disciples.
There are many more examples that can be cited of Peter appearing to be brave. One more for this message. It came shortly after the meal Jesus had with His disciples the evening before His crucifixion. The group had gone from the meal to the Mount of Olives, just to the east of Jerusalem.
It was there Jesus predicted the disciples would all leave Him, doing so that very night. It was Peter who was the first to respond, claiming that no matter what the others would do, he would stay loyal to Jesus. When Jesus answered with the prediction that before the cock crowed to announce the next morning, Peter would have denied Him three times, Peter became more forceful, saying to Jesus, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You!” The rest of the disciples said the same, but Peter was the first of them to make the promise.
A few hours later, Jesus was betrayed by Judas. During the arrest, the rest of the disciples, including Peter, did indeed leave Jesus, which means they, including Peter, were not as brave as they had thought they were.
Peter actually returned to the area, which was a brave act. But listen to what happened.
Peter sat outside in the courtyard of the area where Jesus was facing one of the trials that night. A young woman went to Peter and said to him, “You were with Jesus.” Which Peter denied, claiming he did not know what the woman meant. “What do you mean, ‘with?’ Jesus? Who is Jesus?”
Peter moved to another part of the courtyard. A short time later another young woman noticed him. She announced to others, “Look. Here is a man who was with Jesus.” Which Peter again denied, this time saying he did not know the man, saying that with an oath, as in “I promise you I am not who you say I am.”
A bit later, another person went to Peter, telling him he recognized his accent as Galilean. The same as Jesus’ accent. For the third time, Peter was identified as being a follower of Jesus, which he was, but Peter denied yet again, this time with a curse. A curse on himself. Something like, “Send me to Hell if I am lying!” With a curse, he shouted, “I do not know the man!”
Immediately, a cock crowed. From inside, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. With those two things, Peter knew he had failed. He had not stayed true to Jesus, despite his promises to do so. He had not stayed true when Jesus needed him the most.
In great sorrow, Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
* * * * *
What a horrible time as Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied Him. And again, how sad that Judas killed himself. Sad because failure does not need to be the end of the report. It was not the end of the report on Peter. We know that from two things that happened following Jesus’ resurrection.
First, on Easter morning, when some women noticed the tomb of Jesus was empty, an angel told them to give a message to the disciples. The message, which was from Jesus, was that He wanted to meet the disciples in Galilee. Listen to the first part of the instruction to the women. “Go, tell His disciples, and Peter.”
Can we imagine the joy - the relief - Peter felt when Jesus, through the angel, named him? Yes, Peter had failed, doing so horribly, but Jesus was willing to give him another chance.
Which brings up a second thing that happened after Jesus’ resurrection. Something else about Peter that was positive. It is reported in the early part of the Book of Acts, where Peter is described as a very effective minister in the early Christian church. His sermons and his actions were effective, all of them done for the purpose of helping others to know Jesus, accept Jesus, then grow in their faith in Jesus.
Is there any way in which you feel that you have failed in your Christian walk? I ask myself that same question. How sad it is if that is the case.
But may we know that whatever failure we have, it does not need to be the final word. Jesus is willing to give second chances. Maybe third and fourth and beyond chances. He is willing to forgive us and restore us. He will do that if we will let Him do so.
Today, if you have failed, accept your second chance, and look forward to how Jesus will use you, whether our bad days continue or when good times come again. Look forward to opportunities to obey Him, worship Him, and serve Him
Amazing Grace is the closing song. If you need Jesus’ grace, accept it, even now. If you have accepted and need another chance, ask for it, even now. May this hymn remind us of the hope we have in the Lord, now and, for His people, always.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught
my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers,
toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
When we've been there
ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we'd first begun.
For today’s benediction, two more verses of Amazing Grace, the first referring to right now, the other to Heaven.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Then, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall, as a believer in Jesus, possess
A life in Heaven - a life of joy and peace.