Peter and Judas at a Crossroads
The night before the crucifixion two of Jesus’ apostles failed their Lord and committed shameful acts. For thirty pieces of silver, Judas Iscariot led the chief priests to the garden where Jesus had been accustomed to going. There he hypocritically greeted Jesus with a kiss so that in the darkness they would be able to identify the One they sought. At that moment, recklessly and impulsively, yet quite courageously, Peter took a sword and sought to defend Jesus. However, later that same night at the high priest’s house, Peter’s courage completely failed him and he denied Jesus three times. (See Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18).
Early the next day Peter and Judas shared something else—regret. After Peter denied the Lord the third time, the crowing of the rooster caused him to remember what Jesus had said and he went out and wept bitterly (Matt. 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:60-62). Judas’ remorse came when he saw that the Jewish council had condemned Jesus and was intent on having Him put to death. Judas then took his thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and announced that he had “sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matt. 27:1-4).
To this point they seem so similar. Two men had sinned grievously against their Lord and both regretted it, but what happened next is as different as night and day, or perhaps we should say life and death. While Judas went and hanged himself (Matt. 27:5-10), fifty days later Peter boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Christ (Acts 2:1-36). Standing at the crossroads of sorrow and regret, one took the path of self-destruction and the other the path of repentance. Years later Paul would point out that sorrow takes different people in different directions, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
If we are honest with ourselves and with God we will probably stand at a similar crossroads at least once in our life, and perhaps many times. We will have committed some sin or series of sins that hurt others and cuts us to the quick. Our guilt may cause us to ask questions such as, “How could I have been so stupid? Will anyone ever respect me again? Can a person possibly be forgiven for the things I have done?” We may be tempted to take the path Judas took and end our life. Some will go down the path of frustration and simply give up. Others will take the pathway of pride and somehow convince themselves that what they have done was not really so bad after all. Then there will be those who choose the path Peter took, the path of repentance that leads to salvation.
There are different paths that can be taken, but if repentance is the one path that leads to salvation, why do we sometimes choose a different way?
¨ Pride is obviously one reason. It is not easy to humble ourselves before God and man and admit that we have sinned.
¨ Lack of faith in God’s willingness to forgive may also be a factor, but one only needs to read Acts 2:36-38 to see that God was willing to forgive those responsible for the crucifixion of His Son. Paul even spoke of the mercy he had received as a pattern demonstrating God’s willingness to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
¨ It can be painful. Some want to equate sorrow or remorse with repentance, but this is only a step that can lead us to produce what John called “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). We must be willing to take whatever steps are necessary to change our lives, even if those steps require radical changes. While the language may have been figurative, when Jesus spoke of plucking out an eye and cutting off a hand, He was making it clear that a changed life is a drastically changed life (Matt. 5:27-30).
When we stand at the crossroads and must choose our response to sin and its accompanying guilt, repentance may seem like the painfully difficult choice, but it is then that we must have the vision to see where the different paths lead. Jesus once exhorted His listeners to choose the path that seemed more difficult at the moment because it would lead to life rather than destruction (Matt. 7:13, 14) and we must make the same choice. We need the wisdom and vision to reject “the easy way out,” for it will lead to destruction. Instead, we must take the path of repentance—a choice we won’t regret.
Peter and Judas: two remorseful sinners standing at the crossroads of life and death. Peter made the right choice, the path that led to salvation, while Judas made the tragic choice to refuse forgiveness. When we stand at our crossroads, will it be life or death, salvation or condemnation?
Unless noted, all quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc.