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Peter and Judas

Date: Nov. 13, 2016

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 26:69-27:10

Key Verse: Matthew 26:75

“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Peter and Judas – these are 2 very well known names throughout the world.  Many people and places are named after Peter.  One of the most famous churches is the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Many churches and many cities are named St. Peter.  Many people today are named Peter.  In English, it is Peter.  In Spanish, it is Pedro.  The French version is Pierre, and in Polish it is Piotr.  Judas, on the other hand, has a pretty bad reputation, and very few if anybody is named Judas.  The name itself is synonymous with “traitor.”  There’s even an entry in urbandictionary.com.  The top definition is this: “an individual whom sells out his/her friends for their own personal benefit.”  The example sentence is “Yo man, why you being a judas.”  Peter and Judas were Jesus’ disciples, two of twelve specially chosen by the Lord.  They both followed him throughout his ministry, learned from him, witnessed miracles by him – but at the end of his life they both sinned greatly against them.  So what was the difference?  How was one ultimately redeemed, but the other ultimately doomed?  In today’s passage we see Peter and Judas side by side, and we can learn what the difference is by contrasting the two of them.  Last week we heard about the trial and arrest of Jesus, and it is in the middle of this trial that our passage begins.

Look at v.69, “Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.”  When Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives, all of his disciples fled, but Peter was among the first to stop, turn around and follow Jesus.  But he followed from a distance just to be safe.  Jesus’ trial was held in the very early hours of the morning when it was still dark at the palace of the high priest Caiaphas.  Peter slipped in among the guards, and those who arrested Jesus, and he was standing among them around a fire to keep warm in the inner courtyard of the Palace.  The inner courtyard was uncovered, so it was cold.  Not far from him, perhaps inside the palace on the second floor, with a view to the courtyard, he could see and possibly hear the trial of Jesus.  He wanted to know what the fate would be of his master.  There were many witnesses coming forward to give false testimony against Jesus, and these servant girls went back and forth to open the doors to let them in and out.  It was one of these servant girls that somehow recognized Peter as being one of Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus was well known by this time in Jerusalem, especially after the triumphal entry, and the clearing of the temple.  It would not be hard to associate Peter with Jesus – especially if he stood out as something like a newcomer among those in the courtyard.

The servant girl recognized him.  She said loudly enough so everyone could hear “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.”  She didn’t say “Jesus of Galilee” to set him apart from other people named Jesus.  She said that in a spiteful way – this troublemaker who calls himself Messiah, was from Galilee, the backwards, unsophisticated rural part of Israel.  She was no friend of Jesus, and no friend of his followers either.  Peter was in dangerous territory.  When she called him out, you can imagine all the eyes looking suspiciously right at him.  But Peter denied it before them all, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said (v.70).  This might have been enough to appease the crowd for now, but here, in his moment of weakness he denied Jesus.  To deny Jesus is to reject Jesus.  Imagine my best friend, from preschool, who I spent hours with talking, eating, hanging out, sharing laughter and pain with, says to someone else, “Mike Mark who?  I don’t know who you’re talking about.”  It’s painful.  How much more serious is it to deny the one and only Son of God, who loved Peter, and showed him glimpses of miracles. It is sinful to deny God because he is the one who gave us life – he is the Creator and he exists.

The world hates God, so much so that they will be satisfied if you deny the name of Jesus Christ.  Before the Islamic State took over Mosul in Iraq, they would send supporters out to warn people unless they convert to Islam they will be killed.  In the 1950s in Communist Romania, Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, was told not to preach in the name of Jesus, and when he did he was put in prison.  In the book of Acts, the rulers of Jerusalem warned them, actually they commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18).  If the name of Jesus was not so significant, why would people make such a big deal out of those who profess and do things in the name of Jesus?  The name of Jesus is significant, precisely because he is God.  His name should be all the more honored, but the world wants all the more for Jesus to be denied, and for a Christian to deny God is a grievous sin.  Peter’s denial was that much more serious because he witnessed God’s power.  He saw the miracles, the water turning into wine, the feeding of the 5,000, the transfiguration of Jesus, but here he denied it all.  The testimony to God’s great power was covered up.

Verse 71 says, “Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’”  Peter must have felt nervous, uneasy, and shifted around.  Now he was at the edge of the inner court, by the gate, and then another servant girl saw him and said the same thing.  Peter denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man.”  Jesus was now “the man.”  His denials are starting to become stronger.  He went from “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” to, “I don’t know the man,” directly denying Jesus.  He also did this with an oath, like saying, “I swear, I promise to God, I’m telling the truth.”  This, my friends, is called perjury.  I actually didn’t know what perjury meant, so I had to look it up.  Perjury means to lie to the court under oath, and I found out from Sh. Bob and Dan yesterday that you can go to jail for perjury.  Perjury is a crime in the United States.

After a little while, (according to Luke’s gospel it was about an hour later (Luke 22:59)), those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away. (v.73)”  Now the people in the courtyard were really getting suspicious of Peter.  It took them about an hour, perhaps they heard Peter talking a bit more, but they noticed his accent was Galilean.  The accent must have been different and noticeable.  After this accusation Peter began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man! (v.74)”  Notice his sins were increasing in quantity and quality.  In addition to perjury, he added curses.  The curses may have been like “May I be cursed and miserable from this point on, or may God strike me dead if I tell a lie.”

That was Peter’s third denial, and immediately after he spoke the words, a rooster crowed.  It was an alarm.  Roosters work like alarm clocks (even from what I’ve learned in cartoons).  But this alarm was much more significant and startling to Peter.  The rooster crow triggered something in him.  He may have looked up to see Jesus.  Luke tells us Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter (Luke 22:61).  Remember in the inner courtyard, Peter could see Jesus, and if it was small enough, Jesus might even be able to hear Peter denying him.  He turned and looked straight at Peter.  How terrifying must have been the gaze of Christ!  But this wasn’t a gaze of judgment, because Jesus did not come to condemn.  This was a look of love, maybe even of sadness and sympathy toward Peter.

Now look at v.75.  Can we all read v.75 – “Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”  This was no surprise to Jesus.  He told Peter that he would deny him three times, before the rooster crows.  Jesus knows what is in a man’s heart.  He knows that they are corrupt with sin.  That’s why he was standing there on trial before Caiaphas.  That’s why he did not try to escape or revolt against these religious leaders.  He suffered as one who was guilty, so that he might take away our guilt and our sin and our shame.  He came to save us.  See how gracious he was to Peter.  He told Peter these things ahead of time so that he can escape.  He gave Peter the means of recovery by telling him ahead of time what would happen, so when these things happened, Peter would remember the words of the Lord.  When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered what Jesus said, and he went outside and wept bitterly.  Peter was awakened to his sin.  His sin was magnified even more when he realized how ungrateful he was toward a compassionate master, so he left the courtyard, probably hiding his face, and he wept bitterly.

Peter was awakened when he remembered the words of Christ.  He must have forgotten them for a time.  The words of Christ are the words of life.  Peter even confessed this to Jesus earlier in his ministry, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69)”  Jesus even declared, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Peter’s self confidence drew him away from the word of God.  After the last supper, Peter declared to Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”  Jesus then predicted his denial before the rooster crows, but Peter declared again, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”  He did not believe Jesus’ words or warnings.  He did not watch and pray when Jesus was praying at Gethsemane.  When Jesus was arrested, in courageous haste he drew his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest.  But here, in the home of the high priest, at Jesus’ trial, he was humbled.  He was startled by a slave girl, and he learned that he could not save himself.  The only one who can save us is Jesus Christ, and the only way to know that is to remember the words of God.  When left to ourselves, we can do nothing, so take heed, distrust your heart, which is sinful, and depend fully on God, who is faithful and able to save to the uttermost (Heb 7:25).  That means he is able to save completely, and eternally.

After the rooster crowed, it was now daybreak.  The day is now Good Friday, and there are now just hours before the death of Christ.  Look at Ch 27, v.1, “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.”  What a chilling statement.  All of these people met to conspire about how to kill Jesus.  There was death by stoning for blasphemy, but the Jewish leaders did not have the authority to execute anyone. That authority was reserved for the Roman government.  But this also allowed them to seek after a harsher and more painful death – crucifixion.  So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate (v.2).  Pilate was the governor of Judea, sent from Rome.  In order to have Jesus killed they would need his approval, but they had a plan to influence him to do it.

Matthew now gives the account of Judas after Jesus is condemned to show how the words of God are being fulfilled, but from this we can also contrast Judas with Peter to see what made them different.  Look at v.3, “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.”  Judas was seized with remorse when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He was seized – suddenly overcome and overwhelmed with remorse.  His conscience was tormenting him, and condemning him by the guilt he felt.  The fact that we have a conscience is proof of God, and proof of an absolute standard of right and wrong.  Judas could not enjoy the money he made by betraying Jesus.  He could not help but feel guilty for what he had done.  He could not live without consequences, he was bound to a law in his heart, a law that God has written on all of our hearts.  The law convicts and condemns, but it should turn us to God who can and will save us from the guilt of our sins.  The key is repentance – a turning to God, and trusting him and depending on him.  Judas did not repent.  He felt remorse, but he did not repent.

In verse 3, in the original Greek translation, the word for remorse is different from the word for repent.  The root of the words are similar, but they are used differently.  The word for repent appears a lot more in the Bible, and generally it is in an imperative form, meaning it’s like a command.  So you can see here that Judas did not repent, though he felt remorse.  Since they’re two different words, we can compare them to see what the differences are.

Remorse is similar to repentance.  In both, there is guilt for sin, but in repentance it goes beyond just feeling bad, and seeks to do what is right.  Repentance is much more than remorse.  Paul writes in 2 Cor 7:10-11, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorry brings death.  See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”  That’s one way you can tell the difference.  Godly sorrow produces an earnestness to do what is right.  Remorse is a reaction, but repentance is a decision.  Remorse relates to specific situations, but repentance means your entire life changes direction.  Remorse is just regret, but repentance is a change in moral purpose.  Remorse can lead to hopelessness, but repentance brings hope.  A good example of repentance is the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector whom Jesus touched.  When Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus into his house he said, “Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. (Luke 19:8).”

The difference between remorse and repentance is faith in God, and his Son Jesus Christ.  Faith in Christ is the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.  That was the major difference between Peter and Judas – it was their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Judas never believed in Jesus, even though he was with him throughout his whole ministry.  John 6:64, quoting Jesus, he says this about Judas: “’Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.”  It was faith in Christ that helped Peter repent and rebound from his sinful episode, but it was the lack of faith of Judas that doomed him in remorse.

Look at v.4, “’I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’  ‘What is that to us?’ they replied, ‘That’s your responsibility.’”  Judas confessed his sin, but his words fall short of acknowledging the Lord.  He did not say that he betrayed the Messiah, the Son of God, but he betrayed innocent blood, which could also mean any man.  One thing we know for sure now though, is that Jesus was innocent.  Even Judas, who walked with him for 3 years, testified to the fact that Jesus was innocent.  He was wrongfully condemned to death.  Now look again at the chief priests and the elders’ response.  “What is that to us?  That’s your responsibility.”  Wow, who are these people?  They were supposed to be the shepherds of God’s people.  They were supposed to provide help and guidance for the lost and helpless.  But instead they say, “What’s that to us?”  Not only that, but they say, “That’s your responsibility.”  WRONG!  Jesus’ blood was their responsibility.  They hired Judas, they hired the soldiers, and in the morning they condemned Jesus to death.  Jesus was right when he called them blind guides and hypocrites (Matt 23:13,16).

Judas threw the money into the temple and left.  Then he went away and hanged himself (v.5).  This was the sad end of Judas.  He had lived his life for the love of money, so much so that he even took money to betray his beloved master.  Judas did not believe Jesus when he predicted four times that he would be handed over to be crucified.   He did not believe Jesus at the last supper, when Jesus warned about the one who would betray him, and even told Judas it was him.  When he was seized with remorse he did not turn to the Lord, but took his life with his own hands.  I don’t want to be insensitive, as this is a very sensitive subject, and suicide is a very serious and tragic decision.  God never commands anyone to take their own lives, and the number of days of your life are determined by God.  Suicide attempts to overrule what God has decided, which is why it is a sin.  Suicide is also murder, it is the murder of yourself, which is another reason why it is a sin.  I think that, and only in extremely rare cases, a Christian may fall into overwhelming and desperate circumstances and commit suicide, they may be forgiven by the blood of Christ – because Christ’s forgiveness is for all sins, past, present and future, but nonetheless a sin was committed at the very end of life.  For a Christian, suicide never needs to be an option, but turning and trusting in Jesus Christ can give strength, restoration and hope – because in him there is true and eternal life, forgiveness, righteousness and peace with God.  In every circumstance suicide is a sin, though tragic, it is a sin – and here Judas sinned to the very end.  Though he felt remorse, and even confessed his sin, he never repented and turned to the Lord to be saved.

The hypocrisy of the chief priests continues in v.6-8, “’The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.  That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.”  See how blind they are because of sin.  They wouldn’t dare to put the money into the treasury, because it is blood money.  Blood money is money used to hire somebody to kill another person.  They forget that they gave the money in the first place to have Jesus arrested and killed.  So here they are, trying to please God by following this law – keep blood money out of the treasury, when their hands are already dripping with Jesus’ blood.  In cases where they could not put the money into the treasury, they were to use it for some public good.  So they used the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.  This seemed like a good way to cover up their sin and clean up the blood money – but God knew what happened.  Providentially, Judas hung himself over that field.  The book of Acts tells us that he fell, most likely after he had died, but when he fell his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.  Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so it was called the Field of Blood to this day (Acts 1:18-19), as a witness to the wickedness of the chief priests.

Matthew ends the story of Judas by connecting it to a prophecy, to show that everything that is happening related to Jesus Christ was known and fulfilled by God.  Verses 9-10 say, “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’”  Matthew was quoting a combination from Jeremiah and Zechariah, written about 500 years before Jesus came and was born.  Zechariah had a vision that God’s people rejected him, and when God asked them for wages, they gave him 30 pieces of silver – the price for a slave.  That price was an insult to God, who is of infinite worth.  That was how much the people valued Jesus – his life was worth 30 pieces of silver.  The Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, the Commander of the Lord’s army – 30 pieces of silver.  In the vision the Lord told Zechariah to take that money and throw it to the potter.  Maybe you could buy some dishes, or a field for the money.  That vision came into reality to show that Jesus is God, who was valued at 30 pieces of silver by Judas and the chief priests, and that money would be used to buy the potter’s field.  This is good news to us because it means that God has come to earth to save his people.

It was starting to get depressing, with all this talk of denial, suicide and hypocrisy, but thankfully, even as we saw at the end of this passage, there is good news.  And when we think about Peter, we can find hope.  Peter is the representative disciple.  He is considered to be Jesus’ top disciple.  We see here that in his weakest moments, he fell into some serious sin.  He was sinking deeper and deeper into sin, to the point he started calling curses on himself while denying God to his face!  But Jesus saved him and Jesus restored him.  Jesus overlooked and forgave his sins, and restored him personally.  We will fail at times.  We will sin – but do not sin out of a sinful lifestyle like Judas.  But we will sin because we still live in the flesh, though sin is what we do not want to do.  And when these sins are made known to you, you may grieve – but don’t stop at grieving, turn to the Lord.  Even in your most troubled times, turn to the Lord, because he has the words of life.  Remember the words of the Lord, they are a safeguard for you.  Jesus taught his disciples “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:35,37-40).”  This is an invitation to come to the Lord.

Jesus told Peter at the last supper, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32).”  The strength of Peter’s faith came from Jesus, who prayed for him, that his faith may not fail.  When Jesus looked straight at Peter after his denials, it was to strengthen his faith.  And the wonderful promise for us, if you will believe it, is that Jesus lives today, and is praying for your faith.  Heb 7:25 tells us, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  He lives, and he always lives to intercede for you.  Trust not in your strength, trust not even your own heart, but trust in God who is faithful, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and he will deliver you from sin and from death forever and ever.

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