Judas and Peter. Both of these men were chosen by Jesus to be part of the twelve—the first sent ones representing the new Israel. Yet the two men had drastically different fates. I don’t believe this necessarily had to be so. Neither were perfect men. I mean, Jesus once rebuked Peter as speaking for Satan!
Judas led the religious authorities to Jesus betraying him and leading to his arrest. Soon after, Peter denies ever knowing Jesus, swearing and cursing in the process. This is perhaps just hours after Peter and the other disciples swore that they would fight to the death for Jesus.
Both Judas and Peter soon realize their grave errors. Peter crawls into a hole a weeps despairingly. I think when he and others swore they would die for Jesus they had glory in mind. They believed that Jesus was going to be the most important person in Jewish history. The disciples weren’t particularly respectable before receiving an invitation from Jesus. Peter had been a simple fisherman (blue collar worker). But Jesus had chosen him to be one of his closest three disciples in his inner circle. Peter must have felt some pride in this.
It’s fascinating how quickly the bold Peter becomes timid once the prospect of a glorious death turns into the prospect of a humiliating death. I believe Peter had some understanding that he was to be a leader in Jesus’ kingdom. But now he thinks this is all lost. Peter was supposed to be the rock, but now he had crumbled. He very well may have had some doubt about Jesus now that he had been arrested and the situation wasn’t looking promising. But even if Jesus did succeed in establishing his kingdom, surely Peter had lost his place of honor. Jesus would probably forgive him, but certainly he wouldn’t trust him as one of his closest confidants any more. Peter might be forgiven, but he wouldn’t be restored.
When Judas sees that Jesus has been condemned to die, he is filled with remorse. Some speculate that Judas may have been trying to force Jesus’ hand. Whether or not this is the case, it seems that Judas didn’t expect Jesus to be condemned and executed any more than the other disciples did. Judas also must have believed that he had ruined everything. If his intent was really to ruin Jesus, would he have felt so remorseful? Perhaps, but I think it more likely he would not. Like Peter, Judas thought all was lost. In his despair, guilt, and lack of hope, he hung himself, ending his life.
In my next post, I will consider Jesus’ response to Peter and how he might have responded to Judas had he not killed himself.
photo credit: El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. via photopin (license)