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Judas was not the only disciple that let Christ down. Jesus mentioned to Peter that he would deny him 3 times and so he did. We also know that all the disciples forsook Christ in his darkest hour. They ran in fear of being caught up in the iron-clad fist of justice that the roman imperial powers wielded. Jesus ended up on that Passover day, alone, rejected and forsaken by his 12 closest friends.
Though all the disciples betrayed Jesus, he found a way to restore them, all but one; Judas. Personally I don’t think it was because of the gravity of his sin that left Judas condemned. After all Peter denied Christ, cursing vehemently that he didn’t know Jesus. He might as well have handed him to the Roman officials. Judas in betraying Christ to the authorities hadn’t committed the unpardonable sin, which means he could have been forgiven. But what ultimately led his demise was his lack of repentance.
Compare the two scriptures relaying their actions, and ensuing remorse, and you will find both Peter and Judas reaction almost identical (Matthew 27:3-5, Luke 22:54-62). It is clear that they both regretted their actions deeply. In fact Judas tried to go and make it right by giving back the money that was the betrayal price, while Peter wept bitterly.. However there is one significant difference. Peter experienced repentance along with his regret while Judas did not.
Regret or remorse is when you feel guilt, or a deep sense of shame for the terrible act that you have committed. You can’t live with yourself, you repeatedly and painfully recall the events that has transpired in your mind, wishing things could be different. Both of these disciples felt this remorse. Peter however went further than remorse, he had a change of heart.
Repentance is a combination of feeling sorrow for ones actions, as well as possessing a change of heart. One is natural and the other supernatural. Any one can feel guilt, but only God can truly change one’s heart.
Jesus told Peter that he was going to deny him 3 times but he had prayed for him so that he would pull through. Can you imagine if Peter had not pulled through? Church history would have been very different. But because of the prayers of Christ, combined with a changed heart, Peter was restored, and Christ included him in prime leadership in the first church.
This was not the case for Judas however. He became desperately hopeless, thinking there was no possible salvation for him, and resorted to suicide. Why didn’t Jesus pray for Judas, and couldn’t he have changed? One may wonder. I think Jesus prayed. In fact he prayed for all his disciples before selection (Luke 6) and often prayed. But Judas had a hard heart. He was distant from Jesus, and resented others expression of sincere intimacy (John 12). Judas inherently was deeply religious, overly focused on rules and outward appearance. This religious posture coupled with the revelation of his unchanged heart condition by Christ (see John 6:64) ultimately reveals why it was impossible for him to repent.
The hard thing to grasp is that any one of us could be exactly like Judas. We may walk with Christ, follow him for years, sound religious and even have high ranking titles in church leadership. Yet an unchanged heart and an emotional distance from Christ will always be the cause of our downfall.
As we reflect on Christ this Easter season, my prayer is that our hearts may be tender like that of Mary of Bethany, where she chose to sit at Jesus feet and worship him with all she had. For surely as we practice intimacy with Christ, we like Peter will be held secure from damnation, and experience restorative repentance anytime we stray too far from his loving arms.
– Pastor Olu Jegede