Several years ago I caught part of a documentary on the band Kings of Leon. The lead singer, Caleb, was talking about all the great people they had been able to meet on tour. He shared that one of his most memorable meetings was with Bono of the band U2. Bono said to him something to the effect of, “Every artist you meet is either running toward God or running away from Him, which one are you going to be?” I found that to be insightful and I think it’s true. Tomorrow is Good Friday and the Bono quote got me to thinking.
Away from God: Judas
The Gospel of Matthew records, “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.” (Matt. 26:14-16 ESV)
The very next section of Scripture records Jesus and his disciples observing Passover. As they are all eating, Jesus tells them that, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (26:21) They all start to ask him if they were the one. Matthew tells us that Judas also asks. Jesus tells Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27b ESV) We are then told that the others assumed that because Judas was the treasurer that he was going to purchase supplies for the coming feast. (13:29-30) The point is that only Jesus knew what Judas was about to do. Just like Judas’ our own sin is usually hidden from others. However it is not hidden from God.
Toward God: Peter
Jesus called out Judas and he also called out Peter. In Matthew we read that Jesus tells the disciples that they all will fall away [that] night. Peter was the first to speak out and proclaim his loyalty to his friend. Then we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’”(Matt. 26:34 ESV)
Jesus knew Peter’s and Judas’ failings before they happened.
We all struggle with sin, Jesus knows we are going to mess up long before we do. Judas and Peter and their deeds were known and seen by God before they came to be. The difference was how each man responded afterwards.
Wrong Response to Failure
Judas tried to make it right on his own by returning the silver to the temple and telling the religious leaders that he changed his mind. (Matt. 27:3-4) When this was not accepted, he made his own redemption by ending his life. (27:5) He didn’t trust that he would be forgiven. His regret was too deep.
While Jesus was standing in front of the High Priest being falsely accused, Peter stood nearby. A servant girl, and then two others all remembered seeing Peter with Jesus and the others. Each time Peter denies knowing Jesus and each time with more aggression. Finally saying, essentially, I swear to God I don’t know that man. Luke’s Gospel reads, “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny my three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60b-62 ESV)
With the same quickness that Peter pled his allegiance to Jesus, he completely denied knowing him.
The Right Response to Failure
A week or two after the resurrection, Simon Peter and six others went fishing. After a day of fishing and catching nothing a voice called to the men from the shore. The man asked if they had caught any fish. They told the man that no, they had not caught anything. So the man tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat and they were unable to haul in all they had caught. John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7 ESV) When Peter heard this, he jumped into the water and swam to shore about 100 yards. (21:8) Peter ran towards Jesus. Peter pressed into God after he failed. Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to tell him he loved him and recommissioned him each time. (21:15-19)
Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus. Judas did not trust the redemptive power of Jesus and Peter ran toward it. Judas is known as the betrayer and Peter is a pillar of of the Church.
When we fail, it is the way we respond that makes the difference. You did not surprise Him by sinning. Jesus nailed that sin to the cross and paid for it. Will you believe and rely on that reality next time you fall short?