Two different men…Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. Both men were present with Jesus Christ as two of the twelve selected apostles. They both had heard from Jesus, interacted with Him, ate with Him, traveled with Him, and watched Him perform many miracles. They both experienced Jesus in a very special way; yet, both of them had completely different eternal destinies. Peter would go on to present a mighty testimony for Jesus Christ, while Judas would take his own life, disgraced for his role in betraying Christ. The different eternal destinies were the result of choices that both of them made. At the time when Christ was handed over to the authorities, both Judas and Peter fell from grace, yet only one of them got up. By all appearances, on the outside, they were strong in their support of Christ, but the choices that both men made were born out of selfishness. In comparison, we, who attend church, may be giving the appearance of holiness, but only you and God know the state of your salvation, and God knows your heart and your willingness to live for Him and serve Him. He knows your eternal outcome.
Judas and Peter both fell down, but only one got up. The people of faith may struggle and fall down, but they eventually get up again. This comes down to choices that we make and the heart behind these choices. Consider that all of us invariably make choices based upon self-interests and without regard for others, or to protect oneself without hurting others. Judas made the choice to abandon Jesus (Luke 22:1-6). He made the decision to disregard all of the things he had learned about Jesus and what he had heard and saw Jesus do, and made the conscious decision to give Him over to the enemy to assist them in their sin. “Then one of the Twelve–the man called Judas Iscariot–went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they weighed out 30 pieces of silver for him. And from that time he started looking for a good opportunity to betray Him” (Matthew 26:14-16). He chose thirty pieces of silver to carry out his deed. Often times, in our sin, all that we our concerned about is ourselves and satisfying selfish motivations and desires. Scripture warns us to not operate in sin and self-centered behavior. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14). If we are willing to sin, Satan will be present. Note that Judas had taken action to betray Jesus. In declaring his willingness to abandon Jesus, Satan entered into him (Luke 22:3, John 13:27). In contrast, Peter also had an encounter with Satan, but note that Judas’ actions were self-serving (Romans 6:13), while Satan had to ask permission to deal with Peter. “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned your back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31). Jesus allowed Satan to be involved with Peter for testing and to show Peter that, as strong as he was in his faith, he still had much more to learn about his faith and about himself. Do you know that God allows Satan to be present in all of the lives of believers in order for you to grow in Christ? You will be able to see, over time, your growth in Christ and in your faith through this testing (though we will seldom like it).
Peter’s failure was from weakness–out of fear and self-interest in protecting himself, when he denied Jesus. Judas failed Jesus because of a different kind of self-interest, based on greed, unrighteousness, and a total disregard for others.
Did Jesus know about Judas? Certainly He did (John 13:10-11, 21, 25-26; Luke 22:21). Why did Jesus allow Judas to be one of the Twelve? He declared that it is God’s Word that will either bless you or bring judgment upon you. “I assure you: a slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). Judas, in making his choice, knew the truth, but chose not to act on what he knew.
Outward appearances are deceiving. One can show himself to be a believer, but it is only God and that person that really knows the truth.
Did Jesus choose for Judas to fail and to be a traitor. No! God’s Word is clear about wanting no one to perish (2 Peter 3:9). Judas appears as an ordinary man who, with his outward appearances, seemed to be acceptable, especially to his peers. Jesus allowed Judas to be present as part of the Twelve because of his outward appearance of service and loyalty. The other members of the group were unclear as to what was happening when Judas betrayed Jesus (John 13:27-28). This is much the same as how a church operates. While a person may be chosen for service and begins with good intentions, that same person may dishonor their position due to selfishness or failure to follow the Lord in service. God will respond accordingly, for we cannot always know the details. We must submit to the truth and to leave such a person in God’s hands. Peter’s sin, at his denial of Jesus, was self-evident, and was revealed later to him (John 13:37; 18:15-17, 25-27; Luke 22:60-62).
How Jesus responded to both men–Judas was told to go and do what he had to do quickly, and it was due to his desire to fulfill his evil desires (John 13:26). Judas was a thief (John 12:5-6), and Jesus knew his heart. Jesus, in contrast, prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:31) because of Peter’s understanding of who Jesus is (Matthew 16:16-17). In that same passage, Jesus rebukes Peter (v. 23) for his impulsiveness in rebuking Jesus. Jesus knew, and Peter had to learn, that he still had much to learn, but his heart was in the right place.
Both Judas and Peter were sorry for their sin, but Judas does not repent. He only shows remorse after the deed was done (Matthew 27:3-5). He was evil enough to do what he did and he was completely aware of his sin, yet he was unable to bear the guilt and anguish of his actions. In the case of Peter, God knew immediately when Peter would repent. It was different from Judas’ response. Peter’s true repentance was based upon the desire to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to serve Him. He was sorry for what He did in betraying Jesus, and God restored Him (John 21:15-19). Jesus knew that Peter would be a mighty voice for Christ, but Peter had to learn a great deal, and truly see Christ for who He was before he could truly follow Jesus.
All of us have much to learn in our service for Christ, but believers already know the power in serving Jesus Christ because of the power and grace we receive in His salvation. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, making a decision for Jesus Christ is a powerful choice that you can make. It truly has an effect on your eternal destiny.