And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:62 ESV)
Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times and Peter refused to believe it. Jesus also told Judas that he was the betrayer and Judas knew it to be true. What was the incredible difference between these two followers of Christ? I believe that the most significant difference between Judas and Peter rests in their response to their sin against Jesus.
Judas hung himself before Jesus was even crucified. He knew his guilt. And he felt trapped by it. Peter wept at the realization that he had sinned so greatly by denying Christ. The difference in these two responses is incredible. It’s a point I have written about often but I believe we cannot look at it too closely. Judas regretted his actions and killed himself. Peter showed genuine remorse, and sought forgiveness.
Peter betrayed Jesus. He knew that he had done it. He felt horrible. But he also recognized that there was a way back. No, not immediately, but he did take his sin to Jesus. Jesus reminded him that he knew about it before it had even happened. He forgave him.
Peter and Jesus had a unique relationship in terms of teacher and disciple. But all Christians share a similar experience with the two. In the connection between redeemer and redeemed we are all Peter, and we all need Jesus.
Mark 14: 53-65
But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61 ESV)
Jesus was put on trial as a sham. Those in power had predetermined the trial’s outcome. They had orchestrated false witnesses, with disagreeing testimonies. All of it was done under pretenses of maintaining Judaism. In reality, it was about squeezing Jesus out. The religious fat cats were afraid of the affect Jesus would have on their coffers.
But the seeds had been sown. Not all of those in power doubted Jesus’ claims. Many of the common people had been undeniably touched by Jesus’ miracles. The disciples and many others had come to see Jesus as the Christ. The Messiah the Old Testament writers promised would bring redemption to Jews and the rest of the world.
The high priest was a different matter all together. He had the most to lose because of Jesus. And using a tool straight out of the pit of Hell, a tactic used by Satan himself during the temptation in the wilderness, he attacked Jesus’ identity.
Jesus answered boldly. He loudly declared the truth of his identity for all in attendance to hear. He gave them a chance to believe. Jesus, the Christ, gives all who would ask of him the chance to believe.
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5 ESV)
Judas Iscariot returned the money he had received for betraying Jesus. Then he went and hung himself. The chief priests rejected his plea for forgiveness because they refused to acknowledge that anything wrong had taken place. They then used the thirty pieces of silver to purchase a field called the field of blood.
Judas threw the money into the Temple out of disgust. He was disgusted with his own actions, but he was also probably disgusted with the responses of the religious leaders. He realized his erroneous ways
Judas was remorseful, he regretted his actions, that much is clear. However, he did not take his sin to the one place where it could be dealt with. He did not take his sin to Jesus. He did not repent. Instead he ended his own life.
Judas Iscariot’s story is tragically sad. It is the story of a what can happen when we deal with our sin in the wrong way. Jesus does save us from sin. He died for that very thing. But we have to take it to him, we have to believe that he will do it, and we have to entrust our lives to him.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)
Forgiveness is essential. Without it we remain dislodged from our intended relationship with God. Primarily we need to seek forgiveness from God himself, but we must also extend forgiveness to those that have wronged us. According to Jesus our willingness to forgive others actually in as the ability to interfere with the forgiveness God extends toward us.
It almost sounds backward to think that you cannot receive from God won’t you are unwilling to first give away. That kind of thinking goes against my nature. Perhaps, however, that is because my very nature itself is in need of divine repair.
Like many things in the life lived for Christ, forgiveness is something that Jesus wants his followers to readily give away. It is not always easy. In fact, I think it almost never easy. When someone sins against you, it can be dreadful to let go of the pain and anguish that is often associated with that injustice.
Our act of willing forgiveness is powerful. By letting go of the ways by which we have been wronged we begin to experience freedom from our own sinfulness. Why? Because forgiveness is about learning to let go of our attachment to sin. When we are wronged it is easy to dwell on it, and when we have committed grievous sin it is easy for the enemy of our soul to use it against us.
The clear path is to let go. Extend grace to those that wrong you. Even as God offers grace to you. Forgive.
Read: Matthew 11:20-24
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20 ESV)
We choose whether or not to believe in the supernatural. It is a choice all of us must wrestle with. For some this is an easy and nearly effortless struggle as they willingly, readily, and eagerly accept the notion of things happening beyond the realm of natural explanation. Others reject offhand the notion that anything can take place that is not potentially explainable by science.
Where do you fall on that scale? Maybe you find yourself believing in the supernatural. Maybe you have seen things that are unexplainable. This important statement that Jesus made boils down to one question; what do you do with the revelation of Jesus’ supernatural power?
Some who experience the supernatural still refuse to acknowledge the source of that power. They explain it away, chock it up coincidence, and try to forget about it. Jesus would have none of that. He let it be known that his supernatural acts were attempts to draw attention to the Father. Everything the Son did was to exalt the Father.
Jesus used powerful language when describing the fate awaiting those who experienced his supernatural power and did not repent. He warned them of the trouble that awaited their stubborn refusal to return to a right standing with God. It’s a side of Jesus we rarely see in the Gospels.
What would it take for Jesus to denounce you or I? Surely we must be wary of falling into the same trap of refusing repentance. It’s not about merely being sorry for our actions. It is about our willful acknowledgement of God’s plan and power.
Read: Matthew 11:2-6
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me. (Matthew 11:6 ESV)
Jesus’ cousin John the Baptizer had already seen proof of Jesus’ identity as the foretold Messiah. John himself was a prophesied child. He was the one sent as a voice that would prepare the people for the coming of The Lord. Still, when John found himself imprisoned he reached out to Jesus for one more confirmation. Jesus did not disappoint.
John’s followers went to Jesus per the Baptizer’s request and returned to share news of the incredible things Jesus was doing. Miracles were happening. The kind of which had never been seen before among the Jews. This was Jesus’ testimony about himself as to the power and confirmation of his true identity as Messiah. As John’s disciples parted Jesus offered one last comment, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus’ words may sound strange at first but they would have been incredibly encouraging to John. John was arrested because his preaching offended a powerful man. Jesus in essence was issuing John a confirming statement. This same message holds true for us today.
We live in an age when many people find the message of the unmitigated Gospel offensive. They don’t know how to handle the truth of the idea that mankind is responsible for their sinfulness, that all have sinned, and that Jesus is the only answer to the sin problem. So people often try to change the message to be less offensive by leaving out or altering the portions which would appear offensive.
Jesus’ words are a clear warning. The Gospel will offend. Those with too much pride will reject its truth for their own comfort. They will harden their hearts. Those who embrace the offensiveness of Jesus will instead be changed by it. They will find freedom in the fact that although we are all sinful, and we are all responsible for our sin, Jesus offers us a way out. Truly blessed indeed are those who are not offended by Jesus.
Read: Matthew 3:1-10
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8 ESV)
When I was a kid growing up on the family farm we raised watermelons by the thousands in the summers. We poured our lives into producing that fruit. It took work, but there were always a lot of fruit to show for it. Why? Because under the right conditions fruit doesn’t have to even try to be produced. It just does what it was made to do.
John, and Jesus after him, preached a message of repentance and life-change through forgiveness of sins. The message went off like a bomb in the vicinity of his ministry. It connected with people. It drove people to seek, find, and be found by God. It produced repentance and life change. John charged those under his ministry to demonstrate that life change to others through the fruit their life produced.
Our lives are supposed to show fruit. They are supposed to demonstrate to others the miraculous nature of the change that has been (and is being) made in us. Sometimes we try really hard to work at showing everyone the kind of fruit we think we should be displaying, and there is something to be said about being intentional; but in reality things that bear fruit don’t have to try to bear it.
God made the plan. God made the conditions. God made the changes in us. He did all of the work, and we are receiving the benefits of his holy effort. We shouldn’t even have to try to display or bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Actually, if we are having to strive to put some kind of great laborious effort into demonstrating Christian fruit, we may need to go back and reexamine our relationship with Jesus. If we have submitted to him, and we are following his plan for our lives, with his help, fruit in keeping with repentance should be a clear result.