The Garden of Gethsemane in Jesus’ past he is about to face probably one of the greatest personal trials he will face now that the spiritual trial of committing himself to the Father’s will is done. It will come in the form of two long time friends and disciples. In fact it will come from two people who were part of the twelve. Judas Iscariot and Peter will both betray Jesus in the next few hours and both of them teach the humbling lesson of why grace is so necessary to us all.
I am of the opinion that Judas was not doing what he was doing because he actually wanted Jesus to die. He did what he did because he wanted to force Jesus’ hand in being the deliver Judas wanted Jesus to be. While we cannot underscore the fact that Satan himself was very much involved in Judas’ mindset, his actually feelings considering his remorse afterwards are probably more in the line of trying to get Jesus to be the political deliver and Messiah everyone was wanting instead of the Messiah that Jesus was called by God to be. When it didn’t work out, his remorse is overwhelming to the point it causes suicide.
In my opinion Peter is no better. When the soldiers come he is ready and actually acts by pulling the sword and cutting off a servant of the high priest’s ear. Jesus heals the man and rebukes Peter. Later Peter seems saddened by the whole affair and when questioned three times if he knows Jesus he denies it. While Peter does not actively betray Jesus by selling him to death. He refuses to acknowledge the connection and when the cock crows and His eyes meet Jesus’ as Jesus is being transferred from he house of the high priest to the Sanhedrin’s chamber, the moment is locked forever and almost all of us would not be Peter in that moment for anything. Peter can only go off to weep.
This of course brings up the main point of both men. That point being that too often we try to put ourselves into the position of Jesus as the victim. We ask Christ when someone hurts us how he managed to not be more angry at both men. Truth be told while there may be times when we are the one betrayed, we have all been in the role of the betrayer. We take the role of Judas and Peter far more often than we can even think to fit in the shoes of Jesus. We have all tried to make Jesus be what we want him to be and when he doesn’t dance to or tune we choose to sell out to sin. We all at times have denied Christ with our words or actions and found ourselves in much the same role as Peter.
That said, the only real difference between the two men is the first went out and hanged himself and the other went out a wept. It is because Peter stuck around that he received grace. He had to go through a lot to get there but in the end it was he forgiven and restored. I have no doubt that Judas would have received the same had he decided not to kill himself. Grace was not considered by Judas but Peter absolutely depended on it. Peter went through the trial of hearing his master ask the question – “Do you love me?” whereas Judas feared the question so much he decided to kill himself. For us, the difficulty of understanding our need for grace remains but we must have the courage to face the question and respond as Peter does.