It is a given fact that Christians will fail their Lord. Each and every one of us will fail our Lord. Matthew 26 contains the last night of Jesus’ earthly life…his celebration of the Passover with his disciples, his institution of the Lord’s Supper, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal and arrest, and finally his trial before Caiaphas early the next morning. Amidst all the things happening to Jesus, there is a substory that we easily overlook and miss.
This substory in Matthew 26 is the tale of two men who catastrophically failed their Lord on the final night of His life. It is the story of Judas and Peter. Here are the related parts of the chapter…
Judas’ failure (Matthew 26:14-16 & 47-50):
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, What will you give me if I deliver him over to you? And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, The one I will kiss is the man; seize him. 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, Greetings, Rabbi! And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, Friend, do what you came to do. Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
Peter’s failure (Matthew 26:31-35 & 69-74):
Then Jesus said to them, You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. 33 Peter answered him, Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away. 34 Jesus said to him, Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. 35 Peter said to him, Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you! And all the disciples said the same.
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, You also were with Jesus the Galilean. 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, I do not know what you mean. 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, This man was with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied it with an oath: I do not know the man. 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you. 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, I do not know the man. And immediately the rooster crowed.
The Aftermath of Failure…
Both men ended up remorseful and regretted their decisions. Here’s where the difference comes in. This is seen in the following verses, and I love how Matthew arranges his material so that Peter’s reaction is immediately followed up by Judas’ reaction.
Matthew 26:75, “And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Matthew 27:1-5, “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, I have sinned by betraying innocent blood. They said, What is that to us? See to it yourself. And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Naturally, both men had deep pain in their hearts, Judas, for betraying our Lord for a little money, and Peter for denying our Lord as he called down curses on himself.
The differences between these two men in the aftermath of their failures is this: one man (Peter) chose to weep over his failures and the condition of his heart and yet keep going as he grieved. And one man (Judas) decided that he had no hope remaining and he killed himself.
What a terrible day Friday was for Peter as Jesus was crucified. What an even worse day Saturday had to be for Peter, considering that it was the Sabbath and Peter would have most likely just sat around his house reflecting on his failure and Jesus’ death.
But for Judas, there was no Friday afternoon and there was no Saturday. Judas chose for his failures to be the end.
Sunday was Peter’s day of redemption and hope. Sunday was the day that redeemed all of Peter’s sin and failures. Sunday was the resurrection. And here’s the thing that blows my mind…Sunday would have been Judas’ day of hope as well. Sunday would have been Judas’ day of redemption from his sin and failure.
Judas chose that his failure would be the end. Judas chose to jump ship before the end of the story. Judas chose to end it right before what would have been God’s greatest work in his life.
Peter chose that his failure would not be the end. Peter chose to stay for what came next. Peter got to participate in God’s great work on the day of Pentecost and the years following.
And here is the point:
Our failures are never the end unless we choose for them to be the end.
Jesus is able to redeem you from all your sin and all your failures…but you must allow him to do it.