The Difference Between Peter and Judas
Companion blog to “With Him or With Them?“
In “With Him or With Them?“, Pastor Wilson helps us to understand why Judas and Peter met different ends after their betrayal of Christ. We might ask ourselves:
- Why was Peter saved and Judas not?
- Was Peter just the teacher’s pet?
- Couldn’t Jesus forgive Judas?
- Maybe Peter’s actions were somehow less bad?
- Maybe the decision to save one and not the other had nothing to do with either of them but depended on something else entirely?
I’ve taken the time in the last two weeks to break down the life and death of Judas Iscariot and clearly show that his heart was sold out to worldly gain all throughout his time with Jesus. He was not a believer. We also see that he was specially chosen by God to commit his betrayal of Christ.
The Regenerate Heart
Peter, on the other hand, was specially chosen by God for a different role. This role mirrors the redemptive life of all believers. We all start our lives the same: Going after only what our hearts desire. Then, God chooses to enter our ears and eyes and does a regenerative work in our hearts. At this point we cannot refuse His work in us. In our regenerate, yet unglorified state we will commit sin until our death, being both saint and sinner, just like Peter. The size of the sin isn’t the issue. It’s Christ’s promise to keep us and forgive us, even though we betray Him with any size sin along the way in life. Judas didn’t have this promise because he never received a regenerate heart.
Plain and simple: Peter was with Christ and Judas was with the world.
Verse 15 of John 18 is where we see Peter choose to step away from being “with Christ” at the trial and choose to be “with them” (the servants and officers), standing outside the courtroom. It is here that Peter let earthly, physical fear creep in and his desire to be safe overruled everything else. That desire gave birth to his verbal denial of Christ three times as he casually enjoyed the camaraderie and warmth of the fire. This surely is to help us see that the only other crowd a believer can be with, other than Jesus, is “the world.”
Peter obviously found it difficult to be “in the world” and not “of the world” in that moment. Tempting sin is always just around a corner (in our hearts), waiting to snag us in an instant. All true believers can fall, but that can never be a permanent falling away from faith: according to Christ’s promise – He is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).
I seriously doubt that Peter set out that day with the intention to do anything so awful. He definitely came to the trial with immense courage. After all, he had just cut off one of the servants ears and should have been afraid to even show his face. How did that happen to Peter, the bold leader of the twelve disciples, a man chosen by God? How does that happen to us?
Peter’s Slippery Slope of Sin
Pastor Wilson lays out a few distinguishing marks of Peter’s behavior that will help us see the slippery slope of sin that laid the foundation for Peter’s actions:
- Definite Overconfidence
Jesus, the Lord of all creation, declared with all authority that Peter would deny him and Peter basically said, “No, You are wrong!” For Peter to not be susceptible to human sin, of any magnitude, would put him on equal footing with Christ here on earth, and that just isn’t possible. We are not completely Christ-like until we are in heaven. Perhaps Peter’s earnest striving to be like Christ blinded him to the fact that he could fail. Peter, in that moment, was banking on and boasting on his own flesh (own ability).
Peter, James, and John were asked by Jesus to watch and pray in the Garden and they fell asleep three times. Peter even knew enemies were on their way.
“Christian friend, you must depend on Christ and not on your own confidence; which means you must constantly be in communion with God in prayer, dedicated, focused, aware of the threats that assail you. Prayerlessness is not an option unless you want to fail like Peter failed.” – Pastor Steve Wilson
Peter came to the trial but did not go in like John did. He hung back at a distance and this is where he became disconnected.
Genuine Christians, with a clear testimony of faith, who choose to live their life out on the Christian edge (at a distance) find that the worldly sharks take them down. They think it is safer to live at a distance from the church, but it is not. The church is the body of Christ here on earth. You cannot stay close to Christ and stay away from the church. It’s just like animals in the wild: prey gets taken down by predators once they are separated from the pack where they are safe. The same is true for Christians. Satan knows that you are most vulnerable when you are away from the flock, away from the center of encouragement and instruction, away from Christ’s ordinary means of grace (essential for your salvation and sanctification). Out there by yourself the devil will prey on you, feeding your desires until they become sin.
So you are instructed to:
- Submit yourself to God. In this case fellowship regularly with the body. This is what’s called “drawing near” to God.
- Take your stance against the devil (the world) and God promises that the devil will “flee from you.” We are either under the lordship of Christ or the lordship of Satan (the world). There is no middle ground.
“If you want to know what it is to be close to Christ…it is this: be close to His church, which is His body.” – Pastor Steve Wilson
“Many legitimately, truly, honestly do follow Jesus. But they follow at a distance because they do not want to become too “fanatical” or “lose touch” with the world that surrounds them. Moreover, they think they are safe at a distance, though they are actually in greater danger. When Jesus calls a person to follow him, he calls him to follow in his footsteps, which means ‘right behind me.’ But these hold back, thinking that the closer they are to Jesus the greater their danger will be. Actually, although their exposure is greater, the danger is less. For Christ is the victor. He has guaranteed the victory. The place to be really safe, though in the midst of battle, is next to Him.” – James Montgomery Boice
The Simple Question
The question is simple: Are you with Him or are you with them (the world)? Peter’s and Judas’ betrayals that night help us to see the difference. Judas was solidly committed to be in and with the world when he sinned against Christ. Jesus predicted his betrayal and condemnation, but Peter’s betrayal was different. Peter didn’t end up in hell forever like Judas. Why?
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
The Simple Answer
The answer is that Peter was with Christ. Christ was Lord of Peter. Satan was Lord of Judas. Peter sinned yes, but Jesus prayed to the Father for him (not Judas) that when he did fall he would not lose his faith and that he would turn again to Christ and follow the plans He had for him. The answer and difference between Peter and Judas was Jesus and His efforts in regards to their sin and eternal salvation. Neither Peter nor Judas could have done anything to get themselves out of hot water after betraying the Son of God. Only Christ and His efforts ever make a difference for any of us.
So we all need to decide the actions that we will take daily. Will we take actions that necessarily declare us to be “in the world” and “with the world” or will we lay our confidence in Jesus, praying ceaselessly, and cling to His earthly body, the church, for our provision and protection?
I hope you will subscribe to this blog and keep learning all God has for you through these lessons taught by Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church.
 Mark 14:29-31
 James 4:7
 James 4:8
 James 4:7
 John 8:4, Ephesians 2:2, 1 John 3:8 & 5:19