Star Falling From Heaven, Part 9: Peter and Judas, A Comparison

Part 8 was about Satan, Jesus, and Temptation and now in part 9 we are going to discuss Peter and Judas.

XI. Peter and Judas: A Comparison

Peter and Judas are two person in the story surrounding the events of Christ’s life that are often compared to one another. I’ve spent a great deal of time on Judas and the events surrounding his betrayal of Jesus and Judas’s own suicide upon learning that Jesus was an innocent man. Apparently, he appears duped by the chief priests or else driven by money, but the thought that Judas would’ve given Jesus up in the first place is not something commendable. He had walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, and been with the disciples for 3 years, no small amount of time to get to know someone. The fact that he had no loyalty to Christ whatsoever is troubling. It shows that, though Jesus handpicked Judas and gave him an opportunity, he decided to go his own way. Judas is living proof that those who are with Christ can turn and walk away from Him. After all, the rich young ruler genuinely wanted to know what he needed to do to be saved, but decided against it after Jesus told him to give up his possessions to the poor (Luke 18:18-23).

Most Christians view Peter and Judas as counterparts, but they view them as polar opposites for what I think is the wrong reason. I’ve often heard it said in Sunday School sessions I’ve frequented that “the difference between Peter and Judas is that Peter repented of his sin, Judas did not.” And there are those who regurgitate this claim without giving the slightest thought to whether or not it is true or scripturally justified.

In truth, Scripture never tells us that Peter repented, nor does it say that Judas did not repent. Of course we’re given more about Judas as a result of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord, that he realizes he’s betrayed innocent blood, throws the money in the sanctuary, then hangs himself. Little is said about Peter and his role surrounding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion except for his denial of Jesus. And yet, Jesus provides some insight on Peter’s denial that we wouldn’t know otherwise:

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Prior to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells Peter that Satan has “demanded permission” to destroy him. The word for “demanded permission” in Greek is exesato, which involves demand or desire. To “demand” is to emphatically insist upon something, which means that Satan pressed Jesus for permission to overthrow Peter’s faith. Thayer’s Dictionary says that the word “sift” in the Greek, siniasai, from siniazo, means “to sift or shake in a sieve.” Used in the context of Peter’s faith, though, this word means “to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow.” This is the reason why Jesus says “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” Jesus then says “when once you have turned again,” strengthen your brothers,” implying that Peter would turn again after having denied Jesus.

Luke 22:31-32 is an interesting passage because of the Doctrine of Apostasy that we’ve studied earlier. The word “sift as wheat” here is figurative and applied not to the issue of sorting out wheat, but to destroy one’s faith, that of Peter’s. Jesus says “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail,” which means that Peter’s faith could fail — the word “fail” meaning “to depart.” The word “fail” here is eklipe (pronounced e-kli-pei), from the parent word ekleipo, from which the English word “eclipse” is derived. The eclipse of the light from the sun and the moon is mentioned by Thayer with regard to the definition.

Jesus prays that Peter’s faith would not depart, would not leave him, which poses a problem for many who insist that believers cannot lose faith in the Lord. Why would Jesus pray for Peter’s faith to remain if Peter’s faith could not depart? Why would Satan even desire to capture Peter in his clutches if Peter, being a man who had the Spirit of God, could not turn aside to Satan?

If Peter could lose his faith and turn to Satan, and Satan could potentially “sift him as wheat,” then who’s to say that we couldn’t lose our faith? That current-day believers couldn’t lose their faith in Christ? That current believers cannot neglect their salvation or overthrow their faith? Who’s to say that Satan could not sift us current-day believers as wheat? Those who hold to views of irresistible grace, a tenant of Calvinism (a teaching attributed to John Calvin), find passages like this hard to fit with their notion that believers cannot fall away from salvation, that believers cannot be given over to Satan, that Satan cannot sift believers as wheat. However, Scripture is clear, and Scripture trumps philosophical notions and contradictory doctrines that go against the Word of the Lord.

If Jesus prays for Peter’s faith to fail and Peter’s faith cannot fail, then Jesus makes a unicorn statement. I don’t think any believer would say that about their Lord, so I’m inclined to believer that Peter’s faith failing and being overthrown was a legitimate possibility. And if it could happen to Peter, do you think that we believers today are stronger than Peter? Are we stronger than the disciples, who were weak in faith? The answer to these questions is a strong, resounding “no.”

Peter, though, had confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Peter had vowed to stay by Jesus’ side through everything:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)

27 Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They told Him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.” 29 And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter *answered and *said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:27-29)

Peter had confirmed Jesus was the Christ, “the Son of the Living God,” then he denied Jesus three times despite his claim that he would never abandon Jesus, even if everyone else did:

31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. (Matthew 26:31-35)

27 And Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’ 28 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” 30 And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also. (Mark 14:27-31)

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” 34 And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Peter makes these claims, then denies Jesus anyway. So, was he genuinely saved, as many Christians ask? Well, yes, he was – but he wasn’t so saved as to be free from Satan’s attacks. That is what many do not understand about Peter and about believers today. And that is why Jesus’ temptation of suicide, to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple in Luke 4 and Matthew 4, is so significant: because, if Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, was tempted with suicide by Satan, then it stands to reason that believers would be tempted with suicide, that believers could have suicidal thoughts, that believers could lose faith in the Lord and abandon their salvation.

The comparison between Peter and Judas that has been made throughout the last 20 years, for example, says that Peter repented and Judas didn’t and I’ve said above that the claim isn’t true. Judas doesn’t repent, but we don’t know that Peter repented. What we do know is that Jesus prayed for Peter’s weak faith, that He prayed that Peter would not throw his faith away. As for Judas, Judas was a different character altogether.

Many say that Judas didn’t repent, that he didn’t try to get things squared away with the Lord, but why would Judas have repented? He had given Himself over to Satan, and Satan doesn’t move anyone in his grasp to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised that Judas didn’t repent. What believers forget about Judas is that there was a point in time in which he gave himself over to Satan and stopped seeing Jesus as his Lord, but as his “rabbi.” So with that said, Judas wouldn’t have repented of his sin, even though he acknowledges his wrong (as we’ve seen when studying Judas earlier). His subsequent hanging was likely done out of humiliation over what he’d done and his pride that it was a reflection of himself, that HE was duped, that his reputation was at stake.

Peter and Judas are not Christians who head in two different directions. Judas had given himself over to Satan while Peter denied Jesus but still loved the Lord (which is why he weeps over his denial after the rooster crows, see Luke 22:56-62). Peter’s weeping was after godly sorrow, while Judas’s was not (2 Corinthians 7:9-10), but Judas doesn’t repent because he had already given himself over to Satan. Once a person falls away from Christ as Judas did and gives himself or herself over to Satan as an apostate, that individual cannot and will not repent (Hebrews 6:4-6 says as much).

Yes, Judas was a believer when he was handpicked by the Lord. He follows the Lord when the Lord invites Judas to follow Him:

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. (Matthew 10:1-4)

Judas even went and preached the gospel and healed the sick of the house of Israel, along with the other 11 disciples:

5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10:5-14)

Judas was present when Jesus fed the masses with two fish and five loaves of bread (Matthew 14:15-21). Peter says after Judas’s death that Judas was part of the ministry:

16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. (Acts 1:16-18)

The word for “counted among us” here in Acts 1 is katarithmeo, from which the word “arithmetic” comes. Arithmetic deals with numbers, so Peter was saying that Judas was “numbered with” the other apostles. After all, there were 12 disciples, and Judas was counted as one of the 12 disciples. When Peter says that Judas “received his share in this ministry,” the word for “share,” kleron, refers to inheritance or lot. In other words, Judas was a true disciple of Christ when he followed Jesus and, as such, received his portion of the ministry, his inheritance. Judas forfeited it when he gave up Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas did the same thing Esau did when he gave up his birthright for a bowl of porridge:

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12:14-17)

Esau “sold his own birthright for a single meal,” meaning that he sold his inheritance from the Lord for a bowl of soup. He gave up something long-term for something fleeting and ephemeral and worldly. When Judas gave up Jesus, he gave up his eternal Lord for earthly money, earthly currency. This is what apostates do. Even when Esau sought to recover his birthright, Isaac had already given it to Jacob — and it was too late. Judas recognized his sin in betraying innocent blood, but he did not seek repentance but hung himself and ended his life.

Judas gave up Jesus for thirty silver coins, but he stood to gain much, much more in the world to come:

27 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” 28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. (Matthew 19:27-30)

28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” (Mark 10:28-31)

Judas gave up so much, so many riches on top of eternal life, that he would have had if he had stood with the Lord and labored as an apostle and disciple. Instead, he was so shortsighted he would rather have had 30 pieces of silver than persevere in the faith and receive the wealth that was coming in the eschaton.

Judas did the same as Esau when he gave up Jesus. He was a man who was dominated and consumed by his love of money. Though he heard Jesus’ sermons, he was not changed by them. Though he was with Jesus and could have asked the Lord to help him with his love of money, he didn’t try to seek help. He let his love of money consume him until it drove him to give up his Lord for money that could not save him – which explains why he threw it in the temple and took his life in the end. Suddenly, the one thing he’d spent his life chasing was no longer satisfying. That’s what it’s like for apostates who give up Jesus for the world: in the end, the thing they exchanged for Christ becomes the most unsatisfying thing in the world. The reason for this? Because only the Lord Jesus satisfies.

Judas never had a funeral, but these two passages of Scripture best (and unfortunately) sum up his life. I pray that these verses pierce your heart so that you do not follow Judas’s path.

19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:19-24)

7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Timothy 6: 7-10, 17-19)

In part 10, I’ll tell you about Satan in Jesus’ Ministry.

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