At men's bible study this morning we looked at John 13:21-38. It is the story of Jesus foretelling his betrayal by Judas and his denial by Peter.
Here you have two men. Both of them messed up big time, but their outcomes were very different. Why? Why was Peter's end so different than Judas's? There are probably many reasons, but one big thing stuck out to me this morning.
Judas's sin was covered in secrecy. He didn't tell anyone what he was planning. He hid his intentions so well that nobody believed he could do it. Even after Jesus told John who would betray him John didn't take it seriously enough to do anything about it or tell anyone. He must not have thought Judas capable of such a great evil as outright betrayal. Judas had kept all his intentions secret. He hid his actions so well that the men he spent all his time with didn't have a clue.
Peter on the other hand went ahead and said exactly what he was thinking. He believed he would never deny Jesus even when his life was on the line. He told Jesus his feelings and received a rebuttal and some humility. Of course, he still ended up denying Jesus, but ultimately he was able to be restored to a position of honor and leadership.
Judas probably had good intentions at first. His mind drifted to who knows what fantasies. Perhaps, at first, he thought betraying Jesus would speed up the coming of the kingdom. Maybe he had become disenchanted at Jesus' vagueness about his plans. Maybe he had gotten in trouble financially. Maybe he had hatched a plan to boost their treasury that had been exhausted under his watch. Whatever he was thinking, he hadn't shared it with anyone. When you are the only one evaluating your plan it can start to sound like a really good one. Over time you can fall into patterns of thinking that are so unrealistic they would sound insane if you said them out loud. Which is all the more reason to keep them secret. By being isolated Judas opened the door for Satan to "enter in."By being isolated from his friends Judas gave himself up to the enemy.
The moral of the story (at least the moral I come away with for this one aspect of the story) is that anybody can, and often will, screw up big time. What can make all the difference is how connected you are to a community of loving people to protect you and restore you when needed. Having people who know you to give you reality checks and perspective prevents you from building up a dream world where you set up unrealistic expectations. Submitting your thoughts to others gives you a healthy flow of humility because foolish ideas often don't sound foolish until they are seen in light of another's perspective. And when you do mess up, having a loving community gives you the chance to be restored quickly. Those people give you a "home" to return to when you have gotten lost. They are the ones who know you well enough to see and understand your mistake for what it was. They are the ones who can forgive you and set you back in your proper place. Peter had it. Judas didn't.