#91: Judas and Peter

Matthew 26:47–50 & 69–75

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

What a pair! One, the ultimate celebrity traitor in history and the other the most famous friendship denier of all time. They are the two who are closest to Jesus in his darkest hour. What was going on?

There are four places in the New Testament where we get a complete list of the twelve disciples. In each one Peter is top of the list and Judas is the bottom. Peter was the leader and Judas the betrayer.

There are lots of theories about Judas. One is that he was a political terrorist (hence the name Iscariot) dedicated to the overthrow of Rome. Another one is that he was a permanent outsider not very well accepted by the rest of the disciple gang. A third suggests he had a strong liking for money. Maybe he betrayed Jesus in order to provoke him into action. Luke’s gospel suggests that he was taken over by Satan. At the end of the day we don’t really know why he did what he did, perhaps he did not really know why either.

The final act here in the garden is not of Judas pointing an accusing finger and shouting angrily but rather of a gentle kiss of friendship and greeting.

The thirty pieces of silver weighed heavy in his pocket. Judas ended up a bitterly disappointed man, he repented of what he had done, gave back the money and hung himself. The moment is captured beautifully in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. As Judas’s body hangs from the tree a gentle, heavenly chant softly rings out ‘Poor old Judas, Poor old Judas’. Despite all the bad feeling that has been poured on him over the years I feel sorry for him. I like to think that he found his way to Heaven and was welcomed into the arms of his all loving Father.

Peter was top of the list of the twelve and such a good and strong leader that Jesus called him the rock. In the early hours of that Friday morning whilst Jesus was held in the High Priest’s house, Peter was hanging around in the courtyard. The rock turned to jelly, not once but three times, as watchers and passers by simply asked if he was part of the Jesus crowd.

I do not know what you are talking about,
I do not know the man.
Then he began to curse,
He swore an oath,
I do not know the man.

Judas and Peter pose two stark ‘in your face’ questions to all us would be disciples.

  • Have you ever betrayed Jesus?
  • When was the last time your rock turned to jelly?

Forgive me for I have sinned,
And am no longer worthy to be called your son.
I have been a Judas,
I have been a Peter,
Father, forgive me.