Luke 22:61-62 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Many people down through the centuries have thought about what was different between what Judas did and what Peter did. We say they both “betrayed” Jesus, but Judas planned to do it and he received money for it. Peter, on the other hand, just kind of fell into it without thinking, out of fear for his own safety. Both of them had a moment when they realized what they had done, (Matthew 27:3 and here) but what they did then is the big key. Judas knew he had blown it, but he tried to stay in control, returning the money he had received and killing himself. Peter, on the other hand, acknowledged his own inability to be in control. It doesn’t spell it out here, but I think he threw himself on the mercy of God, acknowledging that he had no right to claim such mercy for himself. I think Don Francisco’s song He’s Alive is powerfully anointed and captures what happened with essentially historical accuracy. The point is, Judas regretted but didn’t repent, whereas Peter repented totally. The Japanese term for repentance provides real insight. It is a compound that means, “regret and redo.” Judas regretted his actions, but rather than turning to God in humility, he chose the self-centered dead end (no pun intended) of suicide. Peter, in contrast, just let go of everything. As a result, after His resurrection Jesus gave him a private audience, just as Don Francisco memorialized in song, (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5) and he was gloriously restored. We all stumble and fall at times, as John wrote so clearly. (1 John 1:8-10) However, again as John wrote, if we acknowledge our sins and failures and surrender our will to God for Him to turn us around, He will do that. It doesn’t matter how great the sin, because God is always greater and more powerful than the sin, just as I said in this past Sunday’s message. God can always enable us to start over, even if we have missed a great blessing by our unfaithfulness.
This is a very real issue in my life, as it is in the life of every human being, because indeed, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It was quite a few years ago, when I was struggling with a particular “besetting sin,” (Hebrews 12:1) that I realized that the more I dwelt on what I had done, the more likely I was to do it again. (2 Peter 1:9) It was when I realized that God could and did forgive me in Christ that I was able to let go of it and move on. That is what the “redo” of the Japanese “regret and redo” is all about. There is no repentance without regret, but there is also no repentance without faith that God can enable us to redo. That faith was what Peter had, but Judas didn’t.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for what You have taught me about repentance. Help me be effective in leading others into repentance, that they too may receive Your forgiveness and cleansing in full, to escape the traps of the enemy and walk in Your victory, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!