“Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound Him, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate the governor.When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:1-5 (NIV)
Everyone Has the Capacity to Fail
There is a great deal of controversy over the acts and death of Judas Iscariot. I don’t plan on resolving any of those debates. Instead, I want to draw attention to the simple message that Judas’ actions offer to us.
Something interesting occurred on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Peter realized what he was capable of when the rooster’s crow caught his attention. Peter wept bitterly because of his poor performance—the betrayal of his close friend. However, there was another person upset with his poor performance that night–Judas. The character is infamous—his name equivocated with betrayal and distrust. Do you know anyone named Judas? I don’t.
While many can tell the story of Judas’ betrayal, I’m not sure that’s the point. Failure is hardly something that needs to be taught, or even pointed out. The gasp at Judas’ betrayal is not surprising.
As Peter learned, everyone has the capacity to fail—to fail willfully, to fail utterly. Judas simply provides another example of that. Both men lived with Jesus. Both men heard His teachings and saw the miracles. Just like Peter, Judas ate some of the leftover fish and bread the day that Jesus fed the 5,000. Judas was awestruck as Jesus calmed the storm at sea with just a word. As Peter mouthed off to Jesus the night Jesus began to wash Peter’s feet, according to scripture, Judas sat quietly as Jesus demonstrated the same love and compassion to him.
It’s the response to the failure that makes all the difference. It’s the response to their failure that separates Peter and Judas. That is the “take home” message from these two very different examples.
Responding to Failure
Both men failed. Both men felt the sting of guilt. Both men realized the wrong. Peter wept bitterly. Since Judas wasn’t alive to tell his story, we are left to guess, but I’m sure he wept bitter tears as the outcome of his failure played out before his eyes. It’s here these two men differ.
Judas tried to remedy his failure on his own. He attempted to stop the deal—to return the 30 pieces of silver—but it was too late. The act was done and all that was left was the consequence. Then, in an act of despair, Judas tried one more remedy—under the weight of guilt —he crumbled. He made the decision to end his life.
Judas heard the words of Jesus,
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)
Judas couldn’t imagine those words applied to him.
Jesus Forgives Our Sins
Have you sinned a sin that keeps you away from Jesus? Are shame and guilt all you hold? Are you full of remorse that keeps you from repentance? Do you think Jesus holds you to a standard He wouldn’t maintain?
Jesus is ready to forgive your deepest, darkest, blackest sin–that secret sin only you know!
Remorse and repentance aren’t the same thing. Remorse leaves you wallowing in your shame. Remorse pushes YOU to find a solution—to make amends. Repentance includes remorse or regret, but it goes one-step further. Repentance involves change.
If Judas cried his bitter tears that night and then ran to Jesus, this story would have a very different ending. There is always forgiveness at the feet of Jesus. There is always an accepting embrace when the remorseful repent.
Shame and guilt never restore relationship. Jesus is not interested in what you can do to make things right. Jesus offers grace—the undeserved gift—to anyone who asks. Abandon the shame of your sin. Let go of the guilt that keeps you from coming to Christ. Don’t believe the lie that you need to fix yourself before you come. Let Jesus in His love and mercy wash your feet, feed your soul, and calm your spirit with His forgiveness.
Father, when I need forgiveness don’t let my shame and regret keep me from coming to You. Remind me there is no good thing I can do to make myself better or acceptable apart from accepting Christ’s sacrifice. Turn my remorse into repentance.