Offenses Toward Jesus
This time of year, we often reflect on the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus as well as Peter’s denial of Jesus, but we analyze each situation independently. We look at them as two separate occasions and two distinct instances both with differing results. We also see the role of Judas as being a major sin while we look at the denial of Peter as simply being human. We make a bigger deal out of Judas’ betrayal than we do of Peter’s denial. Certainly, we can see how they are both connected in time as events leading up to the crucifixion of our Savior. But, in reality the end result of both occurrences is the same. Both friends left Jesus completely and utterly alone on His journey to the cross. The two circumstances piled on together lay an excruciating burden on our Lord.
But, let’s look at both situations as if they were occurring in our own lives. What is more hurtful, being betrayed or denied? What would scorn Jesus more, us betraying Him or denying Him? We may not see either of these circumstances in our own lives, but in reality, they are sprinkled all over our very existence.
The following are all examples of betrayal. They may seem small in comparison to Judas, but betrayal is betrayal. How many times have we experienced a friend who chooses another group, friend or activity over us? How many times has a sibling downplayed our existence so they can connect with someone else? How many have experienced a romantic breakup just to discover that there was a third party involved? Have you ever had a classmate sell you out on a project or stab you in the back by saying they did your work and that you didn’t do any work at all? Have your parents broken a promise? Has anyone shared a secret of yours? Have you done any of this to Jesus?
What about denial? Have you ever contradicted yourself, said one thing to one person and something else to another? Have you ever tried to hide the truth from your parents or pretended you didn’t know your little brother when you passed him in the halls? Have you ever refused to do something your parents asked you to do? Have you ever rejected a friend to hang out with a boy? Have you ever declined hanging out with your family to go to a party or gathering? Have you ever dismissed doing a homework assignment to catch up on your favorite TV show? How about nixing a friend’s idea because you think yours is better? Have you ever rejected someone because of the way they looked? Have you ever abandoned your friend in her time of need? How often has Jesus experienced any of these excuses or justifications from you?
We do these things more often than we think and we probably do them to the Lord more than we do to the people around us. Certainly choosing our friends, a boy, school, money, popularity or family over the Lord is a pretty normal act. When was the last time you went out of your way to look good or portray a certain image rather than being the genuine person that God created you to be? These are both real examples of betraying Jesus.
Betrayal may seem devastating, but denial is just as painful. When was the last time that you denied being a Christian, going to church or being involved in youth group because you didn’t want to look uncool? How often do you skip spending time with God through prayer, reading the Bible or stillness because you have other things to do? Do you ever sugar coat a prayer request when asking for support and advice from the Lord? Have you ever felt God calling you to do something and you disregarded it because you felt uncomfortable? Have you ever read the Bible and not considered all of it true – just following the parts you agree with and like?
When you look at it for face value and you break it down into practical elements, denial is just as hurtful as betrayal. Do you think Jesus was more hurt by Judas or Peter? Both hurt him, and that’s the point.
We don’t necessarily know Judas’ motive for betraying Jesus. Certainly, his motives may have been the money, but it could have other elements in which we’re unaware. Judas was plotting with others, he knew what he was doing, but he didn’t realize the results. The Bible doesn’t speak of the details, so there’s a lot that we can’t assume when evaluating the heart of Judas. Just because we understand that Jesus was destroying death and sin doesn’t mean that His disciples did – they were in the midst of the chaos, we are outsiders looking in. Jesus would have known the heart of Judas; we do not.
Peter loved the Lord, clung to Him, stood up to express his love and then denied Him over and over again. To have someone so close completely turn your back on you and deny you entirely has to hurt. And, Peter didn’t even know what he was doing. He acted in fear and confusion. Peter was blind to his own actions.
Where do you stand on this spectrum? We’ve all hurt Jesus and He’s forgiven us all – no matter how big the pain caused or how many times we’ve hurt Him. But, we can’t let that paralyze our relationship with Christ. Instead, we must continue to grow. Peter was strengthened and he became a pillar – the rock in which the entire Christian church was found on. Realizing what he had done, he learned his lesson. Judas, however, was devastated and took his own life – the very life that Jesus gave him. It’s the result that makes us think Judas’ actions were more harsh than Peter’s, but in reality, we all have a choice on how we respond to the pain and suffering we cause the Lord. He looks past all devastation and sees our true, pure heart. Rather than denying or betraying Him, grow closer to Him and admire the true character and person He is in our lives and for this world.