Peter and Judas: A Lesson in Hope and Humility
Betraying Jesus wasn't the worst thing Judas did. His ruin came because he lost hope. His fate was not sealed by his kiss, but by his pride.
Admit your guilt in God's sight. Then with good heart, with courage and confidence in His mercy, start over again.
"Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night you will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same. Mark 14:29-31
Peter and Judas are not all that different, it seems. They are almost the same story, but for two very different endings. It could be our own story... which end will we choose?
Betraying Jesus wasn't the worst thing Judas did. As painful as that offense was, it was not Judas' downfall. His ruin came because he lost hope; he either did not believe in forgiveness or did not trust it would be given him or he decided he could not, would not forgive himself, and so he gave in to despair. It seems like his despair was proof of his great sorrow for what he had done to his friend and Lord, but it's not the sorrow Jesus wants from us.
Sorrow that is profitable for our souls leads us toward the One we have betrayed. If our sadness is merely disappointment with ourselves for having failed (which is pride) then we will choose to beat ourselves into despair and call it our just punishment. But then, why did Jesus die? If we can be punished enough to atone for our sin, then the Cross was a waste of perfect blood and Jesus a fool.
Jesus does not wait with a stick to beat me, nor does He unload on me a lecture about how I've failed. It is not proof of my love for Him to dwell on my failures or nitpick my flaws and defects. It is not proof of the depth of my sorrow to say, "I just can't forgive myself." If I cannot forgive myself, it simply means I prefer my wounded pride over His suffering. He suffered greatly at my expense; He was crucified for my sake. "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5
If I now refuse to receive His forgiveness and get up and try again, I am saying His suffering wasn't enough. His wounds are insufficient for my healing. The punishment He endured has brought peace for others, but not for me. I may deceive myself into thinking I am humbling myself, feeling the weight of my sin and bearing it nobly, but Jesus grieves all the more because I choose despair over hope.
Judas' betrayal of Jesus was a truly terrible act, but it was not so different from Peter's denial of Jesus. Both men surely felt great remorse, shame, and bitter sadness at what they had done to their Master and Friend. Perhaps Peter wished for his own death just as Judas did, thinking for a moment it was the only way out of his guilt. The only difference was that Peter chose hope, and Judas chose despair. Judas refused the forgiveness he could have received. His fate was not sealed by his kiss, but by his pride.
Every one of his disciples that night left Him, denied Him and betrayed Him in some way. Judas' sin garners the most attention because it seems so much more scandalous than the others, but we miss the point if we only see his act of greed and not the true cautionary lesson. They all abandoned Him in one way or another, just as we do. They all betrayed Him to some degree, just as we do. They all surely were sorrowful, scared, and filled with regret over their sins, just as we are. But only Judas chose guilt over redemption.
How tempting it is and how the enemy of our souls loves to deceive us into believing that the forgiveness Jesus offers is a fairytale. It's crazy how we often choose to wallow in self-pity thinking it is humility. It isn't. It is the enemy convincing us to make a mockery of the Cross. The truth is, we have sinned. You have, I have. You will again; I will again. In big and small ways, we will all wound Him and run away. The truth also is, He died knowing that; He died because of that; He died to heal that. There is only one response from us that is needed, only one response that will benefit our souls; to run back to Him and try again.
Judas, upon realizing his sin, gave back his silver and ran to hang himself in a tree out of despair. Peter, after weeping bitterly over his sin, ran toward the tomb where His Lord was buried, hoping. And Jesus showed Peter extra care and tenderness through the angel: "Go, tell his disciples, and Peter..."
Was not the same compassion available to Judas? Of course it was. But like everything Jesus gives to us, it must be taken by us freely. We can't cling to sin with one hand and forgiveness with the other, believing we are pious and humble. And it is Satan, not Jesus, who berates us with our failings til we are stuck in prideful despair. Judas only lacked hope because he lacked humility.
It doesn't matter how many times I fail or fall down or deny Him provided I run back to Him each time and humbly begin again without indulging in "oh, woe is me." Jesus knows I will do the very thing I vowed not to do; I will sleep when I promised to keep watch with Him; I will leave when I promised to stay. Yet He is always waiting for me to return and ask for His grace once more. This does not give me an excuse to sin or a "free pass" to go my own way, do my own thing and then come insincerely to take forgiveness when my conscience is guilty – that is simply rebellion.
But if I truly desire to follow Him, if I say I love Him and mean it, then my sorrow over my sin must compel me toward Him, like Peter as he ran to the tomb. Seeing how Peter was received by Jesus, with forgiveness and love, gives each of us confidence that He waits for us with mercy and affection.
"Don't be anxious to condemn yourself every time you fall. Instead, patiently, gently, pick yourself up and start all over again. Why are you surprised when the weak turn out to be weak, and the frail, frail? When you turn out to be sinful? When you fall, be gentle with your frail, weak heart. Lift your heart gently, accept your failure without wallowing in your weakness. Admit your guilt in God's sight. Then with good heart, with courage and confidence in His mercy, start over again." St. Francis de Sales
Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, an Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven). She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online on topics of Catholic faith, family, Life and politics. She is also a serious chocoholic. Visit her at My Chocolate Heart.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled: That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »