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Eternal Contrasts between Judas and Peter

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 27:1, 3–10; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66–71

The Jewish council delighted in condemning Jesus. Judas regretted having a part in their plan. Both ended up in the same, sad place—under the judgment of God. Their actions teach us much about God, God’s Son, and the hearts of sinful people.


When you study the Gospel accounts chronologically, you end up with Peter’s denial of Jesus followed by Judas’s betrayal. Sandwiched between is the mock trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the nation of Israel.

Following Peter’s denial of Christ, he leaves that courtyard sobbing uncontrollably, remorseful and repentant. But in this Wisdom Journey, we will not find the same response or heart condition in many others who appear in these dramatic events.

Luke chapter 22 gives us the most details of the final phase of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. Verses 63-64:

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?

Jewish law permitted public flogging of a condemned person; but it did not permit the treatment described here—mocking and beating—and certainly not before a person had been proven guilty in a public trial.[1]

But evidently this treatment went on through the night hours, as indicated in verse 66:

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council.

In other words, the Sanhedrin reconvenes at daybreak. This probably allowed other members to join them who were unable to get there the night before. And since that nighttime trial was illegal, they have to create a façade of legal respectability.

And now the Sanhedrin demands of Jesus, “If you are the Christ, tell us” (verse 67). I want to point out here that again Jesus is going to help His enemies accomplish their murderous desires. So, He effectively lights the fuse for them, saying, “If I tell you, you will not believe … but from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (verses 67, 69).

Jesus is claiming a messianic title here: Son of Man. He is also claiming to sit on the very throne of God—the right hand of God is a reference to the place of God’s authority and power. And the Sanhedrin certainly understands what He is saying. So, they question Him further:

“Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say [correctly] that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” (verses 70-71)

The claim to be the Son of God to them is blasphemy worthy of death.

Now with that, we shift to another event that is taking place over in Matthew 27:

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. (verse 3)

Judas is experiencing remorse, but in contrast to Peter there is no repentance. This verse says that Judas “changed his mind.” Even though he does not believe Jesus is God’s Son, he has changed his mind about being a part of putting an innocent man to death. He evidently feels regret over being complicit in Jesus’ crucifixion.

Beloved, nobody is going to go to heaven because they feel badly that Jesus was crucified. You go to heaven when you realize He was crucified for you. You don’t even go to heaven because you realize you have sinned. You go to heaven because you have asked to be saved.  

Judas is overwhelmed by his betrayal of an innocent man, yet he refuses to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. Still, he wants to get rid of this blood money in an attempt to alleviate his guilt. So, he says to the chief priests and elders in verse 4, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Their response is, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” In other words, “What do we care about the innocence of Jesus? That’s your problem!” 

I have no doubt that Judas was familiar with Deuteronomy 27:25, “Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.” Judas knows he is guilty of accepting a bribe like that; he has broken the law. But the religious leaders cannot do anything about it, because they are the ones who paid him the money—they have all broken the law.

So, Matthew 27:5, tells us Judas throws the silver coins into the temple and departs. The Greek term for “temple” here is naos, which means the inner, holy place where only priests could go. Judas throws the money into this area. It is as if he wants to make sure the priests have to handle this blood money. Tragically, verse 5 tells us that Judas goes out and hangs himself. His guilt led him to despair and death; in contrast, Peter’s guilt led him to repentance and forgiveness.

The only other place we read of Judas’s suicide is in the first chapter of the book of Acts. The additional details there suggests that Judas hanged himself from a limb, but after his death either the limb broke or the rope broke, and his body fell down into a ravine and burst open.   

I can’t help but think that while Jesus hung on a tree, so to speak, Judas was hanging from his. On one tree was the Savior. On the other tree was an unrepentant sinner, deceived and empowered by the Serpent.

I want to make a couple of observations here. First, Judas demonstrates that it is possible to appear religious and yet be unredeemed. You might know people like that in your world—they live like the devil on Saturday but sing in the choir on Sunday.

It might be somebody you live with, or work with, or go to school with; it might even be the person sitting in your seat right now. On the outside, everything appears to be right, but you and God know that everything is wrong.

Here is a second observation I want to make: It is possible to serve Christ without loving Christ. Judas was one of the original twelve disciples. He had even been sent out on a mission trip to preach and heal the sick. Judas could quote Scripture, but he did not know the Author of Scripture.

My third observation is this: It is possible to hear the truth without applying the truth. Frankly, this is not just Judas’s problem; it is my problem—and it is your problem too. We all run that risk every time we learn something from God’s Word. That is why it is possible for believers to grow old in their faith, without growing up in their faith. They have been through the Bible, but the Bible never went through them. As one of my professors used to say, it is possible as Christians to become like bad photographs—overexposed to the light and underdeveloped.

Matthew informs us that Judas’s blood money went toward the purchase of a field. Just as the Old Testament prophesied,[2] this field was purchased by the priests with the thirty pieces of silver. That field was used as a burial ground for strangers and became known to everybody around Jerusalem as “The Field of Blood.” Appropriately, the daily reminder of rejecting Jesus Christ would be a cemetery. 

What a perfect picture of man-made religion. The best that religion can do is offer you a nice gravesite. As I have toured the cathedrals of Europe, this truth occurred to me time and time again, as these sanctuaries were really nothing more than high-priced mausoleums.

Beloved, we who have placed our faith in the Redeemer get far more than a nice grave. We have received forgiveness from our guilt and sin; we have received the gift of salvation. And one day we will be taken beyond the grave into the presence of our risen Savior—into His presence forever!

[1] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity, 2014), 170.

[2] Matthew here quotes Zechariah 11:12-13, but by attributing it to Jeremiah he is alluding to a similar text in Jeremiah 18–19. Essentially, he is “blending” texts and citing just one of the sources. See Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 119.

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