Yesterday I heard an interesting reflection on the coming days (the three Holy Days, also referred to as the Triduum). Both Peter and Judas betray Jesus. Peter betrays Jesus by denying that he ever knew Jesus, Peter betrays Jesus three times. Judas betrays Jesus by accepting 30 pieces of silver for turning over Jesus so that the chief priests could be done with Jesus once and for all.
The name of Judas is mentioned 22 times in the Gospels, the only disciple to mentioned more often is Peter. There is certainly a significance to this – they both betray Jesus, the One they had been following for at least a year (scholars disagree on exactly how long Jesus’ public ministry was, somewhere between one year and three years).
The most interesting part of all of this comes not in that Peter and Judas betray Jesus but what they do after they deny Jesus. Peter clings to hope, he repents of his sin. Judas is overcome with despair. Matthew’s Gospel account says that Judas “deeply regretted what he had done.” Judas returns the money to the chief priests and the elders, who could basically care less about Judas’ guilt and regret. Again, his betrayal is thrown in his face. Judas does not return to Jesus, does not seek forgiveness from the one he betrayed. Judas, defeated, goes off and hangs himself.
Both Peter and Judas surrender – one to hope, the other to despair. Look at the results that come out of those options. Peter, repentant and hopeful, goes on to be the first Pope of the Church and brings the Gospel message to hundreds if not thousands and the hope that fills him drives his ministry. He has been forgiven and renewed in hope and takes that message and that hope to the world, bringing Christ’s love to countless people. Judas surrenders to despair and takes his own life, the end. There is no more life, no good news to be spread and the name of Judas is forever to be known as one of betrayal. We don’t think of Peter as a betrayer because of all that he did and accomplished after his betrayal, we think of Judas as the black sheep of the apostles, the one that screwed up, he is forever marked.
What can we take away from this as we enter into the Triduum? A lot, but two things stick out to me the most.
1) Seek forgiveness from those you have wronged. Peter sought forgiveness from Jesus and renewed his commitment to spreading the Gospel message. Judas sought forgiveness from the chief priests and the elders who wanted nothing to do with him. Judas couldn’t get forgiveness from them, it was not theirs to give, it was only Jesus’ to give.
2) Cling to hope. Peter heard the cock crow and remembered what Jesus had said to him at the Last Supper and he was defeated because he knew he had turned away from the Truth. Peter turns back, Peter clings to hope and by the loving grace of God, he is forgiven and goes on to minister and preach the Good News to many.
Who are you in the story of the Passion – are you Judas or are you Peter? We all betray Jesus at one point or another, often we do it many times a day. When you betray Him, who will you be: Peter or Judas?