Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)
What is a failure? We know there are many kinds, but one thing is common. It is so painful that nobody want. Unfortunately, it always finds a way from time to time, and gives its bitter taste, which uniquely comes from our failure.
Jesus called twelve individuals as His disciples. Each one was handpicked by Jesus, and for three years, Jesus gave His special care and feed with love. Jesus taught the truth and the Kingdom of Heaven. They were the first crop of His ministry, although Jesus also gave same cares to those who came to Him. He revealed the truth of the kingdom of God with authority.
“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22)
Most of all, Jesus truly loved His disciples. It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. What a teaching moment it was! Jesus showed how to love each other by being the lowest although He was the teacher to all of the disciples. Then Jesus told,
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)
When Jesus completed His washing, a silence fell on the supper place. His disciples were pondering on the true meaning of what Jesus did. But they could not fully understand the meaning because they were still of the world. Jesus’ desire was for His disciples to serve each other as He served them with love to be one in Him.
As all were at the table eating, Jesus was getting deeply troubled, and finally said,
“I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.” (Mark 14:18b)
What a shocking statement of Jesus! However, it was a clear warning given for Judas. Judas had already negotiated of selling Jesus, and received thirty silver coins from the High Priest. The rest eleven disciples did not know what Judas did and what he was about to do. They stopped eating and looked at Jesus carefully. Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”
Judas quickly left the supper place, going out into the night. None of the other disciples at the table knew what was really going on. Judas directly went to the High Priest and brought the High Priest servants and Roman soldiers to the place that Jesus would go after the supper with His disciples. Judas was warned by Jesus, he did not change his course of action. Judas’ heart had already left Jesus.
Jesus continued the last supper with the rest of His disciples. As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”
And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus gave His love to the end, and reveal the secret of the upcoming sacrifice of Himself to save all. Jesus used bread to show His body soon torn on cross, and wine His precious blood shed on cross as the ultimate sacrifice for all.
Again, none understood what was really told by Jesus. Peter was there also, who always wanted to be first among the twelve disciples. After the supper, as usual, Peter was right next Jesus, and walked with Jesus. Jesus started singing a hymn, and the eleven disciples also sang. As getting close to the Mount of Olives, Jesus looked around the eleven disciples, and told them,
Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,
‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” (Matthew 26:31b-32)
This was a warning given to the eleven disciples. Nobody really understood what was told by Jesus. Peter right next Jesus quickly responded, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Mark 14:30)
Jesus gave a warning specifically to Peter. Of course, Peter could not understand what was meant. Peter was confident without knowing what would really come to Peter because the future event was not known to Peter at that moment.
“No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” Peter had a full confidence in him. Again, he could not grasp what was really coming at him. And all the others vowed the same. Without knowing future, they could easily say what they felt at that time. (This should sound very familiar to all of us. We give an easy answer or make a vow without knowing our future.)
We all know the rest of the story about Judas. Despite of the direct warning from Jesus, Judas did not revert his plan. He completely failed. Judas sold Jesus with a kiss as planned. The servants of the High Priest and Roman soldiers who came with Judas arrested Jesus. Jesus already knew what’s coming and His mission on earth and did not make any resistance before being arrested. The disciples saw what was happening before their eyes. Immediately, all fled including Peter who made such a strong statement — “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” None of the eleven disciples was with Jesus. Jesus was alone with the captors.
What’s the rest of story of Peter? Despite of the direct warning of Jesus, Peter fled and denied Jesus three times before servant girls. Peter was in an extreme fear for his own life. This made him completely failed.
As a result, both Judas and Peter failed, despite of Jesus’ warning before the disastrous failures. Of course, we know the entire story, and it is easily to blame them not to do such horrible things. But for them, they had no way to know what would come. Despite the warnings, they were simply carried by the stream of time without any resistance against the temptation and fear as the future was unfolding. They could have remembered the warnings and chosen a right course of action, but they did not. This tells the fundamental weaknesses in us. Juda could not overcome his own temptation and Peter his own fear of being captured like Jesus.
Then what’s the difference between Judas and Peter? Let’s see what Judas and Peter did after their complete failures.
Judas realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”
Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.
What did happen to Peter? While he was still denying Jesus three times the rooster crowed. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
Peer remembered and he wept bitterly on his failure. Then Peter did not flee from Jesus, but had hope in Jesus while fixing his eyes on Jesus and believing Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. Although there was a danger of being captured and killed like Jesus by the High Priest’s servants and Roman soldiers, he stayed in Jerusalem with a repenting heard with hope in Jesus.
In summary, Judas’ failure led him to his remorse and made him hang himself. Peter’s failure had him to drink the bitter taste of his failure in fear of getting arrested like Jesus. He could have been trapped in his remorse like Judas. Instead he was in hope in Jesus while believing His word. In fact, after His resurrection, Jesus personally came to Peter, and fully restored him in His forgiving love.
Nobody wants a failure. However, it will always find us as long as we are in this world. Additionally, our ears are deaf to pre-warnings like Judas and Peter. Thus, our failures are inevitable on earth. Our own temptations, fears and egos continue triumphant over us. We don’t’ have to lament on this sad fact. What real matters is how to respond after we completely fail. We can choose what Judas chose – getting deep into our own remorse, or what Peter chose – bitterly weeping over our failure before Jesus and approaching to Jesus for receiving His mercy and love. When we repent and approach Jesus like Peter, Jesus accepts us with His open arms in His love. Then he completely restores us from our failure. Jesus mends our broken heart and makes it whole again by His grace and mercy.
In fact, the true Peter was carved out from the raw Peter only after his shamefully miserable failure. After being fully restored by Jesus, Peter became truly brave and boldly proclaimed the love of Jesus because he truly experienced Jesus and His love. Then Peter led the rest of the disciples and completely dedicated the rest of his life for expanding the Kingdom of God on earth.
Failing is inevitable, but Our Father and His love is greater than all our failures. He is always ready with open arms to embrace us and make us whole again in Him when we bitterly weep over our failures, repent and have hope in Jesus like Peter. Yes, this is the power of the love of God, which is given to everyone who believes Jesus as Savior.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)