Deception is Satan’s stock and trade; and he is the god of this world and he uses deception every possible way he can. This morning I just want to talk about the reality of a deception from a very clear narrative in Scripture, and I want you to turn to Matthew chapter 26. Now you’re going to have to have your Bible handy because we’re going to do something like we’ve been doing and cover large portions of Scripture together. Just to remind you of the fact that Satan is a deceiver, He planted, He planted a deceiver among the twelve disciples, right alongside the faithful. This has always been his ploy.
I’ve been reading some surveys this last week or so in which, quote-unquote, “evangelicals” have been surveyed. “Evangelical” is a term that comes from euaggelizō in Greek, which means to preach the gospel, so supposedly, gospel believers. And I read that the majority of gospel believers believe that Jesus was created by God the Father. The majority of evangelicals believe that God accepts any religion and lets people into His heaven.
That’s contemporary evangelicalism. It is not true. A true gospel believer does not believe Jesus was a created being. The survey said a third of evangelicals does not believe Jesus is God. No true Christian would say that; heretics say that, apostates say that, and those who reject the gospel say that.
But somehow it’s become acceptable to believe that and still be labeled an evangelical. If you think the pandemic has created confusion, just remind yourself that that confusion has to do with temporal life. The confusion on the spiritual level is infinitely worse because it has to do with eternal life. So I want to tell you a story that our Lord provided through Matthew and some of the other gospel writers. But I want to go back to history a little bit and tell you about two preachers.
In the mid twentieth century here in America there were two young very gifted evangelists. They came on the scene together. You know one of them very well: Billy Graham. His history is common knowledge. The other one you likely have not heard of. His name was Charles Templeton. Along with Billy Graham, Charles Templeton and another preacher by the name of Torrey Johnson, whom I knew and for whom I preached when I was young, founded what is known as Youth for Christ to reach young people with the gospel.
It was always said that Charles Templeton was the most gifted preacher. He was intelligent. He was irresistible in his personality. He was winsome. He was effective. He was handsome. In 1946 the National Association of Evangelicals gave an award out, a bizarre award called “Best Used by God.” What a ridiculous thing, as if they knew. And they gave it to Charles Templeton.
He and Billy Graham began to preach together and they were called the Gold Dust Twins.” Charles Templeton overshadowed Billy Graham: he was more eloquent, he was more brilliant, he was a more polished orator. And the two of them went on a preaching tour to Europe. They went to England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, other places. They had a weekly television program that spanned the nation – CBS, NBC – through the 1950s. They were church planters. Charles Templeton was engaged in that. Charles Templeton became a pastor. He held youth rallies with thousands of people. He went to Princeton Seminary. He preached across the United States to crowds of 20,000 people. He preached for an entire week at Yale University, Charles Templeton.
He was at the peak of his ministry in the 1950s when he announced that he was an agnostic, which is to say he doesn’t know what he believes. He rejected Christ. He rejected the gospel. He rejected Scripture. He read – he says in his biography – Thomas Paine in ten days. Beyond that he read Voltaire, Bertrand Russell, Robert Ingersoll, David Hume, and Aldous Huxley – a list of atheists. He abandoned all Christianity and all biblical truth, became a journalist in Canada. In 1999 he wrote a memoir on his life titled Farewell to God, and in it he listed his reasons for rejecting Christianity and becoming an atheist. He left all ministry at that point in 1957, returned to Canada, stepped into eternal blackness and apostacy, blasphemed Christ for his remaining years, and died in utter unbelief.
Are there other preachers like him? Of course. Do we know that they’re frauds? Not always. But this is how Satan works. But I want you to look at two other preachers that our Lord tells us about in the wonderful story of Matthew 26 and 27. This is a tale of two preachers and a tale of two sorrows. It’s a tale of two men that you know very well. Both had the most unique privilege. Both had the most unique opportunity that has ever been given any human being. Both were called by Jesus personally. Both answered that call, and both followed Jesus for the duration of His ministry. And both declared repeatedly their personal devotion to the Lord Jesus.
Both were personally trained by Jesus for ministry. Both were personally taught by Jesus; you could say in contemporary terms they were in His small group. He taught them by precept. He taught them by proposition. He taught them by example. He taught them to know God, to know the will of God, the Word of God, and to live it obediently. Both saw all the miracles Jesus did. Both saw the comprehensive revelation of His divine nature every day. Both saw His power over demons, His power over disease, His power over death, His power over nature.
Both heard Him answer every theological question perfectly, truthfully, clearly, profoundly. Both saw Him evaluate every person He ever met, perfectly true to that person’s heart condition. Both were daily confronted with the reality of sin and its affects and need for salvation. Both were taught about eternal heaven, both were taught about eternal hell. Both received and used the available power of the Lord Jesus to do healing miracles and even exercise authority over demons. Both preached Jesus as Messiah and Savior: Son of Man, Son of God. And they shared all of this together. They were exposed to the Lord Jesus Christ in exactly the same way.
And there’s more. Both were sinners, knew it well. Both experienced overwhelming guilt regarding their sin. Both gave themselves over to Satan to take up his cause against the Son of God. Both betrayed Jesus boldly, emphatically, publicly, and they betrayed Him at the end of their years with Him just before He was crucified. Both were devastated by what they had done. One, in spite of his wicked betrayal of the Savior, is considered so honorable a man, so exalted a person, that millions of people have been named after him through the centuries. He is loved. He is considered noble. Some of you even have his name: Peter – rock, stone.
The other one is considered so dishonorable, so despicable, that even though his name means praise, no one has his name. None of you do. None of you would name your child with that name. The name means praise. It’s the most hated and reviled name in the world. It has even been illegal in some European countries to give a child that name. His name is Judas.
One, we who belong to Christ will all meet because that betrayer of Jesus Christ is in heaven. The other: those who reject Christ may meet, if there are meetings in hell, because that’s where he is, along with other preachers like him. One of these preachers ended his life a suicide, hanging himself, eternally banished. The other ended his life a saint, crucified upside-down and taken into glory. Two men, side by side, 24/7 for three years with each other, with Jesus, ended up separated as far as anyone can be separated, as far as heaven is from hell.
One has his name always first in every list of the twelve, the other has his name always last in every list of the twelve. One enthroned in heaven, the other consigned to hell. And yet they both betrayed Jesus. They both regretted that betrayal. They both were sorry. One is honored in heaven, the other is punished in hell. What a contrast. They couldn’t have been more similar, they couldn’t have ended up more differently.
Salvation can’t be by works because essentially they both did the same thing. Can’t be by knowledge because they both had the same information, were taught the same truth. What made the difference? What made the difference?
Now this is an important message because churches are full of Peters and Judases. And I’m convinced that there are many Judases who don’t know they are Judas. People sitting side-by-side, hearing the same truth, having the same experience, seeing the same expression of divine grace and power in people’s lives, serving; but in the end they’re going to end up as far apart as one could ever be. The story of both of these men is in Matthew 26; let’s look at it.
Verse 1: “When Jesus had finished all these words,” – words, by the way, about eternal punishment and eternal life, as verse 46 indicates – “He said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.’” They didn’t like to hear that, but that is what the Lord has been saying to them on a regular basis since they started toward Jerusalem.
Back in chapter 16, verse 21, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” He constantly told them of His coming death.
In verse 3 we find it was planned: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. But they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.’” They wanted Him dead because He assaulted their hypocritical false religion, but they didn’t want to start a riot because He was so popular with the people. They were trying to figure out how to pull that off.
In verse 6, “When Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, ‘Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.’” It says there that the disciples said, but in John 12:4 it says it was Judas. It was Judas.
And why was he protesting? John tells us because he kept the money bag. He had already decided to get out. He’d already wasted three years and he wanted to get as much money on the way out as he could. Here is really the first revelation of his character: none of the disciples had any suspicions of Judas, none. But he reveals himself by being outraged that this is being wasted when the money could have been put in the bag; and he said that because he held the bag.
Verse 12: “When she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare for My burial.” This is another crushing blow to Judas. Judas wants money, he wants power. He was riding the messianic hope of Jesus to the end. He wanted significance. Primarily he was driven by avarice or greed. Now he hears Jesus is going to die and Jesus is going to be buried, and all his hopes and three years of his life chasing this dream of prominence and power and money is being smashed. All this talk of death is more than he can stomach.
So in verse 14, “One of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot,” – Judas from the town of Kerioth, the only non-Galilean – “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ They weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.” By the way, according to Exodus 21:32, thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave.
This is shocking. Disappointment we can understand. Betrayal is stunning. Given that he had been with the Lord for three years, given that he had been exposed to everything, this is the most perfect relationship, perfect environment that any human being could ever be in. And the staggering reality is how can someone who’s been three years with Jesus walk away and betray Him for money? But that was Judas.
We’re now into the Passion Week and it’s Thursday night, verse 17, and they’re going to go eat the Passover. Verse 18, our Lord says, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’ The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating,” – verse 21 – “He said, ‘Truly I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’”
It’d be hard to imagine the shock, the horror, the disbelief. And they had no idea who that betrayer would be. And they were honest enough with their own sinfulness to think it might even be one of them, verse 22, “Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ And He answered, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.” They dipped bread in a bowl with a kind of a dip as part of the meal.
“One who dipped his hand with me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man,” – woe means to curse or condemn – “to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born. And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’” He needed to say that because everybody was saying it. “Jesus said to him, ‘You’ve said it yourself.’”
I think that’s the most horrible thing that could ever be said about a human being, “It would have been better for him if he’d never been born,” because once born he’ll never die. Judas can’t hide from Jesus.
Down to verse 30: “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” That evening that Passover was over, the betrayer was unmasked. Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John to pray because He had to pour out His soul to the Father. Starting in verse 36 you have Him come to Gethsemane, and He asks them to pray with Him, but they all fall asleep.
Each time He comes back they’re sleeping, verse 43, “He came and found them sleeping, their eyes were heavy. He left them again, and went away, prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. You couldn’t pray with Me as I face this?’ And He said, ‘Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!’”
At that point Judas goes into action, verse 47, “While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied with a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people.” Notice how Judas is identified: “one of the twelve.” Always, always identified that way in the Gospels, always, to underscore the shock and insidiousness of this man’s betrayal. At this point, of course, Satan entered Judas.
In John chapter 6 and verse 70, “Jesus, looking at His disciples, said, ‘One of you is a devil. One of you is a devil.’” In John 13 and verse 2, it says, “The devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus.” And in John 13:27, it says, “Satan entered Judas.” “One of you is an adversary.” That was Judas. The devil put it in his heart to betray Jesus, gave him the thought, and then took total control. John 13:27, “He entered into Judas.” He was Satan-possessed.
Verse 48: “Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He’s the one; seize Him.’ Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him repeatedly.” – in the original – “And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend,’ – and He used, by the way, not the normal word for friend, but “associate” – ‘friend, do what you’ve come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.”
At that point, we drop down to verse 57: “Those who seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest,” – and you know the rest of the story of the trials. Go down to verse 65: “Finally, the high priest tore his robes and he said” – with regard to Jesus – ‘He has blasphemed! He has blasphemed!’ – blasphemed by declaring that He is the Son of God – ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death!’ they replied. Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ, You Messiah; who is the one who hit You?’” The action of Judas led to this true blasphemy as the Jewish leaders blasphemed the Son of God.
Go to chapter 27, verse 1: “Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.” I just want to point out one word, verse 1, “all”: all the chief priests; all the Sanhedrin, a body of seventy; all the elders of the people. All of them conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death. It was unanimous, a unanimous decision.
Then the tragedy of Judas comes to its crucial moment, verse 3: “Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘what is that to us? See to that yourself! You gave us what we wanted. You led us to Jesus in the dark.’ He threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed.” Very simple ending: “He went away and hanged himself. He went away and hanged himself.
“Chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ‘Not lawful to put them into the temple treasury.’ – that is a statement of legalism like none I’ve never read; they’re about to kill the Son of God, but they’re not going to break one of their ridiculous rules – ‘It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury since it is the price of blood.’ – they would take the money and execute the Messiah, but not put it in the temple treasury – “So they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. for this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.’”
And by the way, that is from Zechariah chapter 11, but it mentions Jeremiah because Jeremiah was sort of the head of the list of prophets. The Hebrew Old Testament list of prophets began with Jeremiah. The horrible tragedy of Judas, the greatest tragedy in human history because of unparalleled opportunity.
You know, our Lord said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” And He said that as a warning, as a warning. You don’t want to be too close to the truth because the implications of rejecting it are more severe than anything you could ever do.
Judas is the greatest tragedy in human history because of his unparalleled privilege. He is the ultimate in wasted opportunity. He was greedy. He was a materialist. He was a money lover. He was motivated by a desire for riches. So strong was his selfish greed that he could literally be in the midst of the living truth and go to hell on purpose. He loved himself way too much, he rejected the truth way too easily, and he resented Jesus much too strongly. Most powerful demonstration of wasted opportunity ever. That’s Judas.
But our Lord has the writer weave in the story of Peter, so let’s go back to chapter 26, verse 20. What’s happening with the other of these two disciples, these two preachers? Pick the story up where we were a little while ago: “When evening was come, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.”
Now we come to verse 26: “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after blessing it, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’” By the way, Judas is gone. He had left, it was just the eleven that were together for the establishment of the Lord’s Supper.
In verse 30, we see again, “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of Me this night.’ – that is just too shocking, they all look like potential Judases – ‘You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.”’ – that’s Zechariah 13:7; that’s a prophecy, and it happened – ‘But’ – verse 32 – ‘after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’” That’s such an important statement because our Lord is saying, “After your defection, you’re going to come back.” Not like Judas who hanged himself. And the book of Acts says, “His body was smashed on the rocks,” which means he couldn’t even do a good job of hanging himself; the branch broke and he plunged to the rocks and was crushed.
But we find hope in verse 32: “I will go ahead of you to Galilee. You’re going to be scattered. You’re going to be unfaithful, you’re going to forsake Me, you’re going to leave Me, but I’m going to gather you back together.” And now we meet Peter.
Verse 33: “Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’” He was boastful. “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’ All the disciples said the same thing too.” A shocking prophecy by our Lord.
As evil as was Judas’ betrayal, as heinous and wicked as was his rejection of Jesus, his shame over Christ, Peter would do the same thing. Back in Matthew 16, when Jesus said He was going to die, Peter said, “No, no. No, Lord, that’s not going to happen,” and Jesus looked right at Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Satan put things in the mind of Judas, Satan put things in the mind of Peter. Judas was influenced by Satan, Peter was influenced by Satan.
Now let’s pick up this story of His betrayal in verse 69: “Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’ – now remember, this is the courtyard at the high priest’s house where Jesus is on trial, and Jesus has been deemed a blasphemer – ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’” And we gasp for breath because Peter had just said, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away. Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” So much for knowing his own heart. When a little servant-girl says, “Oh, you were with Jesus the Galilean,” he denies it not only to her, but before everybody around the fire in the courtyard: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“When he had gone out to the gateway,” – he relocates to get away – “another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied it this time with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’ A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away. You talk that sort of Galilean Jesus talk.’ Then he escalates. He began – first he said no, then he said no with an oath, and now he says no with a curse and swearing, ‘I do not know the man!’ And immediately a rooster crowed.”
Sad account. Peter actually pronounced a death curse on himself if he was lying. He pronounced a death curse on himself if he was lying. Did he kill himself? No. Judas pronounced a death curse on himself and carried it out. But there’s an amazing moment in verse 75: “Peter remember the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’” Doesn’t say he went out and hanged himself. It says, “He went out and wept bitterly.” Amazing moment.
At that moment, by the way, at that moment, Luke in his account of the same scene says in chapter 22, verse 61, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. The Lord turned and looked at Peter,” at the moment of his final betrayal. When Judas’ eyes met Jesus, Judas boldly kissed him with the hatred of a hypocrite. When Peter was in the midst of his self-curse and he met the eyes of Jesus, he broke down in tears. Crushing sadness led Judas to suicide without repentance. Crushing sadness led Peter to restoration with repentance. This is the crucial moment. Both knew they were betrayers: one kills himself, the other is restored.
How did Peter fall so far? Well, he boasted too much. We know he prayed too little because he fell asleep. We know he acted too fast: he grabbed a sword. And then we know he followed too far. He was way out in the courtyard. Why was this not the end of Peter? What distinguishes Peter from Judas? What’s going on here? I’ll give you the simple answer, this is where all of this goes: Judas hated Jesus because he wanted something Jesus was not going to deliver to him. He had false expectations of what Jesus intended to do for him. When those expectations aren’t met, people hate Jesus. False preachers will give people lies about what Jesus intends to do for them to fulfill their drives and ambitions; and when it turns out that doesn’t happen, they will hate Jesus for it.
The difference was Peter didn’t hate Jesus, he loved Him. Jesus says to him in John 21 three times – you know the story – verse 15, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” And the Lord accepted that as true because He said, “Feed My sheep. Feed My lambs. Feed My sheep.”
That is the deep and compelling reality of a true believer: love for Christ. That’s where we’re going, right? That’s what sets people apart. Hypocrites don’t love Christ, they love whatever it is that they love for their own personal fulfillment. The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us.”
There could not be a more clear statement than 1 Corinthians 16:22. Listen to these words: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” What distinguishes a true believer from a false believer? What distinguishes those who are of Peter from those who are of Judas is love for Christ, love for Christ.
Is this just an emotion? No. Listen to the words of our Lord in John 14. That night in the upper room at the Passover Jesus defined what it was to love Him, verse 15. John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” That’s not a command, that’s a statement of fact. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Verse 21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Again, in verse 23, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word,’ – He says that again and again – ‘and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’”
Verse 24, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” Verse 28, “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I,” which is to say if you love Christ, you obey His word, and you desire His glory and His honor.
Because Peter loved Christ, his betrayal did not send him to hell. In fact, in Luke 22, a glorious moment in Peter’s life. Listen to verse 31. In response to Peter’s betrayal, the Lord says to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat. Yeah, Satan’s been working in you just the same way he worked in Judas. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
What was the difference? Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. We sung it, didn’t we. Do you know the song? “He will” – what? – “hold me fast. My soul will not be lost. He will hold me fast.” That’s what John 17 is about. The whole prayer in John 17 is the Son of God praying to the Father on behalf of all who belong to Him, and telling the Father how precious they are to the Trinity, and how He will keep them. The Lord kept Peter, restored Peter, empowered Peter; and he’s the powerful preacher as the church explodes – first twelve chapters of the book of Acts.
Sin and guilt do not produce true repentance. Did you hear that? Sin and guilt, which are normal human responses to sin, patterns of sin, the awareness of sin, guilt over sin does not produce true repentance. It can produce remorse. It can produce regret. It can produce suicide, which is a kind of deadly sadness. But awareness of sin and guilt for sin does not produce true repentance. Judas was sorry; it didn’t make him repent, made him kill himself. Peter was sorry,; but even his sorrow did not make him repent. What I’m saying is the ugliness of your sin and the reality of your guilt is not enough to make a sinner repent savingly. You may have regret, but not repentance.
What makes the sinner repent – listen – is not to see your sin, but to see your Savior. Judas looked in Jesus’ eyes, kissed Him and went to hell. Peter looked in Jesus’ eyes, was crushed in tears. Peter loved his Lord, he saw Him with eyes of faith and trust and love. Peter loved the Lord.
Earlier, John 6, “a lot of the disciples who followed Jesus” – kind of the fringe disciples – “left Him, and He said, ‘Will you also go away?’ And Peter said, ‘To whom shall we go? You and You alone have the words of eternal life.’” Again, “Jesus says to the disciples, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ and they said, ‘Oh, some say You’re Elijah or one of the prophets.’ Peter said, ‘You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” He didn’t just know who Jesus was, he loved Him as his Lord and Savior.
Listen to Peter’s words. Go to 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 3. Here’s a fully restored Peter writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and you can feel his own experience in what he writes. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” – and then this – “and though you have not seen Him, you” – what? – “you love Him. Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, and you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining the salvation of your souls.” That is the outcome of your faith. You haven’t seen Him, but – what? – you love Him. You see Him in the Word, do you not?
Two followers, two disciples, two students, two preachers indistinguishable even to their own close companions. One a suicide and went to hell, one a saint who’s in heaven. Both betrayed Jesus in very adamant, public ways. All the similarities did not lead to a common end. They are forever separated by an impassible gulf. Judas hated Jesus, Peter loved Him.
Hear the words of Paul, Ephesians 6: “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.” What does it mean to be a Christian? Means to love Christ. What does it mean to love Christ? Obey His word, right?
In 2001 Charles Templeton was dying, dying an atheist. According to people who were there, these were his last words: “I miss Jesus. I miss Jesus.” And he will forever. That’s the remorse that lasts forever.
Our Father, we thank You for the Scripture. We thank You for its profound poignancy, its power. We thank You that all You ask of us is not that we earn anything, but that we love You. And we know we can’t even do that. If we do love You, we love You because You first loved us. I pray, Lord, that everyone who hears this message will be given such a magnificent picture of Jesus, looking into His glorious face that elicits from them love beyond any love, more profound, more exalted, more deep, more rich, more all-consuming than any other affection.
Lord, grant the love of the Savior to every heart. May they see Him as God the Son who lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death as a substitute for sinners, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand where He intercedes for His own with love, and one day will come to gather all of us into His kingdom and eternal glory. Give everyone the true understanding of Christ. It’s to us who love Christ inconceivable that someone could be with Him for three years and not love Him beyond all other loves. But sin is profound, and the fallen heart is hard, and love of self doesn’t die easily; it has to be produced by You. Reach into every heart. Take out self-love, replace it with love for Christ. We pray these things to the praise of Your glory. Amen.
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