I think you know that there has been a very disturbing reality in my life through all of the years of my ministry, and that is the fact that the church is occupied by people who aren’t really saved. I have addressed that so many ways I can’t even count them. I have written so many books on The Gospel According to Jesus, The Gospel According to the Apostles, Ashamed of the Gospel, and beyond, and beyond, and books that don’t have the gospel in the title that are addressed at the same subject: The Truth War – you know them all – Hard to Believe. And they all are really driven at the same reality that the church is full of people who are on their way to hell. And if we are going to throw our bodies in front of them and make them go over us to get there it has to start in the church. We can’t make assumptions.
In the mid 20th century there were two young gifted evangelists. They came on the scene in the United States at the same time. One of those two young evangelists you know very well: Billy Graham. His history is common knowledge and still being lived at this very hour.
The other young evangelist – they were, by the way, called the Gold Dust Twins – was a man named Charles Templeton. Probably don’t know about him. It was Charles Templeton and Billy Graham, along with a man named Torrey Johnson who founded Youth for Christ. By all accounts, Charles Templeton was the more gifted preacher of the Gold Dust Twins: intelligent, handsome, winsome, eloquent, oratorical, brilliant, persuasive, effective. All those words were used to describe him. In fact, in 1946 the NAE, the National Association of Evangelicals, gave him an award. Christian organizations give really weird awards, and Charles Templeton was given this award: Best Used of God. What a bizarre award. How do they know? But, nonetheless, he has in his archives a Best Used of God award for 1946.
Charles Templeton overshadowed Billy Graham. He was the better speaker, the more-effective speaker. The two of them went on an evangelistic tour. They went on an evangelistic tour of Europe, and they preached in England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, and a few other places, and they alternated as they went, preaching to large audiences. Charles Templeton in the 1950s was given an opportunity to have weekly television programs on NBC and CBS. He preached in the United States to as many as 20,000 people a night across the country. He preached in youth rallies again and again with thousands of young people. He became a church planter, and he became a pastor. He attended Princeton Seminary. He was an evangelist with the Presbyterian church. He had a week of gospel preaching ministry at Yale University – a really formidable man.
In 1957 Charles Templeton declared himself an agnostic. He rejected the Bible, and he rejected Christ. He attaches the firmness of that rejection to the reading of Thomas Paine. And then he says in ten days he read Voltaire Bertrand Russell, Robert Ingersoll, David Hume, and Aldous Huxley. By the end of those ten days he was virtually an atheist. He left the ministry with $600 in his pocket, returned to Canada, and became a journalist, erstwhile journalist for awhile; and then became a politician, and almost became the Prime Minister of Canada – so formidable. He, in 1957, stepped into the eternal blackness of apostasy, blasphemed Christ, and signed off with a book. The title of the book he wrote is Farewell to God, Farewell to God. Are there other preachers like him do you think? You think there are other preachers like him?
My dad was an evangelist for awhile, and he was in Europe preaching with another evangelist, preaching day, after day, after day, night after night, in a very intense prolonged evangelistic series. The other preacher was doing the same in another part of this great European city. And when my dad came home he said it was one of the most horrible experiences of his life, because this preacher was involved with drunkenness and prostitutes. Is that common?
I graduated from college. A guy who ran next to me in the backfield on our football team – we were co-captains of the football team – went to seminary and denied the faith. I went on to be a pastor. In seminary, at Talbot Seminary, I was a friend of a young man there whose father was the dean of the seminary. We graduated together. I launched into ministry; he set up a Buddhist altar in his home.
Tonight I want to tell you the tale of two preachers, tale of two preachers. These two you know; you know them very well. Both were called by Jesus personally. Both answered the call, forsook everything, and followed Him. Both declared repeatedly their personal devotion to Him. Both were personally taught, personally trained by Jesus specifically for preaching ministry. Both were intimately acquainted with Him 24/7: every hour of the day, every day of the week for years.
They were in His small group. They were taught by Him through precept with the clarity and, the power and the conviction, and convincing arguments that had no parallel or ever will. And not only were they taught by precept, proposition, but by example, because everything He ever taught them He lived to perfection. No one has ever had an equal teacher, not even close. They were taught to know the will of God. They were taught what the will of God was. They were taught the Word of God. They were taught to know it, to believe it, to live it, to love it, to preach it.
Both saw the miracles of Jesus, virtually all of them, day after day as He banished illness from the land of Israel. Both saw clearly the revelation of His divine nature. As we saw with Nicodemus, even what he saw in a brief period of time convinced him that Jesus had come from God, because no one could do what He did unless God had sent him. They saw His power over demons displayed again and again: His power over death, His power over disease, His power over nature. They lived it.
Both of them heard Jesus answer every theological question perfectly. His answers were always the end of the discussion. But there wasn’t a need to say, “Could You clarify a little?” He answered profoundly, clearly, perfectly, truthfully.
Both were daily confronted with the reality of their fallenness. Both were made daily aware of their sin in bold relief, because they were living with a sinless One. Both were told day, after day, after day, after day that every sinner needs salvation. Both were told about the reality of eternal heaven and the reality of eternal hell. As we heard today from Steve, Jesus said more about both of those than anybody else recorded in Scripture; and He said a lot more about hell than He did about heaven.
Both received and used the very power of the Lord Jesus delegated to them to preach effectively, to do healings and cast out demons; and both exercised that power. Both preached Jesus as Messiah and Savior, Son of Man, Son of God; and they shared all of this together. They were exposed to Jesus in identical ways.
There’s more. Both were sinners and they knew it; they knew it well. Both were so aware of their sin that they were overwhelmed with guilt, overwhelmed with guilt to a crushing level. Both, even with all this, gave themselves over to Satan to take up Satan’s cause – both of them. Both of them in the end betrayed Jesus boldly, emphatically, openly, publicly, resolutely; and they did it, both of them, at the end of all their training and experience and just before He was crucified. And both of them were completely devastated by what they had done.
One of them, in spite of his wicked betrayal of the Savior, is considered so honorable, so noble, such a grand figure, that millions of people have been named after him. Some of you are named after him. Do we have anybody here named Peter? There’s even a feminine form across the world: Petra.
Now the other man, not so much. The other man is considered so dishonorable, so despicable; and though his name means “praised,” nobody in this building has his name. Your dog doesn’t have his name. You don’t know anybody who has his name. His name is hated and reviled; and although there are some that dispute this, there is evidence that there is actually a law in Germany against anyone naming a child Judas.
One of them, we who belong to Christ we’ll all meet, because that betrayer of Jesus Christ is in heaven. The other one: those who reject Christ may meet; and I would venture to say it probably includes somebody here tonight. There’s probably a Charles Templeton here. You’d have to go to hell to meet Judas and the other apostate defecting preachers.
One of those preachers ended his life a suicide: hanging himself, eternally banished. The other ended his life a saint: crucified upside-down, but eternally blessed. Two men, side-by-side 24/7 for three years with each other, with Jesus, together all the time; and then separated infinitely from each other forever. One of them is the first name in every list of the apostles – and there are four of them. The other one is the last name in every list. One of them is enthroned in highest heaven; the other one is consigned to lowest hell. One of them will be honored forever; one of them will be tortured forever. Amazingly both betrayed the Lord Jesus, and both regretted what they had done. Both were sorry.
Just a footnote here: Salvation can’t be by works, because they both did the same works: they both did miracles. Salvation can’t be by knowledge, they both had the same information. Well, what made the difference? Let me tell you what made the difference. And I’m saying this to you for the sake of somebody who might be here who needs to hear this. But I’m saying this to you so that you can make it the high priority of your ministry to be sure that your people in your flock are genuinely saved. What makes the difference is one’s attitude toward the Lord Jesus. The bottom line is, “What do you think of Christ?” That is the bottom line.
Churches are full of the same kinds of people. Churches are full of Peters and Judases, basically hearing the same messages, experiencing the same worship, seeing the same power on display in people’s lives, serving; but they’re going to end up in two extremely different destinations. Isn’t this the way Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount? “Many will say, ‘Lord, Lord.’” And He will say, “I never knew you.” And it all comes back to one’s attitude toward Jesus Christ.
Through the years, occasionally people have asked me, “Why are you so stuck on preaching Christ?” Well, because I know that what saves people from hell is their attitude toward Jesus Christ. I can’t preach enough of Jesus Christ. I think that’s the point of all Scripture, to point to Him. I make no apology to follow my mentor Paul who said, “We preach Christ. We preach Christ.” Determine to know nothing among you except Christ.
To see these two preacher in bold relief turn in your Bible to Matthew 26, and we’re just going to kind of work our way through the chapter. And you’re very familiar with the chapter, but I’m praying the Lord will lead us to a place where there will come some fresh clarity for us.
“Jesus finished all His words. He said to His disciples,” – and you know, of course, that He had just given the great Olivet Discourse, the sermon on His second coming – “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.’” He’d been saying that a lot.
Way back in chapter 16, that wonderful, familiar text that we love where Peter says, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Verse 21 of that chapter, Matthew 16: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” And this was way too much to swallow. “Peter took Him aside, began to rebuke Him, ‘God forbit it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ And He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me,” – who? See? This was an absolutely unacceptable notion.
He constantly told them that He was going to die. He gave them details about it. He even told them how it was going to happen, how they were going to treat Him, who was going to do it. And the plan was in motion, verse 3: “The chief priests, 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.” I mean that was the plan: get Him, kill Him.
Drop down to verse 6: “Jesus was in Bethany,” – which is where He stayed during the Passover, you remember, at the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. This time He’s “at the home of Simon the leper for a meal, and a woman came to Him with an alabaster vile 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 just says here the disciples said this.
Who said it? Judas said it. According to John 12:4 it was Judas, he was the protester; and here is the first time in the gospel record that Judas begins to reveal his character. Up to this point we don’t know anything about him. We don’t know anything about him. We know quite a bit about Peter, James, and John. And we kind of drip into Andrew a little bit in group two, and maybe into Philip a little bit in group two, and then we start to get all the guys we know nothing about, or very little.
We don’t have any information about Judas until now. No suspicion existed on the part of anybody else. I mean he didn’t seem to respond any differently than the rest of them to what Jesus said. He didn’t seem to react any differently to what Jesus did. He seemed to be doing everything they were doing when they were sent out to do what Jesus delegated them to do. There was no suspicion. But he wants the money.
In verse 12, “Jesus says, ‘When she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.’” Yikes! Burial? Judas wants money, power, prestige, elevation. He wants to be in the power seat when Jesus takes His kingdom, and his ambitions are being smashed by all this talk of crucifixion, death, burial. This is massively disappointing to Judas, massively.
So verse 14: “One of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot,” Iscariot means from Kerioth. He’s the only non-Galilean. He snuck in; they didn’t know anything about him. Most of the Galileans knew each other. “He went to the chief priests and he said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. And from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.” Thirty pieces of silver, according to Exodus 21:32 is the price of a slave. He’s going to betray Him. I mean this is just shocking. This is shocking.
If you’re reading through Matthew for the first time, you don’t know anything about this. You can’t process this. You’ve seen his name, and he’s grouped in the great stewardship of power that was delegated to them. You know, he doesn’t stand out in any way at all. This is shocking. He’s going to betray Him for the price of a slave, the Son of God?
“On the first day of Unleavened Bread” – in verse 17 – “the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is near; I’m am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’”’ The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover,” Thursday night, Passover established back in Exodus 12. They’re going to have the Passover.
Well, you know the story. Verse 20: “Evening, Jesus is reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’” This is total shock, total shock.
Verse 22: “Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’” They would have suspected themselves before they would have suspected Judas. There was nothing to cause them to look at him. Shocked beyond imagination. No suspicion; none at all.
“Jesus says, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.’” They had a bowl and some bread, they dipped it in the bowl; that’s how they ate the meal. “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Better never born. “And Judas, who was betraying Him,” – he had already made the deal, even though he hadn’t yet found the moment – “said, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’”
That may be one of the most ugly moments in history. “Jesus said to him, ‘You’ve said it yourself.’” Nobody suspected him. He thought he could get away with another statement of hypocrisy. He was a master hypocrite. “You’ve said it yourself.”
Go down to verse 30. “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” You remember what happens now. They go to the Mount of Olives; Passover is done. Late at night they go to the Mount of Olives.
Pick it up in verse 36: “Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ Took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee.” You know the story; they pray, they pray. They fall asleep. Jesus prays three times, and they can’t stay awake.
I want you to drop down to verse 45: “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.’” This is the third devastating, unbelievable, unbearable, unimaginable, inconceivable shock.
“Get up, let’s be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” Judas goes into action. We pick up the account of what he does in verse 47: “While Jesus was still speaking, Judas,” – who wasn’t with Jesus and the three in the garden – “one of the twelve,” – can I just tell you that every time Judas is mentioned in the gospels – and they all include his betrayal – it always identifies him as one of the twelve, because it is so inconceivable, to underscore the shock, to underline the insidiousness. And John says it is as this point that Satan enters Judas, Satan enters Judas.
Jesus never, of course, was fooled. He knew He was the son of perdition. In fact, in John 6:70, “Jesus said, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’” So at this point Satan enters into Judas.
Verse 47: Jesus is in the garden. Judas shows up with this massive entourage of chief priests, elders, the temple police with their clubs and swords, and no doubt some of the Romans; and they’re all coming to arrest Him. And this is appropriate time, because they were afraid of the crowds during the day, because He had just had the hosannas thrown at His head, and the palm branches thrown at His feet when He rode into Jerusalem a few days before.
So they come in the middle of the night, as it were, and this is stunning. Verse 48: “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 kept on kissing Him, kept on kissing Him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend,’ – by the way, that’s not the normal word for friend, that’s the word for associate, more technical than personal – ‘Associate, comrade, do what you have come for.’ Then they laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.”
Go down to verse 57: “Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and elders were gathered together. Peter was following at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Him, so they could put Him to death. They didn’t find any, although many witnesses came forward. Later on two came forward,” of course, and they were false witnesses.
And what was the outcome of the trial? Down to verse 65 just to kind of hurry a little. “The high priest tears his robe and says, ‘He has blasphemed! We don’t need any witnesses; you heard the blasphemy. He deserves death.” Verse 67: “They spat on His face, beat Him with their fists; others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?’”
Drop down to chapter 27, verse 1: “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death. They bound Him, led Him away, delivered Him to Pilate the governor.”
And then we pick up Judas. Verse 3: “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!’ And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ‘It’s not lawful to put them into the temple treasury,’ – by the way, it wasn’t lawful to do what they did to Jesus; that didn’t bother them – ‘it’s the price of blood.’ They conferred together and with the money bought Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. And 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; gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.’”
It identifies Jeremiah as the source of that. It’s actually Zechariah. But the reason Jeremiah is identified is because the Old Testament was divided into three sections. You had the law, then you had the writings, then you had the prophets, and Jeremiah was the first book in the prophets in the Hebrew text, and so Jeremiah became a title for that section.
So what do you have in that section, verses 3 and following? The horrible tragedy of Judas. The horrible tragedy of Judas. He hangs himself. He couldn’t even do that very well. The first chapter of Acts says that he died by having his bowels bashed on the rocks, which means either the rope broke, the knot slipped, or the branch broke. The horrible, unparalleled tragedy of Judas. Greatest tragedy in human history, because he had the greatest opportunity. Unparalleled privilege; the ultimate in waste. He’s greedy. He’s a materialist. He’s a money lover. He’s earthy. He’s marked by avarice, motivated by personal ambition, desire for riches. So strong is Judas’ selfish greed that he ignores the truth when it’s in his face.
He went to hell on purpose. He knew there was a hell; he sent himself there. He made the decision, “I want relief. I’m going to get out of this, the agony’s too great. I’m going to send myself to hell.” His downfall came, because he loved himself too much. He rejected salvation too easily. He resented Jesus too strongly. And the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.
Let’s look at Peter. Back to chapter 26, and we’ll go back to verse 17: “First day of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go to the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, ‘The time is near; I’m going to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’”’ The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. Jesus set this up in a way that Judas didn’t know where it was going to be, so that he wouldn’t lead people there. But you know the rest of the story very well.
Verse 26: “While they were eating, Jesus took some break, after a blessing broke it, gave to the disciples, said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’” And he transitions the Passover into the Lord’s Supper, His Table. Back to verse 30, where we were a moment ago: “After singing a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives.”
Now let’s follow Peter. Jesus said to them that they’ll “all fall away because of Me this night; you will. For it’s written, ‘I’ll strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ – back in Zechariah – “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee. But Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’” I like his spirit. I like his spirit. He just said they would all defect. Peter thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think.
“Jesus said to him,” – in verse 34 – ‘Truly I say to you that 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.’ And all the disciples said the same thing.” He was a leader, wasn’t he. He could get the group to follow him, even in a foolish confession.
Well, we all know what Peter did; he denied Christ. His act was as evil as Judas’. His crime was as heinous as the crime of Judas. It was as bold, it was as resolute, it was as open and public as Judas’. But he wouldn’t know it until the cock crowed.
Well, jump in the story to verse 69: “Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said this: ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’ – trial’s going on – “But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you’re talking about.’” Whoa. It’s really dramatic to follow the very careful steps here – I don’t have time to do that. But he shuffles off to somewhere else near the door in the entrance to the courtyard.
“And when he had gone to the gateway, another servant saw him and said to those who were there as well, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’” And he added an oath; swore by something.
“A little later the bystanders came up as he shuffled off somewhere else and said to Peter, ‘Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away. You’ve got a northern accent.’ Then he began to curse.” You know what that means? He pronounced a death curse on himself if he was lying. He pronounced a death curse on himself if he was lying, “and swore, ‘I do not know the man!’”
When you swear, that’s a positive affirmation: “I swear by this, by that.” To curse yourself is a negative affirmation: “If I’m lying, kill me.” I mean that is about as bold as you can get. There are elements of that that exceed Judas.
Verse 74: “And immediately a rooster crowed.” Hmm. It was 3:00 AM. That’s the time the rooster crow. “And Peter remember the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a rooster crows,’ – Marks adds, you remember, twice – ‘you will deny Me three times, you will deny Me three times.’” Whoa.
What did he do, kill himself? What did he do, hang himself? He had pronounced a death sentence on himself: “Take my life if I’m lying,” and then he lied. What did he do? “He went out and” – what? – “wept bitterly.”
There’s an amazing moment here that Luke adds for us. When the rooster crowed, Luke 22:61 says this: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” When Judas’ and Jesus’ eyes met in the garden, Judas kissed Him with the hatred of a hypocrite. When Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus, Peter crashed in tears. Crushing sadness led Judas to suicide without repentance; crushing sadness led Peter to restoration with repentance. Both had a vision of Christ. Judas looked Him in the face, embraced Him, put his cheek against His cheek; that close. Peter saw Him from a distance. It brought Judas to suicide; it brought Peter to repentance.
How did Peter get into this situation? How could he do that? How could he do that after three years? Well, I’ll give you a little idea. Go back to verse 33: Peter said, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Verse 35: “Even if I die with You, I will not deny You.” He boasted too much. He boasted too much.
Go to verse 40: “He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘You men couldn’t keep watch with Me for one hour?’” Second, he prayed too little. Verse 51: “One of those who were with Jesus in the garden” – and it was Peter, when He was arrested – “reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Jesus said, ‘Put your sword back into its place, or they have a right to take your life.’” Boasted too much; he prayed too little; he acted too fast. In verses 69 to 74, he followed too far. Boasted too much; he prayed too little; he acted too fast; he followed too far.
Now you’ve heard enough of the drama. What was the difference? What was the difference? Turn to the last chapter of the gospel of John, verses 15 to 17. You know the account, right? Jesus showed up in Galilee, and Peter had gone back fishing, which he wasn’t supposed to do. He was supposed to go to Galilee and wait for Jesus to appear after they had met in the upper room after the resurrection. “Go to Galilee and wait.” Peter had gone back; got in his old boat, his old nets; gone back to his old ways. Jesus shows up, confronts Peter. What does He ask him three times? “Do you” – what? All right, now you’ve touched the reality.
What is the difference between Judas and Peter? It’s an attitude toward Jesus. And what is Peter’s attitude toward Jesus? It is clearly indicated here: he loved Him. “Do you love Me?” “Yes, I love You. Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” He calls on omniscience.
Why would he call on omniscience? Because it wasn’t obvious. “You know I love You. You know I love You. You know everything; You know I love You.” Can I make it as simple as I can possibly imagine? The difference between Judas and Peter was Peter truly loved Christ.
Paul loved Christ. “The love of Christ controls us,” he said. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned, let him be damned.” John says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”
You know, they were both there in that upper room. John 14, when Jesus said, “If you love Me, you keep My commandments, if you love Me.” 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 disclose Myself to him.” Jesus talked to them about loving Him that night. Judas hated Him. He hated Him for dashing his ambitions. Jesus keeps talking about loving him.
Verse 23: “Jesus said, ‘If anyone loves Me, he’ll keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We’ll come to him and make Our abode with him. He who doesn’t love Me doesn’t keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” It’s all about loving Him.
Verse 28: “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I’ll come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go the Father, for the Father is greater than I.’” He just keeps talking about the fact that they have to love Him, and love Him, and love Him. Is that some sentiment? Are you waiting for a buzz? No. How is that love defined? “Whoever loves Me keeps My commandments.” It’s a disciplined act of obedience.
But I’ll tell you: the more you know about Christ, the more you love Him, the more irresistible He is. John 6: “Some of the disciples walked away. Jesus says to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away also?’ Peter say, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”
Peter had the potential for disastrous betrayal; but he was very different than Judas, because he loved Christ. Let me tell you something; God picked up Peter, as you well know, lifted him up, made him a powerhouse for the first half of the book of Acts essentially, or the first third; more than that.
Let me give you a principle to think about: Sin and guilt do not produce true repentance. Sin and guilt do not produce true repentance. You can have powerful guilt, overwhelming remorse, agonizing regret, and kill yourself. You can have an awareness of your sin; you can understand it fully.
Let me tell you something; I’ve been in prisons where people don’t hide their sins because they’ve all been on the front page. And acknowledging your sin and feeling the remorse and the stinging conscience of what you have done, and bearing the full temporal punishment for that crime doesn’t necessarily produce repentance. The horror of Judas’ sin did not make him repent. The horror of Peter’s sin did not make him repent. And the ugliness of your sin and my sin is not enough to make the sinner repent. It can be enough to break you, to make you cry, to make you kill yourself; but it’s not enough to make you repent.
What is required to make you repent is a vision of Christ that elicits love, captivating love. Peter loved Jesus, he loved Him. When their eyes met that deep night in the garden he was crushed into deep sadness, and he was driven to tears in that garden of the high priest. This is the mind – may I say – this is the mind of the true believer; and I will tell you as a pastor what I’ve learned all these years. What I’m looking for in my people is real salvation; and when I see it, it shows up in love for Christ that causes delight and obedience. My responsibility begins here, here; and that’s one thing that I must know as a shepherd. The best that I can possibly know is, “What is the true spiritual condition of my people?”
A personal testimony from Peter is given in his epistle, chapter 1, 1 Peter: “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’ve 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 though you have not seen Him, you love Him, you love Him.”
I just hold up Christ all the time, all the time, all the time: the most lovely, the most winsome, the most beautiful, the most glorious, the most magnificent, most perfect, the perfect. I can’t give them anything better. Finished New Testament, finished four gospels.
I asked, “What do You want now?” They said, “Go to the Old Testament. Show us Christ in the Old Testament.” So I went to the Old Testament, and for months showed them Christ. I said, “What now?” They said, “Do the gospel of John.”
So we’re back in the gospel of John. Why? They want to see Christ. It’s His beauty that overwhelms them. He’s the one they love. They like Paul; they like Peter; they love Christ. You can’t have a greater joy than to have a congregation that loves Christ, because when they love Christ, they long to honor Him and serve Him. They’re not waiting for some emotional sentimental buzz, they love the Christ revealed on the pages of Scripture. It is both a duty and a privilege, and an unrestrained reality. You haven’t seen Him, but you love Him.
Two preachers, indistinguishable to their close friends. Judas and Peter. Judas belonged to Satan; Peter belonged to the Savior. I love this benediction in Ephesians: “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.”
It was 2001 when Charles Templeton died; he was 86. We only have one quote from him as he was dying; this is it: “I miss Jesus.” I miss Jesus? I think that’s what Judas will say forever: “I miss Jesus.” You don’t need to miss Jesus, you can be in His presence forever. Don’t be a defecting preacher, and hold up Jesus for your people so they can love Him like you love Him.
Father, we thank You for the beauty of the Scripture, its power, its clarity. We are so blessed. This book is overwhelming in its power. Thank You for The Tale of Two Preachers You’ve reminded of again tonight. One day we want to gather with all those preachers who are around Peter. May no one in this place, no one ever meet Judas. And may You help us to lift up Christ to our people so they can see the One to whom they can give all their love forever.
We thank You. We love You; we don’t love You as we should. Help us to love You more, O Lord. Amen.