Have you ever really messed up? Put your foot in your mouth up to your thigh?
Turned on people you loved and did awful things to them?
Woke up in the middle of a horrible nightmare and realized you played a big part in the unfolding drama?
What happens next? The answer determines the rest of your life.
In the unfolding Easter story, there were two men who had those experiences. They were once friends. They had eaten at the same table with their other friends.
They had worked together. They were part of such a close knit group they likely thought at one time they would die for each other.
But now they were in the middle of a nightmare. One of their friends had been killed in a horrible, tortuous way. Both had viewed from a distance. Neither had tried to rescue him. Both were drowning in grief … and guilt.
One man’s name was Peter. The other was named Judas. Their friend’s name was Jesus. All three would be remembered throughout history. But the rest of the story would be quite different for each of them.
Judas fully acknowledged how well he knew Jesus. He kissed Him and then betrayed Him.
Peter said three times he didn’t even know Jesus. He denied Him.
Jesus knew both of them far better than they knew themselves. He knew them and loved them both, even after they sinned against Him. They were included in Jesus’ petition to His Father, when He said,
“Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they are doing.”
Judas was sorry for his sin of betrayal. He tried on some level to undo his actions. He tried to return the money he had been paid to betray Jesus.
But Judas could not undo what he had put into play. Sin can be forgiven, but its consequences often remain.
Judas publically acknowledged his sin.
“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
No one could forgive him. And Judas could not forgive himself. He needed Jesus’ Forgiveness.
But instead of looking at Jesus and seeing himself in the reflection of Jesus’ Eyes, Judas looked in the mirror and saw himself. How could Jesus ever forgive the horrible person he had become?
Judas never asked for Jesus’ Forgiveness. It was fully available to him, but he would never know the joy of receiving it.
“He went away and hanged himself.”
After Jesus’ Crucifixion, Peter hid. But at the first report that Jesus’ tomb was empty, he took off running to the tomb. He went directly inside.
The possibility of seeing Jesus again was all he wanted. He remembered the first day he realized he was standing in the Presence of One Who had Awesome Power.
After a day of fishing and catching nothing, Jesus had told Peter and his friends to cast out into the deep. They did. They caught so many fish that two boats were filled!
Peter had realized on that day that no one but God could have brought about such a miracle. He was stunned to realize he was standing in The Presence of God!
In the reflection of the Great Light coming from Jesus, Peter saw himself. He was a sinner. He did not deserve to be in the Presence of God.
He had fallen at Jesus’ Knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”
But Jesus would not go away.
Jesus didn’t even seem fazed by Peter’s confession. He already knew all about him.
Jesus simply said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on, you will fish for people.” Luke 5:10
Peter left his nets, his boat and all the fish that day and he followed Jesus wherever He went … until … he became afraid … and denied him.
Peter also remembered the day he had known beyond a shadow of a doubt Who Jesus was. Jesus had given him the opportunity to say it out loud. He had not denied Jesus that day.
Jesus had asked Peter directly,
“Who do you say I am?”
Peter had answered without hesitation,
“You are The Messiah, The Son of The Living God.”
Standing in the empty tomb, Peter may have remembered how Jesus then told him who he (Peter) was and why he was on earth.
“You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven …”
Peter longed for Jesus. Peter knew who he was — a sinful man. But now he also knew who he was in Jesus’ Eyes. He was the one on whom Jesus would build His Church.
Peter didn’t know how … but he would be ready. He started with what he knew. He went fishing.
It was there Jesus came again. When Peter saw Him on the shore, he jumped into the water and swam to Him. What followed was a beautiful reunion in which Peter had the opportunity to tell Jesus three times that he loved Him.
Peter knew he was forgiven and he received that Gift with Joy!
Judas and Peter both sinned. Judas saw himself as a sinner too far away to ever get home. Peter knew he was a sinner, but he knew The Power of The One Who looked past the sin to the person God created him to be.
Jesus loves you. He sees you as you were created to be. Are you running from Him or to Him? If you are not sure why you are here, ask Him. He knows.
“For I know The Plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you Hope and a Future.”