Summary: A message for Maundy Thursday which compares Peter & Judas.

(Matthew 26: 17 – 35 or John 13)

Text - Luke 22:31-32 (NRSV)

‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers & sisters.’

We focus today maybe uncharacteristically on the bad guy today, on Judas, & on Peter, who himself had a pretty bad time with it. I want us to examine what is going on here - why? Because I feel we have a lot to learn about not just them, not just God, but also ourselves.

Lets start with Judas, who was a sincere bloke; he must have been because Jesus chooses him. He had the right characteristics, indeed it has been said he I the only one who was really qualified & would have been selected on merit for his job. One would think he fitted in well with disciples - after all was part of Jesus’ inner circle for long time.

I think his problem was that he had yet to accept Jesus as Christ, as the Lord.

That is clear from the text as Judas only refers to Jesus as a Rabbi in Matthew. It might not seem a lot to you but it is huge, because for Judas Jesus just another teacher, another Rabbi. It is the kind of thing you would use to describe another Vicar, Priest or Minister. Whereas Jesus for the others, for Peter for sure is Kyrie or Lord which indicates that Jesus has become more of a personal Lord.

Judas still dreamed of kingdom, just not the same Kingdom as Jesus. He also had enormous passion for social change & action. Maybe being kind to him he just wanted to force Jesus’ hand & bring about change immediately. All this talk of sacrifice & service, discipleship & journeying is no good - what we need is revolution in the here & now.

For that Judas committed apostasy.

For that Judas betrayed the King of Kings - but for him of course he was only the rabbi wasn’t he?

I feel it is quite deliberate that Judas’ failure is combined in gospels with Peter’s, because with Judas there was no hope, while with Peter there is so much.

It is of course easy to despise Judas & for that matter Peter’s own denial of Christ.

Indeed 2000 years of Church history has demonised especially Judas hasn’t it?

Yet if we are brutally honest all of us are guilty of pretty much same kind of denial at some point in our lives. All of us if we are honest struggle with God’s will & timing at times & try to force things to happen in our times.

All of us have or are holding back part of our lives from God.

All of us like Judas & Peter can easily feel trapped & hopeless, & like the Old Testament Psalmist cried out ‘O God where are you? Why have you deserted us?’

I am sure that like me there have been valleys you have had to walk through during which it feels like God has forgotten us & His promises.

It is fear & unanswered prayer that pulls us like that away from God. It is sin & the world that pulls us away from God. To feel like this is ok IF we get back to God & allow Him to take those things from us.

But the comparisons between Judas & Peter go deeper still. Judas realised what he had done was wrong & was overcome by despair & shame & guilt. Peter realised what he had done was wrong & he too was overcome by same feelings, but there was a huge difference in what happened next.

I’m sure that at that time Peter thought he had let down Jesus as powerfully as possible, but Jesus had prayed for Peter – the text Luke 22: 31f

‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers & sisters.’

He knew that Peter would fall - yet He said that He would welcome him back.

He knew that Peter would fall - yet He offered him a task - a very important one in the kingdom.

That is difference.

Judas fell, but he fell alone - he did not know Jesus, but Peter fell but fell into God’s arms of love - he had tasted & would taste again the deep love & the amazing grace of God.

So in conclusion, God has such a passion for us - passion that led Jesus to the cross. He was in no way forced there – He chose to be there for us so He can offer us a love & a forgiveness that is so radical it seems impossible.

God loves us tonight so much. Sometimes we say we love so much it hurts – sure you have heard that before – but for Jesus it was true, & that love, that forgiveness can be ours.

But first - always first – we need to move from being like Judas to being like Peter.

It is vital that we are born again & that Christ moves from being just a good man & inspired teacher to being Lord & Saviour. He is Lord - if isn’t He must be – NOW!

You see you can be in Church all your life & Jesus can easily just be a good man. If you find that hard to believe then take a closer look at Judas this Easter week.

Judas who was part of inner circle, accepted & trusted by all.

Oh it’s possible all right - Please get that relationship right today, then you too can be sure like Peter that when you fall - & I guarantee that you will – it will be into God’s hand’s.

The best part of that promise to Peter in Luke is this - when Luke writes

“Satan has demanded to have you . . .” he uses the plural in the Greek PAUSE it’s a promise not just to Peter but to all those disciples - to all of us.

I pray that we will tonight receive Him as Lord & that you will receive the forgiveness & blessing of God as we receive this communion. I pray that we will receive all we need this night to follow Him forever. I pray that there are lots of Peter’s here tonight - fallible but chosen, sinful but forgiven, fallen but held tight in God’s loving hand.