Last night I said I wanted to talk about the different characters we learn about in the crucifixion story. Judas, Peter, the thief, and the centurion they all have a story to tell. Maybe one of these stories is similar to your own, I know I can relate to all of them in some way. Like Judas I betrayed my Lord, like Peter I denied him, like the thief I broke God’s laws, and like the centurion I followed the world and it’s ways. But one glorious day I found hope; my heart broke with regret and remorse, leading me to repentance and ultimately to the hope I have today in my Lord and Savior Christ.
Let’s start with Judas, the betrayer. Here was a man who was a follower of Jesus, he was a trusted friend, yet for 30 pieces of silver he sold our Lord and his soul. 30 pieces of silver, that’s like $600. That’s what serving the Lord was worth to this man consumed with greed, with lust for money. 30 pieces of silver was all it took to allow the devil to have control of his life, to turn his heart and soul from the only one who could save them. Jesus knew he what Judas would do and repeatedly we see him giving him the opportunity to repent of his deeds but alas Judas was consumed with the guilt for what he’d done, with remorse but he never sought repentance with the Lord, never sought forgiveness from the one he had betrayed. Instead his story ends terribly with him taking his own life. That’s what pride, vanity and greed get us. Let’s read his story.
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said, What are ye willing to give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to deliver him unto them. Matthew 26:14-16
And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went away, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might deliver him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he consented, and sought opportunity to deliver him unto them in the absence of the multitude. Luke 22:3-6
And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, John 13:2
Now when even was come, he was sitting at meat with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began to say unto him every one, Is it I, Lord? And he answered and said, He that dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth, even as it is written of him: but woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had not been born. And Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Is it I, Rabbi? He saith unto him, Thou hast said. Matthew 26:20-25
And they began to question among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in the spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. The disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. There was at the table reclining in Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoneth to him, and saith unto him, Tell us who it is of whom he speaketh. He leaning back, as he was, on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus therefore answereth, He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him. So when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. And after the sop, then entered Satan into him. Jesus therefore saith unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. John 13:21-27
Arise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that betrayeth me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he: take him. And straightway he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Rabbi; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, do that for which thou art come. Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. Matthew 26:46-50
But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? Luke 22:47-48
Now Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus oft-times resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received the band of soldiers, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon him, went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, was standing with them. When therefore he said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Again therefore he asked them, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: that the word might be fulfilled which he spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I lost not one. John 18:2-9
Then Judas, which betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to it. And he cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver, and said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price; and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me. Matthew 27:3-10
Brethren, it was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and received his portion in this ministry. (Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, The field of blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be made desolate, And let no man dwell therein: and, His office let another take. Acts 1:16-20
As we read the sad story of Judas we see that his end was, well it was bad. Matthew simply tells us he hanged himself; driven to seek his own death by his regret and remorse. But in Acts we learn the rest of the story we learn that after his death he hung in the hot Judean sun so long that when his robe broke or he was cut down that he fell headlong to the ground and his guts burst spilling out his innards. Had he only repented then maybe his story would have had a better ending; one more like Peter’s perhaps.
See Peter denied Jesus 3 times the night of his trial and torture. 3 times he said he never knew the Lord. Just as Jesus had said he would, all before the cock crowed in the morn. Peter thought no way would he ever do this but fear is a powerful thing, makes us do things we often regret. But in Peters case the regret turned to deep remorse which led to true repentance as we see in that beautiful beach seen around the fire after the Resurrection when Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him, once for every denial. And we see the moment it finally sinks in that because of his repentance, his deep heart felt remorse that Jesus sees he is truly sorry and he let’s him know all is well, Feed my sheep he tells his friend.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended in me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee. But Peter answered and said unto him, If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith unto him, Even if I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Matthew 26:31-35
Now Peter was sitting without in the court: and a maid came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilaean. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and saith unto them that were there, This man also was with Jesus the Nazarene. And again he denied with an oath, I know not the man. And after a little while they that stood by came and said to Peter, Of a truth thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, I know not the man. And straightway the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:69-75
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also come with thee. They went forth, and entered into the boat; and that night they took nothing. But when day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach: howbeit the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore saith unto them, Children, have ye aught to eat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his coat about him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits off), dragging the net full of fishes. So when they got out upon the land, they see a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now taken. Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, the net was not rent. Jesus saith unto them, Come and break your fast. And none of the disciples durst inquire of him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus cometh, and taketh the bread, and giveth them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. So when they had broken their fast, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again a second time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Tend my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. John 21:3-19
I just love that passage in John telling of how he forgave Peter, how all was made right through Jesus’ love and Peter’s repentance. Through the stories of these 2 disciples, followers of Christ, we begin to see the world. One chose it, following Satan where he led, even unto a brutal and gruesome final end alone. The other however truly knew and loved the Lord, he realized his mistake, he repented of it and that made all the difference. Peter wasn’t the only one forgiven through this story though. No there was one more. The thief that died beside our sweet Savior.
His story is short, but in so many ways it is just like ours. We don’t know anything about him other than that he was a thief and he professes to deserve his punishment which leads me to think he wasn’t a good guy caught in a bad situation. No, I think he was a bad guy who meets the good guy and knows the truth in the end. His story is hard for me, I see a lot of myself in him. But like that thief I came to know my Lord and Savior and through the regret. remorse and repentance that knowing brought I am forgiven. I have hope that one day I will see my sweet Lord in paradise. I’ll get to meet that thief too. Let’s read his story.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, Art not thou the Christ? save thyself and us. But the other answered, and rebuking him said, Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise. Luke 23:39-43
And finally we come to the centurion. We don’t know his final fate, I like to belief I will meet him one day in heaven but we aren’t told that part of his story. What we are told is that after what he witnessed in that long, painful, earth shattering, earth changing day was enough to begin to open his eyes. For he sees the truth that truly Jesus is the Son of God.
Now the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, feared exceedingly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. Matthew 27:54
And when the centurion, which stood by over against him, saw that he so gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. Mark 15:39
And when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. Luke 23:47
Think about your own life? We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are all guilty. Just like Judas we betray God, just like Peter we deny him, just like the thief we break his laws, and just like the centurion we serve the world.
But we don’t have to. Because Jesus was obedient unto the cross, because he died that day so long ago for the forgiveness of the sins of the world, all of them, mine, yours, the thief’s, Peter’s, we have hope today. We can be forgiven just like Peter and the the thief. Or we can continue to embrace our sin, allow it to control and rule us, and eventually collect the just wages of our choices. Death. Just like Judas. Maybe you’re the centurion. You’re eyes are opened, you see the truth, you can’t deny it any longer – but your holding back, riding the fence, waiting. Please do not wait too long. You know the truth, accept it and the free gift of grace that Jesus offers with it. Let Jesus know you regret your sins, all of them, and are sorry you sinned and that he had to die for those sins. Then ask him to come into your heart and cleanse those sins away, ask him to wash you white as snow with his precious blood. Repent and allow Jesus to make you into a new person, transformed, made whole. Embrace the hope that Peter and that thief found, the hope that I found. Call on Christ as your Lord and Savior, welcome him in, enter into the relationship he longs to have with you. Enter grace, enter hope!
May God bless and keep you brothers and sisters.