By Zach Goodrow
Easter commands public attention. From cheap, consumer-minded, brightly dressed followers of Churchianity, to blood-bought followers of the One True King, any culture that has been influenced by Christianity pauses for a moment to take a breath of religious air from Christian’s most sacred holiday.
It should be this way. We have a holiday where we are celebrating the resurrection of our God. The same God who, by the way, is the author of life and death, and yet died on some obscure Jewish holiday in some backwater colony in the Roman Empire. It is absurd, from a worldly point of view, to think that some teacher from Galilee would die and come back to life, and that people would not only believe it, but also celebrate it 2,000 years later.
A holiday that bizarre naturally draws eyes and raises eyebrows. Those aren’t the only reactions to the holy day, however. Hatred, confusion, annoyance, excitement, and apathy all rise in different people’s hearts between March 21st and April 25th. In reality though, there are only two responses to Jesus’ resurrection: hubris or humility.
To cement this point, we can look at two men who were crucial players in the Passion narrative, both of whom had drastically different and eternally sealing reactions to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Judas sold Christ, his Messiah and his friend, to the enemy for 30 pieces of silver. He accepted Christ’s washing of his feet and sharing of the Passover meal, and decided that the King’s ransom was only worth a couple hundred dollars. He sealed the deal with a kiss and ran free with his money from the place that was supposed to make him right with God.
But he woke up. And before we think that we are above Judas, let us not forget that Jesus warned that we cannot love God and money during the Sermon on the Mount, not the Upper Room. That is, he told this to the crowds, not just his disciples.
Judas snaps out of his Satanic semi-slumber and his legs began to tremor under the weight of his guilt.
So he did everything in his power to make things right. He tried to return the money. As it turned out the Pharisees weren’t too fond of the appearance of uncleanliness, so they denied him. And so he’s left with bloody money and a bloodier conscious. He threw the money on the ground, and in a final and desperate act of pride-fueled repentance he fled the room and killed himself.
“So he did everything in his power to make things right.”
Peter denied Christ, his Messiah and his friend, in front of three different people when Jesus was in his most desperate hour. He boldly claimed he would follow Christ anywhere he went, and ignored his King when Jesus told him otherwise. Always quick to speak, he sealed the deal with a curse and a lie only to hear the rooster crow while he gazed upon his Savior’s bloody face.
The rooster cry brought him out of his selfish slumber and he understood at once that the only thing he could do was go back to Jesus’ people. After he wept, he spent the next two days with the disciples, with his legs trembling under the weight of his guilt.
Lest we be too harsh on Peter, we must not forget that Jesus cautioned that anyone who denies him in front of man will be denied by him in front of the Father, and he spoke that warning to the disciples. His followers. Christians.
So what’s the difference between these two men other than their earthly outcome? Peter and Judas both betrayed a man they loved and who loved them far more than either of them could ever understand. Both went against a divine warning in pursuit of selfish gain, and both men were fully infected with guilt over what they had done. Both men were betrayers.
The bisection between the betrayers is who bore their guilt. Judas did everything in his power to rid himself of the sin stain that saturated his spirit and it ultimately cost him his soul. Peter ran to the empty tomb of his beloved Messiah and it ultimately cost him his life.
See, Christian, that both men were guilty and deserved to be damned. One tried to rid himself of damnation on his own. The other understood that only Jesus could take away the sentence of his soul. What the resurrection meant for both betrayers is that their eternity was secured. One to hell, the other to heaven.
And that is exactly why their story matters to us. We are the betrayers, in case the parallels weren’t clear enough. Let me be explicit. We are simultaneously Judas and Peter. We have betrayed our Savior to save face and to save money and we are the guilty party in the story.
So what is our response? There are many things the Passion narrative makes clear, but one of them is that if we try to bear the weight of our sin against the Son we will perish in anguish. But the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus means that we no longer have to be crushed under the mound of guilt. Where Peter and Judas trembled under the pressure of their own guilt, Jesus stands tall with all of it on his back and proclaims, “It is finished!”
Our response should be like Peter’s. We should return to Jesus’ friends. We run to the empty tomb. We should jump out of the boat when Jesus calls our name and sit around the fire as he asks us if we love him. For Peter, the resurrection meant that his betrayal had been paid for and covered by the the Lamb of God. For Judas, the resurrection meant that his betrayal demanded that he owed the Lion of Judah an eternal debt through which he could only pay through eternal separation from the one he called friend.
The resurrection means that we, though we are betrayers, can have a place at the table with the Son. Because he lives, we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace. Because he lives, we can know that our debts are paid. Because he lives, we will see Peter again, and he will tell us the story of two betrayers. He’ll explain the cost of betraying God, but we will worship when he pronounces who picked up the check.
Soli Deo Gloria