Remorse, Repentance, and Forgiveness

Remorse, Repentance, and Forgiveness

Matthew 26:69-27:10

“And he went out and wept bitterly”

 

            As the trial of Jesus now takes center stage in the writings of Matthew, Matthew moves from the center stage to two bystanders:  Peter and Judas.  As we read the narrative of Jesus’ arrest and trial, the unexpected focus on Peter and Judas seems to be an intrusion. However, Matthew moves from the center stage to these individuals to give us an example of the essential difference between repentance and regret.

            First, he focuses on Peter.  We know the story well.  Peter is lurking in the shadows to see what would happen to Jesus in the trial.  While all the other disciples fled and hid in fear, Peter remained in the shadows to discover what would occur.  As he was standing outside the palace of Caiaphas, Peter was confronted by several servant-girls and bystanders who recognized him as a follower of Jesus. Consequently, they confronted Peter and questioned him about his involvement with Jesus.  For Peter, these were not mere questions; they were a threat.  If people identify Peter as one of the disciples, he would be at risk of being arrested and put on trial to suffer the same fate as Jesus.  This threat was real, and the danger was real. Therefore, we can understand Peter’s fear and anxiety.  Yet it was also an opportunity for Peter to defend Jesus and testify of Jesus’ innocence publically.  But fear overcame loyalty.  Consequently, Peter betrayed Jesus by denying any affiliation with him. 

            Matthew then turns our attention to another betrayer: Judas.  When Judas realized that they were not merely arresting Jesus but were demanding his death, the total weight of his actions descended upon him.  Judas, disillusioned with Christ, saw the opportunity to make some money.  He did not realize the full depth of his consequences.  As a result, he was overcome with remorse.  He realized that he had betrayed a friend, and the guilt so overwhelmed him that he went out and committed suicide.

            To a certain degree, both Peter and Judas committed the same sin.  Both betrayed their loyalty to Jesus.  While Judas actively contributed to the arrest and crucifixion, Peter passively contributed to his arrest and crucifixion by failing to be a witness to testify on behalf of Jesus.  Judas committed a sin of commission.  Peter committed a sin of omission. Both suffered deep remorse for their acts.  So what was different?

            The difference was not in degree but in response.  Both regretted their actions.  Both were deeply crushed by the weight of the consequences of their actions.  Both had their actions foretold by Jesus.  The difference was in their response, and it is this difference that is crucial to our understanding of the gospel.  The difference is the distinction between repentance and regret.   

            Judas deeply regretted his actions.  When he realized the result, he was overcome with remorse. When he discovered the consequences of his actions, he was deeply sorry.  Regret refers to a deep sadness due to something done or experienced.  It is to be deeply ashamed.  However, this is different from the word repentance, which means changing your mind and life.  Judas was sorry for his actions but unrepentant.

            Peter, in his weeping and sorry, repented of his sin.  He realized the depth of what he had done.  While Judas’ guilt drove him to suicide, Peter’s guilt drove him back to Christ.  We see two different responses to sin by looking at these two individuals.  The one regrets the action; the other repents of his action.  The difference between these two responses determines our eternal destiny.  It is one thing to feel bad for what we have done and regret our actions; it is another to repent and change.  One leads to death, and the other leads to life.  The one acknowledges Christ, and the other leads to a complete surrender to Christ.  We are just like Judas and Peter.  Daily, we deny Christ by pursuing sin.  The critical issue is found in our response.  Do we merely regret our actions and continue to live as we please, or do we repent, seek Christ’s forgiveness,  and fully surrender to Christ? 

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