Judas and Peter

The last two mornings I have been impressed with the messages in the morning devotional book that I am reading this year. Nearly all of them the whole year have been deeply inspiring, but the last two selections brought into stark relief the contrast between the spirit and choices of Judas and Peter during their time with Jesus in the upper room during the last Passover.

First I will simply quote the relevant sections and then I want to come back and compare the two to learn things that I really need to hear and apply to my own heart.

The request of James and John to sit on the right and left of Christ’s throne had excited the indignation of the others. That the two brothers should presume to ask for the highest position so stirred the ten that alienation threatened. They felt that they were misjudged, that their fidelity and talents were not appreciated. Judas was the most severe upon James and John.

When the disciples entered the upper room, their hearts were full of resentful feelings. Judas pressed next to Christ on the left side; John was on the right. If there was a highest place, Judas was determined to have it, and that place was thought to be next to Christ. And Judas was a traitor.

Another cause of dissension had arisen. At a feast it was customary for a servant to wash the feet of the guests, and on this occasion preparation had been made for the service. The pitcher, the basin, and the towel were there, but no servant was present, and it was the disciples’ part to perform it. But each of the disciples, yielding to wounded pride, determined not to act the part of a servant. . . .

Looking at the disturbed countenances of His disciples, Christ rose from the table, and, laying aside His outer garment, which would have impeded His movements, He took a towel and girded Himself. . . .

Judas was the first whose feet Jesus washed. Judas had already closed the contract to deliver Jesus into the hands of the priests and scribes. Christ knew his secret. Yet He did not expose him. He hungered for his soul. His heart was crying, How can I give thee up? He hoped that His act in washing Judas’ feet would touch the heart of the erring disciple and save him from completing his act of disloyalty. And for a moment the heart of Judas thrilled through and through with the impulse then and there to confess his sin. But he would not humble himself. He hardened his heart against repentance. He made no remonstrance, no protestation against the Saviour thus humiliating Himself. He was offended at Christ’s act. If Jesus could so humble Himself, he thought, He could not be Israel’s king. . . .

Even Judas, had he repented, would have been received and pardoned. The guilt of his soul would have been washed away by the atoning blood of Christ. But, self-confident and self-exalted, cherishing a high estimate of his own wisdom, he justified his course. {CTr 262}

When Peter’s turn came, he was unable to restrain himself and exclaimed with astonishment, "Lord, are You washing my feet?". . .

Calmly Jesus replied, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." Feeling keenly the humiliation of his Lord, and filled with love and reverence for Him, Peter with great emphasis exclaimed, "You shall never wash my feet!"

Solemnly Jesus said to Peter, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."

A ray of light penetrated the mind of the disciple. He saw that the service that he refused was the type of a higher cleansing—the spiritual cleansing of mind and heart. He could not endure the thought of separation from Christ; that would have been death. “Not my feet only,” he said, “but also my hands and my head.”

Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean”. . .

Every person who came from the bath was clean, but the sandaled feet soon became dusty and again needed to be washed. So Peter and his brethren had been washed in the great fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. Christ acknowledged them as His. But temptation had led them into evil, and they still needed His cleansing grace. When Jesus girded Himself with a towel to wash the dust from their feet, He desired by this very act to wash the alienation, jealousy, and pride from their hearts. This was of far more consequence than the washing of their dusty feet. With the spirit they had then, not one of them was prepared . . . to partake of the Paschal supper or to share in the memorial service that Christ was about to institute. Their hearts must be cleansed. Pride and self-seeking create dissension and hatred, but all this Jesus washed away in washing their feet.

A change of feeling was brought about. Looking upon them, Jesus could say, “You are clean.” Now there was union of heart, love for one another. They had become humble and teachable. Except Judas, each one was ready to concede to another the highest place. . . .

Before the emblems of Christ’s broken body and shed blood are partaken of, every difference existing between brother and brother is to be removed. . . . We are to seek for a preparation to sit with Christ in His kingdom. {CTr 263} (emphasis mine and references updated)

What may be much more difficult for us to perceive since we were not among the disciples day in and day out during their private heated discussions and their maneuvering for position, was the fact that Judas was actually looked up to by all of the disciples as the most talented and capable person among them. From their experiences with him and the background that he brought to the group they had very little reason to suspect him of anything but the best motives for the success of the group.

In fact, it was most often Judas that was the greatest promoter of Jesus' popularity. It was Judas' idea to have Jesus crowned king after the feeding of the five thousand. And sometimes Judas could not contain his frustration over seeing Jesus repeatedly thwarting his efforts to promote their group and Jesus' standing among the people and in the eyes of the leaders. It seemed to Judas that Jesus was just too simplistic, too naïve, politically inept and in great need of a good manager. Judas considered himself to be that manager that had the talents and connections to guide Jesus to a successful career as a champion for the nation if he could just get Jesus to cooperate more often.

Because of their mistaken ideas about the Messiah (that were not really much different than many of our mistaken ideas yet today), the disciples tended to be easily influenced by the perspective of Judas more than that of Jesus. They were easily swayed into believing that Judas really did have a better public “sense” about him, was definitely more politically savvy than was Jesus, and so they were often led to believe that Jesus was in need of some changes in some of the directions that He took. They did not see things like we can from the perspective of knowing the outcome of the story. They were experiencing life with both Judas and Jesus in real time while also heavily influenced by the religious filters firmly in place over their minds and hearts and their confused ideas about what God is like.

These passages make it clear that Jesus was very focused on the condition of people's hearts and their spirit while the people themselves were usually much more concerned about the externals, the performance-based life and the relative positions that they could achieve socially. Their sense of value and importance (just like ours) was mainly founded upon what others thought about them socially and politically, not the inner connection and awareness of how God valued them. Thus they found themselves in the upper room filled with tension, pride and anxiety trying to figure out how to promote themselves to feel more important than anyone around them.

What disturbs me is that I can so easily see my own spirit reflected in these descriptions of how the disciples were feeling. If I am honest with myself I have to admit that I am self-seeking most of the time, I am more concerned about what others think about me than about the truth of how God views me. I am too addicted to the earthly kind of wisdom described in James 3 instead of having the wisdom from above. No wonder I feel so frustrated that I do not have the Holy Spirit in my life in a much greater measure. Unfortunately I may well be offended instead of transformed by the passion of God.

And yet even though all of these disciples were in this condition, Jesus still claimed them as His own and loved them to the end. What is even more astounding is the passionate longing and love demonstrated by Jesus toward Judas as revealed in these quotes. I just can't see myself yet being able to feel that kind of love toward someone I knew was going to do me in in just a few hours and turn against me despite all the love shown to them. Yet that is the kind of love that all of us are exposed to. The choice is always up to us as to how we are going to relate to it just as Judas and Peter had the choice of how to react to the intense demonstration of love that both of them encountered during these moments.

Something that really got my attention in this passage about Judas was the fact that he was actually strongly induced to reflect the humility that was being demonstrated to him by the actions and spirit of Jesus through how he was being treated. That is the nature of temptation – to reflect. But as can be seen here, not all temptations are bad. Judas was in effect being tempted by Jesus to humble himself, repent and synchronize with the kind of spirit and love that was being revealed to him.

But when love is resisted and spurned, another spirit is always ready and quick to take over the mind and heart and distort our perceptions of reality. This false spirit will then quickly cause us to view good as evil and evil as good through the subtle, enchanting power of deception. How quickly Judas was moved from the thrill of being loved to the bitterness and hatred of viewing Jesus as an impostor. This is none other than the overwhelming power of the father of lies who exploits every opportunity we give him to deceive us whenever we turn away from love and truth.

In contrast, Peter, who could easily have been thought of among the group as more likely to be suspect in his loyalty to Jesus than Judas in the eyes of the other disciples – Peter felt the same thrill of love in the humility that Judas observed but chose to surrender to it instead of resisting that love. It is amazing how powerful our own ability to choose can affect everything about us and around us in such a very short period of time. Everything in this story moved forward the way it did because of the choices that each person was making. The very same unconditional love was being shown to each of them, but the choice of what to do with it always lay with the person themselves.

As I consider the spirit that I see both in myself and many around me, I see the familiar signs of jealousy, alienation, pride and self-seeking. I can also see the fruits of these attitudes in the relationships I observe around and with me. It reminds me of the two kinds of wisdom that God showed me so clearly described in James 3 a few weeks ago. I am still under heavy conviction that much of the time I am depending on the worldly kind of wisdom more than the wisdom from above. And in that light it is frightening to realize that I well may have the spirit of Judas that could allow me to betray and resent those who love me and are seeking to draw me closer to God. For both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus that very night.

I need a new heart. I need a much deeper experience in salvation. I need a much deeper conversion like Peter began to experience in that room. I desperately need a close encounter with the love of Jesus Christ in my face showing me the heart of the Father. Jesus, save me!

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