Seeing and loving Jesus

PROFESSIONS OF FAITH

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series by the Rev. Dr. James Barnes. The first writing appeared in the Saturday, Dec. 9, edition of The Sentinel.

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Judas is the greatest tragedy in human history because of the opportunity that he squandered. Because he had this unparalleled privilege, he was greedy, materialistic, earthly, motivated by his desire for riches and self-promotion. Those desires were so strong that they smothered the reality of who he was with for three years. So strong were they that he ignored the truth.

Judas went to hell on purpose. One might say he loved himself too much, rejected salvation too often and resented Christ too strongly.

What a waste, what an end.

Peter

Go back to chapter 26:30. They sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives. In v.31, Jesus said, “You will all stumble, you will all trip up, you will all fall away because of me this night,” and he quoted Zechariah 13:7, “I will strike down the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.”

Jesus was saying they would all deny and betray him. But then Jesus added, “After I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” That means their defection would be temporary — not like Judas, his was forever.

This gave Peter an opportunity to boast in v.33, “I will never fall away.” He was adamant. So Jesus told him on that very night before the rooster crows, he would deny him three times. Roosters crow about 3 a.m. Peter said, “No, even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” Then all the disciples began to say the same thing.

Jesus had warned Peter.

On another occasion, Peter said “No, no, no Lord, you are not going to die,” and Jesus responded, “Get behind me, satan.” Sure enough, it happened. In v.69, while the trial is going on, a servant girl went up to him and said, “You were with Jesus.” Peter denied him. He said, “I don’t what you are talking about.”

When Peter went to the gateway to escape the light of the fire, another servant girl saw him and said, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” This time he denies it with an oath, “I don’t know this man.”

A little later, bystanders came up to him and said, “Surely you, too, are one of them.” Then Peter began to curse and swear and said, “I do not know this man!” And then a rooster crows!

Judas couldn’t deal with the guilt of his betrayal. He felt remorse. He felt guilt. He felt sadness and sorrow that was so overwhelming he killed himself. What about Peter, did he kill himself?

He hadn’t done it for money, but he did the same thing. In a sense, he, too, was saying this isn’t Christ. But v.75 says when Peter remembered the words of Jesus about the rooster crowing, he went out and wept bitterly.

What was different between Judas and Peter? Something unique happened that we need to understand.

Luke 22:61 says that as Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest, hiding in the shadows, and Jesus is being tried, the Lord turned and looked at Peter, eye to eye. When Judas’ and Jesus’ eyes met in the darkness of the garden, Judas kissed him with a kiss of hate and hypocrisy. When Peter’s eyes met the eyes of Jesus, he was crushed, devastated and broke down in tears of repentance.

A crushing sadness led Judas to suicide without repentance. A crushing sadness led Peter to restoration with repentance. The difference was the way they looked at Jesus. The difference was the way they responded to Jesus. For Judas, the vision of Christ drew him to suicide. For Peter, the vision of Christ drew him to repentance. For Peter ,the vision of Christ drew him to heaven. For Judas, the vision of Christ drew him to hell. What was the difference? Peter loved Jesus.

What does it mean to be a Christian? The difference is love for Christ. How you view Christ will determine your heaven or hell.

How could this have happened to Peter? Well, he prayed too little. He boasted too much. He acted too fast. He followed too far off. But grace was operating in Peter’s life because he loved Jesus. That is the compelling attitude of a true believer.

I Cor. 16:22 says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be damned.”

Look at your heart. Do you love Christ? Do you desire to please him, exalt him, honor him, worship him and commune with him? Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Let me say something very important. Sin and guilt do not produce true repentance. They may produce sorrow and sadness, and it can be so severe that people kill themselves because they can’t bear the consequences of their sin. But the horror of Judas’ sin didn’t make him repent. And the horror of Peter’s sin didn’t make him repent. The weight and horror of your sin is not enough to make you repent.

What makes the sinning, guilt-ridden soul repent is seeing and loving Jesus. Peter loved Jesus and believed him with all his heart. He believed He was the Son of God. That is the mind of a saved soul. So two men, two students, two preachers indistinguishable to their close friends; one is a suicide, one is a saint. One is in heaven and one is in hell.

Judas was a devil who went to his own place, the place he deserved. Peter was a saint who went to a place prepared for him, a place he did not deserve. Ephesians 6:24 says, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” Let me ask it again. Do you love him? Do you love Him so much that you long to honor him, to please him, to exalt him, to lift up his name, to obey his word, to proclaim him? That is the mark of a true believer.

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The Rev. Dr. James Barnes is currently the pastor of White Memorial Church in Milroy.

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