The Power of Forgiveness, The Doom of Remorse
Consider the vastly different ends to the lives of Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. Both were hung on trees, but only one of them was hung (and crucified head-down) for Christ’s sake.
As one of the Twelve, Judas would have known Jesus and His teachings intimately, witnessing firsthand the unfolding of His ministry of love, self-sacrifice, and revelation. Though Jesus foreknew Judas’ betrayal, His choice of Judas as one of the Twelve was not tainted with failure, it is simply a formidable example of Jesus allowing anyone, along with their imperfections (no matter how severe), the opportunity to follow Him.
Despite Judas’ penchant to pursue his own will (ultimately to his doom) he was offered and afforded numerous occasions to repent, and though his final doom was an inevitability so that Scripture would be fulfilled (John 13:18), there is also Scriptural proof that Judas’ own free will was not violated(1). Moreover, his wretched choices were made even after being advised and warned of his evil intentions and ill fate.
This brings us to the question of Judas’ damnation or salvation. Matthew 27:3-5 reveals that when he saw Jesus being taken to Pilate, Judas regretted his betrayal, but he did not repent.And his immediate actions indicate that he remained unsaved from damnation, for in his guilt he returns the blood money he had accepted and then hangs himself. He never asks for mercy or to be forgiven. Such is the conduct of a despairing guilt-ridden conscience and anguishing spirit, not a renewed conscience and forgiven spirit. Even Judas’ admission “I have sinned” is not a confession to faith, it is merely an accurate observation. Also, during one of Jesus’ prayers to His Father He refers to Judas as “the son of perdition” (John 17:12), meaning one who is headed toward destruction and personal ruin. Although His prayer was prophetic in nature, Jesus’ foreknowledge did not rob Judas of his self-determination; Judas’ own actions continually confirmed his own rebellion.
In contrast to Judas there is Simon Peter, who chose to pursue Christ in spite of his own obstinacy. Peter discerns early in his discipleship that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but stumbles habitually through being directly influenced by Satan and rebuking Jesus, denying any association with Jesus, cutting off the ear of a high priest’s servant, and failing to watch and pray during Jesus’ most critical hour of need(2).
Yet where Judas failed, Peter excelled in that he placed his faith in the Person of Christ rather than in himself or an ideal. And Peter never lost sight of Who Jesus was or the salvation Jesus offered, humbly owning his personal flaws and striving to grow in Christ’s grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18)(3). Herein, Peter remained free of the shackles of remorse. In the fullness of his time, the apostle Peter accomplished his mission for the Kingdom and gave his life by taking up his own cross and dying upon it.