A Tale of Two ‘Disciples’

Some may have read the book by Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”. It’s a story of betrayal but also magnanimous love and commitment.

There is another story with similar overtones written not 200 but 2000 years ago. It’s the story of two different disciples. They were Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. They were both called by Jesus to be His disciples. (Mark 3:14-19) Both of these men sinned against their Lord. But like the 2 thieves on the cross their lives followed totally different pathways. We can learn from what’s written about them.

Like Peter, Judas saw the character and the miracles of Jesus, was attracted to Him, and no doubt believed that He was the promised Messiah. But instead of listening to Jesus about the timing of God’s Kingdom, Judas wanted to hasten this event. He was a man with ambitions. He wanted to force God’s hand. He saw God’s Kingdom as being a time of power and prosperity. There are recorded in the gospels times when he was very ‘close’ with money. (John 12:4-6) Perhaps this was an indicator of where his heart really lay.

Lest we feel superior and judgmental of Judas we need to remember that he was directly called by The Master Himself. (Mark 3:14-19) That means that he had wonderful opportunities of becoming a humble follower and sharer of the gospel. He told the Jewish leaders the whereabouts of Jesus, thinking that this would ‘force’ God’s hand. In his mind it would cause Jesus to assert himself and thus claim His rightful kingdom. Judas had grandiose ambitions and as far as he was concerned, Jesus was his way of achieving this. There could be a warning for us there. Beware of human emotion and grandiose sentiment.

Peter, on the other hand, was also directly called by Jesus himself. He also had an ambitious personality. He didn’t want to hear about Jesus ultimate humiliation and death. Jesus had to rebuke him severely for harboring such secret thoughts. (Matt.16:23) His sin was not only harboring secret ambitions, it was in denying his Lord with swearing and cursing. (Matt.26:69-75) This was no small thing and led to Peter’s utter humiliation. Jesus, however, saw the honesty in Peter’s heart and knew that this humiliation would ultimately strengthen and ennoble this man.

In some ways Peters sin was greater than Judas’. His humiliation led him to a total surrender at the feet of his Master. Judas, on the other hand, allowed his humiliation to destroy himself. This need not have been. He, like Peter, could have humbled his soul under the hand of God and went on to become a warrior for God. There are lessons in these 2 men’s lives.

We are all sinners. We all make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes and the ensuing guilt is what determines our eternal destiny. God is gracious. His love for us is greater than we can ever comprehend. The gift of His Son shows us this clearly. We need to come to God and thank Him for His love and His grace, not because of what we are, but in spite of what we are. Whether we are in a state of joyous victory, or what may be a state of terrible struggle within our sinful nature, we can say with confidence, “Thank-you Lord for being my Friend and my Saviour.” Even when we fail Him, we still need to utter those words. It is important that we go to God just as we are at any given time, in whatever state we are in. “Today” is our chosen time. Jesus alone is our victory.

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