Does the Resurrection of Jesus Offer You Hope?
No matter what you’ve done, what you believe makes all the difference between hope and despair
Jesus Came to Earth to Serve, to Die, and to Save
It’s safe to say that no one followed Jesus believing he would later be arrested and crucified. Rather most followed him because they believed he was the Christ — the one who would overthrow the Romans who ruled them.
They expected a conquering king.
Both Peter and Judas Iscariot probably believed that, since they came from Galilee where the belief was prevalent at the time. Just before the death of Jesus, both betrayed their friendships with him. What happened to each after that was very different. I will offer my opinion on why this was so.
Judas the Betrayer
There was a time when almost everyone in the Western world knew that Judas Iscariot was the disciple that betrayed Jesus to the Jewish high priests who wanted to kill him. The name “Judas” was synonymous with “traitor.” This may no longer be true, but it’s important to know that Judas did betray his friend.
Many commentators believe that Judas may have had pure motives in following Jesus at the beginning. Others believed he expected Jesus to become a powerful political figure and he was hoping to have a place of power along with him. Some of the other disciples had also argued about which would have the most influential position when Christ came into his kingdom but Jesus rebuked them and explained the greatest among them would be the servant of all. They didn’t like that idea much.
The Last Week of Jesus’ Life
Jesus and his disciples were in Bethany dining at the home of Simon, a leper Jesus had healed earlier. As Jesus sat at the table, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back to life, poured expensive ointment on Jesus’ head and feet.
By this time, Judas was already far from Jesus in his heart. He handled all the money for the disciples. He protested what Mary did as extravagant and said the money should have been given to the poor. As John records this, he notes Judas had become a thief. John insinuates that had the money been put in the treasury, Judas would have stolen some of it. He wasn’t really very concerned about the poor.
Jesus rebuked Judas for complaining. Instead, he commended Mary for preparing his body for burial. It had been this same Mary who had sat at Jesus’ feet, about four months before, conversing with him instead of helping Martha in the kitchen. Martha had complained about that. But again, Jesus praised Mary for choosing what was most important. Perhaps this extra time with Jesus gave Mary a greater understanding of his mission than the men had yet grasped.
In spite of all the references Jesus had made to his coming death and resurrection, the men were in denial. Peter had been the first of the disciples to confess that he believed Jesus was the Christ. Yet right after that Jesus told them he must suffer at the hands of the chief priests and they would have him executed, and he would rise again after three days. Peter began to chide him for saying this. Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan. You are only seeing this from a human point of view.”
Mary, on the other hand, must have accepted what Jesus said and realized things would happen fast once they got going. There would be no time to prepare the body for burial after Jesus died. Jesus also knew that when he praised Mary. It did turn out to be the only anointing for burial his body received.
There was already greed in the heart of Judas, and added to that was his disappointment that Jesus’ plans were different than he had hoped.
It was now a total loss to follow Jesus. So why not profit from the death Jesus had told them was ahead? He went to the chief priests and offered to tell them where to find Jesus away from the crowds — in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. That was enough to purchase a slave — not much.
Jesus Was Not Surprised by Judas’ Betrayal
Before his last meal with his disciples, known now as the Last Supper, Jesus had washed their feet and afterwards indicated all but one of them was now clean.
After resuming his place at the table, he indicated they should follow his example by serving one another and would be blessed if they did that — ‘but not all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.”’
Jesus explains he is telling them this ahead of time so that they will still believe he is the Christ. He then says that one of them will betray him. John 13 goes into more details on this if you want to read it. The passage below comes from Matthew 26: 20–25.
They were deeply distressed and began to say to him in turn, “Surely, Lord, I am not the one?” And his answer was “The man who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the man who will betray me. [They all had.] It is true that the Son of Man will follow the road foretold by the scriptures, but alas for the man through whom he is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” And Judas, who actually betrayed him, said, ‘“Master, am I the one?” ”As you say!” replied Jesus. (J.B. Phillips New Testament)
According to John’s account, Jesus dipped a morsel of bread and gave it to Judas, after which Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him to do quickly what he had planned to do. The others who heard this had no idea why Judas was leaving — perhaps to buy what they needed for the Passover.
But after he received the bread, he left and went out into the night. The others stayed and heard the last words Jesus would speak to them alone before he died.
Judas missed them. He was no longer a follower, but a traitor. We will hear what Judas missed when we tell Peter’s story below.
Jesus shared his thoughts with his disciples for the last time and prayed for them. Then they sang a hymn and retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus leaves them behind to pray by himself, he cautions his disciples to watch and pray so that they won’t be tempted, but instead, they fall asleep.
This is the last time the men will spend together before Jesus dies.
The next time we see Judas, he is in the garden betraying Jesus to the chief priests and soldiers. He kisses Jesus to identify him so the soldiers can arrest him. Many think Judas told the authorities where Jesus was because he thought the arrest might push Jesus to start the rebellion to take political power away from Rome.
We will never know his true motivation
What we do know is that according to Matthew 27: 3–10, when Judas realized they had condemned Jesus to death he repented of his actions and tried to return the silver he’d been paid.
He told the chief priests he had sinned by betraying innocent blood. They didn’t want it, and told him, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ He then threw the silver into the temple, left and commit suicide.
His lack of faith in Jesus and his failure to believe prevented him from seeing the victory of the resurrection which was to come. He had no hope.
Peter’s Offense Was Different
Peter did love Jesus, even when he didn’t want to accept his coming death. He didn’t see how what Jesus said about dying fit with what he’d always expected.
He wasn’t afraid to tell Jesus how he felt but yielded to Jesus’ authority.
He trusted Jesus as his Master and Lord even when he impulsively resisted having Jesus wash his feet or spoke against the idea that Jesus would be arrested and die.
When he told Jesus, “you will never wash my feet,” Jesus said if he didn’t, Peter would have no part in Him. So Peter said to wash not only his feet but also his head and hands. Jesus answered that since Peter had bathed, he was already clean, except for his feet, so that’s all that needed washing.
After the disciples had eaten their last supper together the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus tells Peter that Satan demanded to have him, to sift him like wheat, but ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.’ (RSV, Luke 22:31)
This lets Peter know that Jesus is in his corner. That even though Jesus knows Peter will fail him, it will be temporary.
Peter overestimates his own strength and tells Jesus he is ready to go with him to prison and death. But Jesus knows better and warns Peter that before the rooster crows in the morning he will deny he knows Jesus three times. In John’s account of this, Jesus tells the men that he is going where they will not be able to follow. As usual, Peter questions him, asking where he’s going and why he can’t follow him? Jesus replies he can follow him afterwards. This follows, paraphrased from John 13: 37:
Peter: Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will die for you.
Jesus: Will you really? Actually, the cock will not crow until you have denied me three times.
After they left the table, they all went to the garden, probably to Gethsemane, to pray. As Jesus leaves them behind to pray by himself, he cautions his disciples to watch and pray so that they won’t be tempted, but instead, they fall asleep. While they are in this garden, a place he often took his disciples, Judas leads the soldiers to him and they arrest Jesus and take him away.
Nevertheless, Peter had heard all Jesus said. He also knew Jesus had prayed for him.
When Jesus was later arrested, Peter tried to defend Jesus by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave, but Jesus told him to put his sword away and he restored the man’s ear. ‘Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ (John 18:10–11, RSV, )
Peter denies Jesus
As the soldiers led Jesus away, Peter and John followed to the courtyard of the high priest. Peter waited and warmed himself at the fire. While he was there, three different people asked him in different ways if he had been with Jesus. Each time he denied knowing him. Luke tells us that as Peter denied for the third time that he had been with Jesus, the rooster crowed, and the Lord turned to look at Peter, who then remembered his prediction. He went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22: 54–62).
Still, Peter knew Jesus had prayed for him and still loved him.
For God loved the world so much, he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life.(Paraphrase, John 3:16)
It was noon of that Friday after his arrest that they crucified Jesus. I won’t go into that here except to say that it fulfilled the Scriptures and Jesus had told his disciples it would happen. But he also told them he would rise again on the third day.
The resurrection story is familiar to almost every Christian. On the Sunday morning after Jesus died, some of the women who loved Jesus went together to the tomb to ointment the body. When they got there he was gone and the stone with which the Romans had sealed the grave had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. Angels met the women and explained Jesus had risen as he had said he would.
In Mark 16:7 the angels told the women at the tomb to tell the news to the disciples and Peter. They said Jesus would be going to Galilee and would meet them there.
I find it interesting that the angels especially wanted Peter to know Jesus had risen and was alive.
The women ran back to tell the disciples, who didn’t believe them. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves and also found it empty except for the grave clothes. Jesus made many appearances to them after that, but I will focus on only one here. You can read about all of them in the last chapters of the Gospels.
Peter Goes Fishing
Peter was with some other disciples by the Sea of Tiberias and told them he was going fishing. They all got in the boat but didn’t catch anything during the night.
At daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him. He asked if they’d caught anything, and they hadn’t. So he told them to put their nets on the right side of the boat. The nets got so full of fish the men could barely haul them in. John then recognized Jesus.
Peter was so excited to see Jesus he jumped into the water and swam to shore as the others returned in the boat.
As I read this, I remembered that way back around the time Peter began to follow Jesus, he had witnessed the same miracle. (Luke 5:1–11) Jesus had been preaching from Peter’s boat and afterwards, Jesus told him to go back to the deep water and let his nets down.
Peter did it, protesting as he did that they’d been fishing all night and had caught nothing. That time, too, they caught so many fish the men almost couldn’t bring them in. There were so many fish they had to call other boats to take some in order to avoid sinking. It was then he first realized that Jesus was the Lord and he himself just a sinful man.
He fell on his knees that day before Jesus and left everything to follow him. It seems on both occasions, Jesus revealed himself with fish, something Peter, James, and John knew well.
After Jesus had fixed breakfast for the men, which included some of the fish they’d caught, Jesus directly addresses Peter. He asks Peter three times if he loves him, and each time Peter says he does. Then Jesus tells him each time to feed his sheep. This is the last time:
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Peter: Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.
Jesus: Feed my sheep. . . . when you were young, you fastened your own clothes on and went where you pleased; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie up for you and your girdle and take you where you do not wish to go. . . . Follow me. (Paraphrase of John 21:17–19)
Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down. We know for sure he was martyred and probably crucified.
Before that happened, Peter shared with the world what the resurrection had meant to him.
Our Hope is Based on the Resurrection
After Jesus had risen and ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles when they were together on the Day of Pentecost. Peter then preached a powerful sermon about Jesus and the resurrection and thousands believed that day. After that, he had a widespread ministry during which he performed many miracles. He also wrote two letters to displaced Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia who were being persecuted for their faith. He wanted to encourage them. In the first part of his first letter to them shared his own hope.
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now . . . you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Peter had denied Christ three times.
Even though he had recognized Jesus as the Son of God he didn’t expect that he would be a suffering servant. He had expected a conquering king. While Jesus was in the tomb Peter was probably trying to reexamine his whole faith. He had also lost his closest friend. So he was grieving and he was doubting everything he’d believed. His world was falling apart. But then he heard Jesus had risen. He raced to the tomb to see for himself. He was not afraid to see Jesus again, but he was instead eager.
In John 6 Jesus had fed five thousand people miraculously with five loaves and two fish and later called himself the Bread of Life. Many thought things he said that day were over the top and they stopped following him. Jesus turned to his chosen twelve and asked them, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ Peter replied
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.
Peter had not been strong enough to resist temptation when Jesus was arrested, but he still knew Jesus was his Lord. He’d had to change his ideas about what that meant, but after the resurrection, Jesus sought him out so that their full relationship could be restored. And he gave Peter a job — to teach and care for the other believers.
The promised Holy Spirit came to continue to teach and empower him.
The resurrection had given Peter a hope that his relationship with Jesus would indeed last forever. God’s power was now guarding him through faith for a salvation that would be completely revealed at the end. There was also an inheritance nothing could destroy waiting for him in heaven.
What Was the Difference Between Judas and Peter?
Both started following Jesus with a mistaken idea about who he was and what he planned to do. Both expected him to become a conquering King of the Jews.
When Judas discovered he’d been wrong about who Jesus was, he could not get past it. We learned from the Gospel writers he was greedy and a thief. That opened the door for Satan.
Perhaps he thought he was fooling Jesus, though in the end, he realized Jesus was way ahead of him.
Perhaps he thought his betrayal would manipulate Jesus into becoming a king after all but he hadn’t learned that God couldn’t be manipulated for his own ends.
It appears Judas wanted to use Jesus to advance his own position rather than letting Jesus use him to help serve others.
He didn’t really want to get to know and love Jesus. He loved himself most of all.
Jesus knew what choices Judas would make, but until the end, he reached out to him in love. That morsel he’d given Judas at the last supper represented intimate friendship. Judas had spurned it. When he realized what would happen to Jesus after his betrayal, he couldn’t face himself anymore.
He saw no way to redeem himself. The priests didn’t care and wouldn’t help him. He did not believe he would see Jesus again. He didn’t believe in the resurrection. So he chose to die rather than to live with his guilt. There was no resurrection hope for him. He never let himself see it.
His unbelief kept him from receiving all Jesus died to give him.
By the time Peter learned he was mistaken, he had gotten to know Jesus well and had recognized he was God’s Christ, the Messiah. He knew he was a sinful man in the presence of God and that only Jesus could help him. He was learning more about God’s character every day that he spent with Jesus.
He was not afraid to be honest with Jesus. He told Jesus how he felt about things. And he valued their relationship above anything else.
After he denied knowing Jesus, Peter grieved and felt bitter against himself. But he could remember that Jesus had warned him of what would happen and had prayed for him. Jesus had looked at him after he failed. I’m quite sure that look reminded him Jesus had known all along what he would do.
But when Jesus warned him, he had also mentioned that he would turn again and strengthen his brothers in the faith. Jesus hadn’t rejected him.
There was still hope. The Resurrection fulfilled it. It brought a new day and a new life.
The difference between Judas and Peter was that Judas never developed faith in Jesus and never recognized who he really was. He didn’t cultivate their relationship enough to really get to know his heart. When Jesus didn’t meet his expectations and instead made it clear he would do the will of his Father, Judas lost any belief he may have had.
Peter loved Jesus above all else and wanted to remain with him. He recognized that knowing Jesus was eternal life. Jesus had even said so in his prayer at the end of their last meal together — a prayer Judas missed. The resurrection of Jesus had given him a living hope to keep him going until he finally claimed his inheritance in heaven. He knew that God’s power would guard him until that time came.
The resurrection of Jesus offers hope to anyone who believes, no matter what they’ve done. As Paul later said in his letter to the Romans,
. . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (ESV)
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