John 18:15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. 19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. ESV
One of the first words of Jesus’s ministry was “repent.” Jesus told his best friends at their inner circle supper just a few chapters earlier that one of them would betray him. “Simon Peter motioned to this disciple [Jesus loved] and said, ask him which one he means.”a All but one man in that small group probably heaved a sigh of misplaced relief when Jesus revealed the identity of the betrayer; it’s Judas – it’s not me!
Later when Peter stood outside the courtyard where Jesus had been taken, the other disciple “known to the high priest,” used his credentials to bring him into another inner circle place where his misplaced relief of innocence became his misspoken words of denial – “I am not.” Peter surely heard those words of betrayal from his own mouth and realized they belied the innocence he’d been so sure of earlier…because it was him!
Judas is the one we usually condemn as the guilty betrayer. He betrayed Jesus to the guards and Pharisees. That’s Gospel truth. Peter’s denial of Jesus was for a different reason and to a different crowd but it was betrayal too. That is also Gospel truth. Judas and Peter both came to recognize any relief they might have felt about their innocence was misplaced. Both felt the anguish of the guilt of their betrayal, but only Peter had the courage to face Jesus, confront his denial, repent and accept forgiveness. God has chosen those startling similarities and that one big difference between the experiences of Judas and Peter to remind me this Lenten season of something important about innocence and repentance.
We are human. We cannot escape the results of that brokenness. It’s easy to accept misplaced relief as the standard of innocence when it’s clear someone else is guilty. We excuse misspoken words as something other than betrayal because judging intent is easier than admitting guilt. I think the comparison of Judas and Peter has revealed another Gospel truth; repentance is not about relying on innocence, it’s about seeking purity. Jesus offers so much more than innocence. We have a Savior who promises to receive the pitiful offerings of misplaced relief and misspoken words into His own heart as an act of repentance from a human heart that longs for true purity.