What’s the difference between repentance and remorse? The two are similar, but there is a subtle difference that’s important to salvation.
When Jesus walked among men, He had many followers. Crowds gathered when they knew He was coming, just to see Him. Sometimes people would bring loved ones who were in need of healing, and Jesus was always willing to heal. Aside from the crowds that gathered around Him, there were twelve men whom Jesus chose especially to walk close to Him.
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him“ (Matthew 10:2-4).
Scripture is silent on some of these men but others we learn quite a bit about. Matthew had been a tax collector and he wrote a Gospel. John had been a fisherman and we learn many lessons from his writings. Peter wrote letters and had a strong personality. Another one was Judas Iscariot. What a sad way to be remembered: “… and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.”
It’s hard to understand how Judas could have betrayed Jesus. Just like the other eleven men, he followed Christ and heard what He said and saw what He did. Jesus healed lepers, restored sight to the blind, cast demons out of people, and raised people from the dead. Judas saw all of these things, yet he betrayed the Lord who was the only one who could offer him salvation.
Did Jesus know that Judas wouldn’t be a true follower? Of course He did. Judas was the subject of prophecy.
“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD“ (Zechariah 11:12-13).
This foretold that the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver; and that’s exactly how much Judas was paid. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, but He still called him and gave him a chance to change.
Judas had shown signs of his low character all along. Money was important to him; and he resented it when he thought anything of value was wasted, such as expensive oil:
Jesus spent time with a man named Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. They had been friends for a long time, and Jesus had once raised Lazarus from the dead. Can you imagine the joy and gratitude Mary and Martha felt? Sometime after that, Jesus went to visit, and they had dinner together. Martha served the meal, but Mary worshipped Jesus.
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein“ (John 12:3-6).
The disciples knew Judas was a thief, but none of them confronted him or tried to get him to change his ways. Not only was Judas a thief, but he resented the worship that Mary gave to Jesus. Eventually Judas committed the ultimate betrayal. The Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus, and Judas decided to help them.
“Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16).
Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled through Judas. Jesus had one final meal with His disciples; but the time had come, and Jesus told Judas to go and do what he had to do. Jesus knows everyone and He knew Judas wasn’t a true follower, but He had given him the same opportunity as He gave to the other 11 men. Judas chose to follow the way of destruction.
“And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him“ (John 13:2).
Though he walked with Jesus, it was Satan who Judas truly followed. Prophecy had to be fulfilled, and Jesus willingly laid down His life as a sacrifice to be for our sins—The Lamb of God that takes away sin and not just covers them.
When dinner was over, Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray. He knew what was about to happen and asked Peter, James, and John to stay with Him. While Jesus prayed in agony, those three men slept. They woke up too late.
“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also which betrayed him, stood with them“ (John 18:3-5).
Jesus was arrested, illegally tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. This all fulfilled prophecy. If Jesus hadn’t died, He wouldn’t have gained victory over death.
Judas had some remorse about his betrayal of Jesus. “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that“ (Matthew 27:3-4).
The Greek word metamelomai is translated “repented himself.” This word means Judas was sorry for the result of his sin, but had no brokenness for committing the sin. All the remorse he felt couldn’t change what his action had taken.
“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself“ (Matthew 27:5).
Judas has an eternity to regret his actions. Had he truly repented, Jesus would have forgiven him. Too often we commit sin, but like Judas we don’t truly repent. We just feel sorry that sin had a bad result.
Peter also followed Jesus. It’s hard not to identify with Peter who was rash and enthusiastic; but when his faith was tested, he denied Jesus. Jesus knew what Peter’s ultimate choice would be, just as He knew what Judas would choose. It was Peter who was on a boat with the other disciples in the middle of the sea being tossed about. Jesus had stayed on the shore but walked on the water to join them. Peter was full of amazement and asked to join Jesus on the water.
What a sight that must have been! The waves billowing, the wind blowing, and Peter walking on the water to meet Jesus. Then Peter looked at the problem and took his eyes off of Jesus.
“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried, saying, Lord, save me“ (Matthew 14:30).
Of course, Jesus did save him. The other disciples must have been amused, and I especially wonder what Judas thought. Did he mock Peter? This wasn’t the last of Peter’s rash actions which were followed by seeming failure. Once Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was. Oh, there were lots of ideas. Then Jesus made it personal.
“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God“ (Matthew 16:15-16).
Amen, Peter. He should have stopped there but that wasn’t Peter’s way. Jesus told His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem and explained that He would be killed, but would be raised from the dead on the third day. It was Peter who took Him aside and rebuked Him. Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ, but he had no idea what that meant.
“But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men“ (Matthew 16:23).
Jesus knew Peter’s words were from Satan, but there was another one among them who would be the instrument of Satan’s evil plan. Did Judas smirk when Jesus rebuked Peter? Whether he did or not we aren’t told, but Judas would soon betray the Lord.
The night that Jesus was arrested was one that caused the disciples to take a good look at themselves. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times that night for fear of also being arrested. The same man who declared Jesus to be the Christ denied that he followed Him.
The days following the crucifixion were miserable. They had lost their Friend, Judas had committed suicide, and fear of being arrested gripped them. They had forgotten what Jesus had said about rising from the dead on the third day. When that day dawned, the tomb was found to be empty! What joy and confusion they felt. On that joyous morning a group of women had gone to tend to the body of Jesus but found an angel there instead; and he had a message.
“But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you“ (Mark 16:7).
Peter hadn’t committed the unpardonable sin. He still had hope of being restored. Judas had betrayed Jesus, but hadn’t repented of that sin before taking his own life. Peter could still repent.
Jesus did meet them at Galilee and He very lovingly brought Peter to repentance and restoration. Peter had denied Jesus three times – and Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” The anguish and heartbreak can be felt each time Peter answers.
“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep“ (John 21:17).
Peter was a changed man. He was brokenhearted for his sin, and forgiven. Jesus will forgive every sin, but you need to truly repent. Not metamelomai like Judas who just felt regret about the outcome of his sin, but metanoeo, which means to “change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.”
Many people today are like Judas. They are given the opportunity to honor Christ but their hearts are not surrendered to Him. Many who sit in pews on Sunday betray Him on Monday. They give the outward appearance of following Jesus, but fall short of giving their life to Him. Thankfully there are many like Peter who truly repented and faithfully served Jesus.
You have the choice today…repentance or remorse?
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.