There is a stark contrast set up in the Gospel of Matthew between two disciples - Peter and Judas - but most of us are too focused on the Jesus story to see it. After all, our Lord and Savior is about to be crucified; who among us, in the shadow of the Cross, is thinking about mere men?
It begins in Matthew 26, which contains the betrayal of Jesus that we are most familiar with, the betrayal by Judas. He approaches the religious leaders of his time and agrees to betray his Teacher for a mere thirty pieces of silver, then sets about to come up with the perfect time to do it. While he is scheming in his heart, he joins Jesus and the other eleven for the Passover meal in the Upper Room, and Jesus calls him out.
He that dips his hand with me into the dish, he is the one who betrays me. (v. 23)
And then the meal ends and the party leaves, headed out to the mountain to pray at Jesus's request, and we're pretty sure the whole betrayal scene is over. We know what is coming next.
But actually, what is coming next is another betrayal: Peter's.
A mere 11 verses after Jesus announces that Judas will betray Him, He also calls out Peter, claiming that Peter will deny Him. In other words, a betrayal. After three years of travel and ministry together, Peter is about to claim he doesn't even know Jesus at all. And what is that but betrayal of the most cutting kind?
You don't even know Me? How could you say after three years that you don't even know Me? But you will say it. Three times.
THREE times. Judas will betray Jesus only once; Peter, three times.
Most of us don't draw the connection here. Most of us miss what Matthew is trying to set up. We're so focused on Jesus, who has shifted between what's about to happen to Him in the Upper Room to the very nature of who He is on their way to the Garden, and we're trying to follow along on all of the Son of Man talk, all the Jerusalem prophecy. And we simply miss that there are two betrayals in one breath.
In fact, we so clearly miss this second betrayal that we don't even consider the ugliness of Peter in this moment. Want to talk about fiends? Want to talk about bad guys? Want to talk about complete and total moral failures? Judas is your guy. Peter...he's kind of a side note for most of us. We really don't even notice his betrayal when he does it because we, like everyone else, are looking into the courtyard and not at the fire. We're watching Jesus, not Peter.
Even though Jesus Himself tries to point us to Peter.
Because there's a very good reason for us to be looking at him.
The dynamic of these two betrayals is not done here; it has only just begun. Presented here in tandem, just 11 verses apart, they will come back again in the same way in just a few short paragraphs, and it is here where we take our greatest lesson from them....