And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:21-23

A story of two men. Both had walked with Jesus. Both had seen the blind given their sight, the crippled healed and the demon possessed freed from bondage. Both were given power from on high to perform miracles. Yet they went two completely different directions.

We don’t know much about the background of Judas Iscariot. Tradition says he was the son of wealthy parents and a good businessman. Judas hooked up with Jesus after following the ministry John the Baptist. While we don’t hear much about Judas, he seemed to be well-trusted by the other disciples since he was in charge of the money and, no one suspected he would be the one to betray Jesus.

Peter, on the other hand was a fisherman. He was used to hard, honest work. He was a leader among the disciples and one of Jesus’ inner circle. You could count on Peter to be in virtually every discussion. Most times, when Peter spoke, the rest of the disciples got behind him in agreement. 

Both men are known in for their actions at the time of Jesus’ murder. Judas will always be known for his betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. His actions led to Jesus’ arrest and subsequent hanging on a tree. Ironically, Judas also died hanging from a tree, but his death was ruled suicide.

Peter, on the other hand is remembered for denying Christ in the courtyard of the High Priest just hours after he pledged his undying support of Jesus. As usual, the rest of the disciples (including Judas no doubt) agreed with him. Jesus looked Peter straight in the eyes and told him that Peter would deny him not once, but three times before the rooster crowed that very morning.

The severity of the ‘sin’ really isn’t an issue in this story. In reality, both men betrayed Jesus. Judas’ betrayal was with a kiss. For his actions he was rewarded with money and no doubt some status and power among the religious aristocracy.

Peter betrayed Jesus with words and attitude for self-preservation. The priests were uninterested in Jesus’ disciples at this time. Peter and the others were really in little, if any danger. There was no monetary gain in Peter’s betrayal (denial). His was an action devoted to simply saving his own skin.

There’s another similarity between the two men in this story. Both felt extreme guilt for what they had done. Judas turned to religion for support and healing. He was told that his actions were his problem. That’s the way religion and legalism works. Fault, blame and guilt are always returned to you. If you fail, you must just try harder. If you fail to severely, or too often, you are beyond hope. When Judas left the Temple for the last time that day he was a broken man. Wounded and hopeless, he could no longer bear the weight of guilt. He took his own life.

Peter was also wounded. The Bible tells us he went out and wept. The fact that we are told he wept doesn’t imply Judas didn’t. I think both men wept bitterly. The difference was in what they did once the tears and the knot in their stomachs loosened. While Judas was tying the noose, Peter went to the cross.

True healing comes through confession, brokenness and turning away from self and towards Jesus. The Bible is clear. “But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.” 1 John 1:9 (NCV)

It’s a simple process that leads to freedom from guilt. Confession leads to forgiveness and forgiveness means we are clean. Once and for all, so pure it is as though we never sinned.

The enemy tells us otherwise though. He loves to keep us subdued, entrapped in the power of guilt. Guilt affects every part of our body. Guilt causes anxiety and fear. Guilt causes us to spend our future regretting our past. Guilt has such power over us that it not only causes emotional distress, but physical distress as well. Psychologists tell us that 10% of the population is currently taking medication for anxiety. A large part of that anxiety is worry over our past.

The Psalmist describes how many of us struggling with guilt feel when he says, “My body is sick from your punishment. Even my bones are not healthy because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me; like a load it weighs me down. My sores stink and become infected because I was foolish.” Psalm 38:3-5 (NCV)

It’s time to reclaim what Jesus did on the cross. It’s time for you to once and for all, forget about all the arguments and all the lies religion has told you about this man Jesus. He is the only way you will get the relief you need.

After Judas was dead, Peter met Jesus on a secluded beach. The campfire was burning in the background. The aroma of the smoke carried the scent of freshly grilled fish. Jesus looked into his eyes and asked the question. “Do you love me Peter?” There was no mention of forgiveness for that was understood. Jesus had done his part. Now it was Peter’s turn. Now it’s your turn too.

Do you love Jesus? Are you ready to release the pain of the wound you bear so he can comfort you with the salve of his love and grace? Nothing you have done will keep him from asking you the same question. Stop listening to the lies of religion and the enemy. You are worth keeping. You are worth Jesus dyeing for you. Let him take away your guilt.

PRAYER: Jesus, like the Psalmist the guilt of my past is always before me. The wound I bear is a scab full of puss and infection. I hurt inwardly like no one understands. I confess my sin to you. I confess that I’ve been carrying baggage you took from me long ago. Cleanse my conscience and make me new again. Amen.