I have been studying the gospel of Matthew with a group of women this year. We Just finished studying Matthew 26 and 27, the passion of our Lord: His betrayal, His trials, and His crucifixion. This past week I had the pleasure of helping out with the school-age children and the subject of conversation centered upon Jesus betrayal by Judas and His denial by Peter. As we had read the Scriptures, it seemed to all of us that both Judas and Peter had repented (Matthew 26:69-75 and 27:3-10). But then as we examined the Scriptures more carefully, it became clear that what seemed to be repentance by Judas was nothing more than remorse. He was sorry for what he had done, he was sad about it, felt guilty and had regrets, but there was no true repentance. Biblical repentance is to be going one way (your own way) and then to make a 180 degree turn and deliberately go the other way (God's way). Judas never turned. He never went back to Jesus. He committed suicide instead. Peter, on the other hand, who had failed so miserably in denying Jesus three times, was changed in his heart. He wept bitterly, he returned to be with Christ’s apostles, and he ran to the tomb when Mary Magdalene brought news that the stone had been rolled away. Later, at the Sea of Tiberius, Peter jumped from the fishing boat and swam to greet the resurrected Jesus on the seashore. He submitted to Jesus’ questioning him three times about his love for Him. Peter demonstrated his repentance by turning from his sin and going back to Jesus in humility and with the desire to follow Him and obediently shepherd His sheep (John 21:15-22).
Do you see what a difference repentance makes? Judas' remorse led to a life ended in despair. Peter's life was resurrected when he repented and went back to Jesus. The Book of Acts and 1 and 2 Peter testify to Peter's life of commitment to Jesus and the gospel message. Jesus' resurrection was meaningless to Judas who died in his sin, but Jesus' resurrection was life-changing for Peter.
So here is the question. As you celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sin? Have you confessed to God that you are a sinner and have you made that 180 degree turn from walking in your own selfish ways? Have you turned to follow Christ and serve Him? Salvation calls for repentance and not just remorse. Salvation calls for a faith that follows Christ instead of your own human desires and impulses (Romans 12:1-2). True repentance is not easy. But it is necessary.
As you celebrate Christ’s resurrection this year, I pray that you have turned to Christ with a repentant heart that can rejoice from the very depths in His resurrection from the dead.
He is alive!