In the book of John, we see two disciples that sinned against Jesus. The first disciple is Judas that sinned against Jesus by betraying Him and handing him over to the Jews to be crucified. The second disciple is Peter who denied Jesus, not once but three times. Jesus said about Judas that “it would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). We also have no record of Judas being given a chance at restoration, as Peter received in John 21.
What happened to Judas? We are told in Matthew that he was remorseful for sinning against Jesus and he went and hung himself.
“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said. “What’s that to us? ” they said. “See to it yourself! ” So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed. Then he went and hanged himself.”
Matthew 27:3-5 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/mat.27.3-5.hcsb )
Judas realized that what he had done was sin, and even confessed that sin to the religious leaders. The passage in Matthew said that Judas was full of remorse and even returned the money, but that did not equate to true repentance. There is a difference between feeling regret or remorse about your sin and true repentance. True repentance means that you turn from sin and start to walk on the path of righteousness. Judas did not truly repent, because if he did then he would not have hung himself.
Some might argue that Judas couldn't repent and be restored, that God would not forgive him or was unable to forgive such as sin. It seems that by taking such a stance one is limiting the grace, love, and power of God. It seems that if Judas had truly repented then Jesus would have forgiven him. After all it was my sin and your sin that put Jesus on the cross just as much as the sins of Judas. Judas experienced remorse and regret but not to the point of true repentance.
In the last chapter of John, we are told about Peter’s restoration and true repentance. Jesus asked him three times if he loved Jesus corresponding to the three times that Peter denied Jesus. When Jesus asked Peter the third time it made Peter sad, perhaps because he was reminded about the three times he rejected knowing Jesus. After the third time, Jesus told Peter about the way that he would die in service to the gospel of Christ.
“When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? ” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me? ” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me? ” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me? ” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me! ”
John 21:15-19 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/jhn.21.15-19.hcsb )
The difference between Peter’s repentance and restoration is that Peter turned and never denied Jesus again. It is believed that Peter was executed because of his faith and ministry for the gospel. True repentance will bring about change in your life. You will stop the sin that you are doing and walk on with Jesus. This doesn’t mean that you will not have sin that you have to repent of in the future. In Galatians 2, we see Peter sinning; by separating himself from the Gentile believers when the Jews came into town. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you are going to live perfectly, but it means that when you are made aware of sin you will repent and turn from that behavior.
Judas failed to truly repent, even though he was saddened by what he had done. Sadness and regret do not equal repentance. Peter truly repented because he turned back to Jesus and never looked back. He even went as far as giving up his earthly life in service to the gospel. That is what true repentance looks like. Peter could stand will Paul and say. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I pray that we all will repent like Peter and not like Judas.