“How could you betray me?” I asked this question to a close friend, someone I thought I could trust. There is nothing like the pain of your heart being sliced open when you learn that someone close to you has betrayed you. The devastation of betrayal is one of the deepest wounds to our hearts.
Betrayal is hard if not impossible to get past to repair the relationship. Even if it is repaired, it is never the same. I’m so thankful this reality on earth is not the same as our relationship and reality with Jesus. Jesus shows us through his relationships with people while he lived on earth that his love and forgiveness is available and in the same degree for all.
You Have Forgiveness in Christ
If you have betrayed Jesus by denying your faith, he will forgive you and restore your heart into a better place. His greatest desire is to dwell within you. He knows your faults, and he is there to warn you, lead you, and empower you to overcome.
I am encouraged as I study the disciple Peter in the Bible, who betrayed Jesus. He was a fisherman who was passionate about his faith, and he also allowed his emotional thoughts to come out without thinking first. Peter becomes one of Christ’s closest friends during his three-year ministry despite his imperfections. This fact is comforting to me as I live in my imperfect human condition while I do my best to follow Jesus.
Peter and many other people in the Bible ensure us that we can never mess up so bad that Jesus will leave us. At the last supper, before Jesus was tortured and crucified, he revealed that Judas and Peter would betray him. Judas “did what he had planned.” While Peter denied he would betray Jesus, in the end, he also betrayed him.
The difference between how Judas and Peter handled betraying Jesus can be directly tied to the level of an intimate relationship they shared with him. The same reality is true for you. There is no way to escape messing up, but only you can choose what to do about it.
Scholars say that Judas handled the money for the disciples and that he may have helped himself at times. Judas didn’t understand Christ’s mission or the kingdom of God. He let Christ’s popularity and the money flowing into the ministry spark his greed and inhibit his faith. When he betrayed Jesus, he felt hopeless, shame, and guilt. Even though Judas was with Jesus for the past three years, I don’t think he believed that Jesus would forgive him. If he had known, believed, and trusted Jesus through a personal relationship, I don’t think he would have taken his life.
Although Peter was devastated as he realized he had indeed betrayed the Messiah and his friend, he didn’t give up all hope. He did not let his sorrow for his sin become bigger than all the love, healing, forgiveness, and grace Jesus had shown to him over the past three years. Peter’s faith in his personal relationship with Jesus kept an ember of hope in him. He waited to see what to do next amidst his pain and confusion.
While Peter was waiting, he beheld and hugged his friend, Savior, and Lord Jesus once again. Even though Jesus was alive, I think Peter had not received Christ’s full forgiveness until they talked along the shore of the sea of Galilee, found in John 21:15-19 TLB.
15 After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others?”
“Yes,” Peter replied, “you know I am your friend.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon, son of John, do you really love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I am your friend.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
17 Once more he asked him, “Simon, son of John, are you even my friend?”
Peter was grieved at the way Jesus asked the question this third time. “Lord, you know my heart; you know I am,” he said.
Jesus said, “Then feed my little sheep. 18 When you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know what kind of death he would die to glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”
It’s important to notice that Jesus calls Peter by his former name, Simon, which means “God has heard,” and Peter, “the rock” together. In essence, Jesus was saying, “God and I have heard your heart, the rock.” Christ’s loving compassion reminded Peter of who he was and who he has become in Christ. Jesus affirms and reinstates Peter’s faith and his purpose to be the “rock” of the church. He lets Peter know that he will remain faithful to Jesus in the future as he shares how he will die to glorify God.
It’s so comforting how Jesus used his healing words to show Peter that his love for him includes complete forgiveness of his betrayal. Christ knows we will struggle in our human condition in this broken world to say and do what honors him. He knows we will sin, but his love and presence can never leave us. He will forgive us of our sins when we repent.
Jesus is Always There for You
His greatest desire is to live fully in and through our lives in a progressive personal relationship. Do not let the devil convince you that you have been too bad or that you have betrayed Jesus and he won’t forgive you. These are Satan’s lies. Jesus came that you would have life in his abundance!
Jesus proved that he will forgive you when he died for you on the cross. Go to him and repent and you will receive his FULL pardon of forgiveness. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV