Psalm 31:9-16 • Isaiah 50:4-9a • Philippians 2:5-11 • Matthew 26:14 – 27:66
Today’s readings portray two individuals wracked by guilt. Peter, ever passionate, declares that he will “not deny or disown” Jesus (Matthew 26:35). But when the moment comes and his safety is threatened, he fails—and again, and again. The cock crows, and Peter descends into bitter tears.
Shortly thereafter, Judas, overwhelmed by the enormity of “betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4), returns his payoff of silver to the chief priests. They give him neither solace nor recourse: “What is that to us? See to that yourself.” He does so by hanging himself.
I transgress every day, in ways small and large. Faced with my iniquity, I join the psalmist in feeling like “a reproach . . . a dread . . . a broken vessel” (Psalm 31:11–12). My transgressions betray Christ, hurt people, and leave me subject to guilt—sometimes pinpricks of conscience, sometimes bitter tears. Then I want in vain to give back the silver, to turn back time.
What is to come of the likes of me? Thankfully, I am not left to “see to that myself.” Christ did not say, “What is that to me?" He “abased and humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:8) to meet me where I live, in the brutishness that so often marks human life—and all too often is of my own making. He submitted Himself even to the extreme of death on the cross, where His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
I hope that Judas, like the repentant thief crucified beside Jesus, opened his heart even as he died hanging. Peter, of course, lived through his repeated failure. Having followed Jesus as best he could, having sat at Jesus’ last meal, he then sat with his guilt-ridden grief until he could move forward. He had failed, but he had also drunk from the cup of salvation, and he became a rock on which the church was built. I am no Peter, but the church is still getting built, and rocks―large and small―are still needed. Praise to you, Lord Christ!
— Tom Tiller