Why not count the other?
A teenager named Andrew asked his father:
“Why did Jesus tell his disciples that one of them would betray him while actually there were two of them who were about to do that?”
“What do you mean?”
Andrew replied: “Peter also betrayed Jesus through his denial, not only one but three times, right?”
“Oh, I see what you mean. How do you think?” his father asked.
“I don’t know. I thought about it. But I couldn’t figure it out.”
“OK, indeed there are two betrayers as you say. But look at their behaviors after they have betrayed Jesus for the first time. They are totally opposite.”
“You mean Judas killed himself and Peter did not?” Andrew asked.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“But I still don’t get it. Peter is still a betrayer because he denied Jesus 3 times.”
“My son, people’s choice after their falling does make a difference in the final picture. The choice Judas made is totally different from that of Peter.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“Don’t worry. I suggest that you take this question with you, study it as your homework and meditate on it for a while.”
Though Andrew wanted to know the answer right away, he listened to his father and followed his suggestion. After about a week, Andrew told his father:
“I think I got some of it, daddy.”
“Wow, great. Please share with me.”
Andrew began his discovery:
“Daddy, the key to this lies in how each person understands Jesus and his spirit. Here Judas understood Jesus wrongly while Peter correctly.”
“Aha, I think you are on the right track. Keep going, son.”
“Ok, this is the understanding of Peter: Jesus is always generous, forgiving and loving, especially toward sinners. There is no dead end in the spirit of Jesus. There is always hope. There is always another opportunity for those who have fallen into falsehood and sin. That’s why Peter repented and stood back up. He betrayed Jesus but, thanks to his correct understanding of Jesus, he transformed his past experience into an effective instrument to proclaim the love of Jesus for sinners.”
“Wow, I’m truly impressed with what you just said, my son. Continue please.”
“Thank you daddy. Since Judas failed to understand Jesus and his spirit, he continuously made 2 sinful mistakes. First he tried to force Jesus to use violence against his enemies. Then he inflicted violence upon himself. In other words, he fell into 2 continuous traps of Satan. The first trap was to do harm to Jesus by setting him up for the arrest. After this terrible sin, instead of conversion, Judas fell right into the second trap which was to do harm to himself. Satan’s first and ultimate aim is to destroy life. That’s why he tries to tempt people to commit the most serious sin which is despair. Judas agreed to this temptation. So in the first time, he betrayed Jesus. In the second time, he betrayed the hope of Jesus. Judas made a double betrayal.”
“Yes, my son. Satan is very tricky and dangerous.”
“Ah, daddy, I discovered something else.”
“What is it?”
“I see that the mentality of Judas is very misleading and dangerous. That mentality is this: if you insult God, you will be destroyed. Judas insulted God in his action and he thought he could not be forgiven and consequently destroyed himself.”
“Aha, you’re reasonable, son.”
“Daddy, this mentality still exists in the world,” Andrew continued.
“How so? Give me an example, my son.”
“A lot! Just look at people who destroy others in the name of God. They kill others to defend God’s honor. But God does not need any human to defend Him, right daddy?”
“That’s right,” answered his father.
Andrew continued: “I see clearly that our God acts in an opposite way here. If we insult God, God will continue to love us and sacrifice Himself for us in order to win us back because He only wants us to live, not to die (Ez 18:32). When God loves us unconditionally (Rm 5:6,8), we no longer have any justified reason to run away from Him. Peter understands this truth well, so he never despairs.”
His father nodded his head. Then he asked Andrew: “So have you figured out why Jesus told his disciples about only one betrayer, and not two?”
“No,” Andrew shook his head.
His father continued: “Their final result does make a big difference. Ultimately, everyone is a betrayer to some extent. But those who continue to trust in God’s mercy turn their betrayal to conversion, gratitude and discipleship. How they grow more through their mistakes and faults is more important than what they did in the past. Jesus died for all betrayers by his blood, but only those who act as Peter did will not waste his precious blood and turn his sacrifice into new life.”
Andrew nodded his head. At that time, someone just texted him on his cell phone, he glanced at it.
“Wow, daddy, look.”
Andrew showed it to his father. It had a picture of Jesus on the cross speaking to one of the thieves. There was also a message:
“Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.”
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.