Restoration after the Resurrection
In this blog I want to take you through three stories of prominent disciples of Jesus. In the passion week, their faith in the Lord Jesus was tested intensely, and these three didn’t pass the test with flying colours. The three disciples are Judas, Peter and Thomas. Their names are closely associated with the scenes that we will look at today. In their stories we find disappointment, fear, shame and doubt. Yet, two of the three find restoration after the resurrection of Jesus.
The Story of Judas
Judas was one of Jesus’ close followers. One of the Twelve privileged guys to be in the most intimate circle of the Lord. He was part of that small group that got the full explanation of all the parables. He would get to watch Jesus from up close, experience the warmth in His voice and the authority with which He would speak to sickness and to demons. He would watch how Jesus had an intimate relationship with God who He called His heavenly Father.
Judas had many questions, though. His expectation of the Messiah was of one that would restore the earthly kingdom of Israel, not bring the heavenly Kingdom down to earth. By the time Jesus and the disciples were in Jerusalem, the disappointment and confusion of his unasked and unanswered questions led him to betray Jesus and in return for money, point Him out at the right time so that Jesus could be arrested without making a big scene.
We read this passage which is set shortly after Jesus washed the feet of all His disciples, including Judas, and as they are about to celebrate the Passover meal at which Jesus would give a completely new meaning to this meal and installed communion.
John 13: 21-30 (NLT)
Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot.
When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So Judas left at once, going out into the night.
That same night, when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas would meet Him with an armed mob, and point Jesus out by kissing Him on the cheek. We don’t get full insight into Judas’ thoughts and reasons. What led him to this point? Was there a certain moment when Judas’ heart turned against Jesus? Was it a long time coming? Was Judas always out for money, since he got a rich reward for his betrayal?
Whatever his reasoning was, He began to resent Jesus so much that he gave way for Satan to enter into him and guide the next couple of hours for him. What we do know about Judas is that he did regret what he had done the next day.
Matthew 27:3-5 (NLT)
When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.
Judas regretted what he had done, and this leads him to take his own life. This happens before Jesus is crucified, on the Friday morning. It vividly shows that the path the devil leads you on results in destruction.
Judas represents our disappointment. All the times that we were ready to give up on Jesus. All those times that God didn’t meet our expectation. When something happened that should not have happened, or when something didn’t happen that should have happened. Disappointment and unmatched expectations have caused many to turn away from Jesus, but it didn’t have to be so for Judas, and it doesn’t have to be so for you.
Even though the actions of Judas and even his death were a fulfilment of prophecy, Judas had a choice in the matter. He was filled with regret over the consequences of what he had done, but did not repent. He thought that all chance of restoration would have been gone, with Jesus sentenced to death, because he didn’t expect the resurrection.
But what would have happened if Judas would not have taken his own life and heard about the resurrection? I believe that if he would have gone back to Jesus to ask for forgiveness, he would have been forgiven.
The Story of Peter
Peter is my favourite disciple. We get to know him in the Gospels as a true extrovert and very impulsive man. He is fanatic, says what he thinks and radically devoted to Jesus, even when he doesn’t always get it. In many cases Peter represents the journey all disciples are on to really discover that Jesus is the Messiah and what that entails. I think that Jesus really enjoyed having Peter on His team. In the passion week, we see one of Peter’s flaws come to the surface. Let’s read about his story of denial, shame and restoration.
Luke 22:54-62 (NLT)
So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!” After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted. About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
At the Last Supper Peter had said he was ready to die with Jesus, but Jesus predicted what would happen. Peter experiences bitter grief when he hears the rooster crow. He is confronted with his own shortcomings. He felt so brave when we told Jesus he was ready to die with him, but now, he is confronted with the truth of his own fear and cowardice.
Peter represents all of us on the moments we denied Christ in our words and in our actions. All the times we were ashamed to be His follower and chose our own pride or security over honouring Him. He represents all those times we decided that what people would think of us was more important than what Jesus thought of us.
This was a moment where Peter was like the soil in the parable of the sower where the plant of God’s Kingdom had come up quickly, but is then choked by the pressures of the world. The way that Jesus restores Peter after the resurrection though, is so beautiful. They are BBQing fish on the beach for breakfast, and Jesus invites Peter for a walk.
John 21:15-17 (NT)
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
Jesus gives Peter a chance to experience redemption. For every time he denied Jesus, Peter gets to say to His face that he loves Him. Jesus responds with pointing him to his future responsibility to lead the church on His behalf.
Story of Thomas
Lastly, we look at the story of Thomas. He was one of the most dedicated disciples of Jesus. But most of us associate his name with doubt and unbelief because of what we are about to read.
John 20:24-25 (NLT)
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
Even though Jesus had predicted His death and His resurrection several times, Thomas and the rest of the disciples didn’t understand what was going on. They were completely shocked by His death and His resurrection. Thomas, hears the reports, but is still so confused that he cannot believe that what Jesus predicted and what his close friends are reporting is actually true.
His words sound a lot like what I hear many people say. “Seeing is believing. God only deserves my trust when he answers all my questions, removes all the obstacles and answers all my questions. Then I’ll have faith.” But is faith than really faith, or just settling for something you cannot deny.
Thomas represents all of us in our moments of doubt and unbelief. Where we are so caught up in our circumstances that we lose faith in the firm promises of God and doubt if it is really for us. Thomas, as well as Peter, would experience a beautiful restoration when he comes face-to-face with the resurrected Jesus.
John 20:26-29 (NLT)
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Jesus doesn’t rebuke Thomas for his doubt, but gently gives him a chance to feel the healed wounds in His hands and side. This of course is completely unnecessary and Thomas is the first one that acknowledges that Jesus is God. As a sent-out apostle, he would lead many to faith in Jesus.
We have read three stories of key figures in time around the death and resurrection of Jesus. They represent all of our shortcomings. All the times we didn’t get it right. All the times we were lost in our disappointment and unbelief. What becomes evidently clear is that when Peter and Thomas came face-to-face with Jesus after the resurrection, they received a full restoration. They received forgiveness for their sin, and were released from their guilt and shame over it.
They could truly leave the mistakes of the past behind and not look back. But they would receive more than forgiveness. Jesus restored them to the mission He had called them when He first said: “come, follow me”.
Humbling as the experiences may have been, because of Jesus’ resurrection, they were not humiliating. Jesus invited them back on the mission to bring the Kingdom of God, of which Jesus is the Resurrected King, into this world.
This is the restoration that you may receive today as well, as you come face-to-face with Jesus. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has achieved full forgiveness and victory over your sin and shame. He longs to restore you to the purpose He created you for.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NLT) Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
This is my appeal to you as well. Come back to God.
When you give Him your past, He will give you a new future.
When you give Him your sins, He will give you His forgiveness.
When you give Him your brokenness, He will give you his restoration.