In the Biblical record of the crucifixion there are two characters, Peter and Judas, whose different destinies would suggest that their behavior towards Jesus in His greatest hour of need was different. In reality, both Peter and Judas were guilty of betraying Jesus.
Judas made and followed through with plans to give Jesus over to the Roman authorities with a betraying kiss for 30 pieces of silver, and after the act, when his conscience condemned him, he returned to the authorities in an attempt to undue the damage in his own power. In desperate frustration with his inability to cleanse his own sin, he ultimately committed suicide, thereby sealing a fate of hopelessness.
Peter arrogantly promised Jesus that he would never leave or forsake Him, but within a few hours Peter had betrayed the Lord three times in order to save his neck. When Peter’s conscience convicted him, he turned in repentance towards Christ and was thusly able to receive God’s forgiveness and restoration to right fellowship.
So what was the difference with these two disciples of Christ? Why did one end up fulfilling a destiny of destruction while the other fulfilled a promise of purpose - filled productivity and eternal fellowship with God? The difference was relationship. They both sinned through the act of betrayal, but while Judas was condemned and turned away from his only hope towards salvation, Peter was convicted, turned towards his Savior, and through repentance was spared the penalty for his sin. That’s the mercy that God so wants to show all of us by forgiving our sins, if we just turn to Him.
But God goes even further than that with His grace, His unmerited favor. In Peter’s case, Jesus later asks him on three instances, “Peter, do you love Me?” In Peter’s affirmative responses, Jesus graciously gave him the opportunity to make up for his previous betrayal so that he could face his calling to lead the first church with the confidence of success, not failure. And in each of our lives, the Lord places opportunities for us to affirmatively heal our past and progress towards our own destinies of purpose, productivity, and fellowship with God.
As if that were not enough, Jesus also greets Peter in their first confrontation after his betrayal with one word which describes what the Lord has to offer each of us who choose to accept Him as our Lord and Savior: shalom. In the Hebrew language there is no more beautiful word, and in the life of the child of God, there is no more beautiful reality than God’s shalom – peace with our Heavenly Father.