They should have known better. They did know better. They knew what they were doing, didn’t they? Didn’t they realize that right there, standing in front of them, was their God? Didn’t they realize that right there speaking to them was the one Who spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden, Who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, Who led Israel out of Egypt? Didn’t they realize He’s the one Who came to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the prophets, Who sang through David’s harp, Who dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Who only 21 years before had wowed them with His knowledge?
Peter should have known better. He did know better. Jesus had warned them what was going to happen during those 24 hours not once, not twice, but 3 times! He had even just told him he would betray Him not once, not twice, but 3 times! He said everybody else might fall away, but never him! He didn’t even get the message when Jesus had to put back on Malchus’ head the ear Peter had just chopped off! But then they heard him talk. He had gone in with John to see the trial, but he couldn’t get in because he was an unknown quantity there, unlike John. So he got stuck outside that cool night, and people figured the only Galileans around were with Jesus. They guessed right. He cursed himself to say he wasn’t with Jesus. He was too scared. He denied Jesus 3 times. And the rooster crowed. Jesus looked at him, and he went out and wept bitter tears of repentance.
Judas should have known better. He did know better. He should have known the Jews were out to kill Jesus. He should have known Jesus had taken care of him for 3 years, so he didn’t need to go get more money in places he had no business going: the money bag and wicked men. He should have known what Peter remembered: Jesus forgives sins. He could have been forgiven for betraying Jesus. He should have known that betraying God was not a good idea. But God was not his god. His god was his belly which was fed by his love of money. So he went to the wrong people. He went to the Jews, not to God. They could not forgive him, and he forgot God could. He threw away the money – bought his grave – and went away and hung himself to get a gory end.
Adam should have known better. He did know better. He was newly created. He knew God cared for him. He knew God would never do anything wrong to him or keep anything from him if it was good for him. He had just given him a beautiful wife. He had it all. He would never lack a thing. Yet when Satan hissed at them, they happily listened and ate the fruit. He got them to think it was a bad thing they didn’t know evil. It wasn’t enough for them just to know good. They should have known that since God is good, evil would not be good for them. But they decided that was a great idea. So they ate, and they found out that it definitely was not good for them to know evil after all.
You should know better. Whenever you sin, you should know better. You have been taught God’s Law. You had to memorize God’s Ten Commandments and Luther’s explanations. You had to memorize The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Sacraments too. So you know God wants you to do what is right. You even know what the right things are, for God doesn’t just say “don’t murder;” He says, “Help your neighbor.” He doesn’t just say “Don’t ever think someone who isn’t your spouse is a better option;” He says, “Always love and honor your spouse.” He doesn’t just say, “Don’t steal or lie;” He says, “Always help somebody with his stuff and speak well of him.” He doesn’t just say, “Don’t covet, envy, or be greedy;” He says, “Be content with what I’ve given you.” And He adds, “Do all these things because you are My own dear child who wants to please Me, your dear Daddy in heaven.”
But what do you do? With Judas, you find it easier to follow the money than to follow The Lord. With Peter, you find it easier to go along with whatever crazy idea the crowd has about Jesus instead of confessing the truth when He is mocked. You don’t like to help people. Your mind is full of wicked thoughts that often lead to wicked deeds. Adam coveted deity. Judas coveted money. Peter coveted his life – he didn’t want to get killed. The Jews coveted their nation and their law-based righteousness, so they reviled Him. What do you covet? When does greed get the best of you? Do you envy or revile anyone? What sinful thoughts do you have? You don’t always sin impulsively. You often sin because you are thinking about it first, and those thoughts are sin too.
How does Jesus treat you in response? He should say to you, “I tell you you shall see The Son of Man coming on the clouds with power and great glory” the same way He said it to Caiaphas. He saw it the next day, when He mocked Christ on The Cross, surrounded by cloud, not recognizing the power and glory of God in saving sinners. He shall see it again when his bones come back to life and his eyes see I AM returning to judge Him. What shall he say when he comes before the one he sent to The Cross?
What will you say? For you too shall see The Son of Man coming on the clouds with power and great glory. But the look you see on His face is the one He gave Peter. Peter wept bitterly, but he wept tears of repentance. Jesus looks to you even now to lead you to tears of repentance. We tell you to repent because Jesus is ready and willing to forgive you. He wants you to give your sins to him, and He’ll give you His righteousness, the righteousness He won for you on The Cross, instead.
That’s why He died. He didn’t die because Caiaphas condemned Him and forced Pilate to crucify Him. He died because He wanted to forgive you. God’s power and glory is seen most clearly not in His Creation but in His Crucifixion. For where God dies, there you see the death of the sin of the world. You see God punished for all your wicked thoughts and deeds, all your envy and greed and discontentment. You see Him suffering hell in your place. You see Him dying your death.
He shall return on the last day. He can do this because He did not stay dead; He rose. He is coming back to raise you and take you to physically live with Him forever. He wants to look on you with love forever, and He wants you to look at Him in love forever too. He’s doing this even now. So are you. You don’t see Him with your own eyes, but you see Him with faith’s eyes. You see Him baptizing and absolving. You see Him giving you His very Body and Blood. He is The Giver. That’s why we all face His Crucifix; we are waiting for Him to give us Himself. The lifted up Host and Chalice remind us that what is consecrated is the very Sacrifice of The Cross. He gives you The Body handed over into death and The Blood shed unto death, for your forgiveness. You eat and drink, believing His Word, and you have what He says: the forgiveness of sins. “And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”
So when you sin against Him, do not join Judas in despair. Join St. Peter in true repentance. For God forgives all sins, no matter how great they are. He would have forgiven Judas and Caiaphas. He most certainly forgives you. He died for you! He died for all the world. He left no sin unpaid for. He was reviled to forgive you for reviling others. He went as a lamb to the slaughter to rescue you from eternal slaughter. He was judged guilty so He might judge you innocent. For Peter says to you: Jesus has purchased and won you from all sin, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious Blood and His innocent Suffering and Death. By His stripes you are healed, for He bore your sins in His own Body on The Tree that you might die to sin and live for righteousness.