The Confessions of Peter – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 16:13-19

Two of Jesus’ inner ring of followers had so much in common: Peter and Judas. We know nothing about their upbringings and backgrounds. How were they raised? What did they value? What were their ambitions? Why were they attracted to follow Jesus? And why, among the multitude of his followers, did Jesus choose the two of them to be in his closest circle? Jesus was a shrewd and intuitive judge of character. What did Jesus see as so special in Peter and Judas? Were they charismatic? Were they eloquent? Were they passionate or articulate or extremely bright? Were they, like Jesus, riled by hypo­crisy and injustice? Did they have a whimsical sense of humor, a hearty appetite, nerves of steel, the wis­dom of a serpent, the innocence of a dove, a love for children, a certain way with the erudite or with the poor? They must have been impressive, both of them. Was Peter called “the rock” because he was stubborn or because he was strong? Maybe both. And Jesus made Judas the treasurer. Was that because Judas was so responsible, so accountable that he was entrusted with so much among those who had given up everything to follow Jesus? We don’t know. Surely Judas was a very special person, especially wonderful, to have a place so near to Jesus’ own heart. Surely Judas’ kiss of betrayal was not the first time he had expressed his closeness to Jesus.  

So what happened? However similar or different they are to one another, both Peter and Judas end up in the Garden of Gethsemane, and both of them, surely to their own horror and to others’, they became betrayers. What, ultimately, is the difference between Judas, remembered for his deception, and his friend Peter, remembered for his sainthood? They had so much in common… except for one thing. Following Jesus’ crucifixion Judas was precipitous; Peter was not. Judas takes his own life; Peter is given his life back by Jesus’ in the gift of forgiveness.  

In the calendar of the church we remember today Peter, the first to confess Jesus as the Messiah. But this is not Peter’s last confession. The word “confession” is used in the New Testament for declaring a personal affirmation, a confession of faith.[i] At other times in the New Testament, the word “confession” refers to a breakdown in faithfulness, a confession of sin.[ii] Peter is all over the map with his confessions. In the end, Jesus chooses to build his church upon Peter’s leadership, not because Peter was so strong – strong though he was – but because he was so weak. Pathetically weak, ultimately a broken man, in great need. Peter’s brokenness became Jesus’ real breakthrough to him: Jesus’ power being made perfect, not in Peter’s strength but in Peter’s weakness. It’s not that Peter was amazing; God’s grace was amazing.[iii]  Now Jesus could do something with Peter. And so it is with us: God’s grace being made perfect in our weakness.

[i] John 1:20; Hebrews 11:13; 1 John 4:2f.

[ii] Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9.

[iii] Saint Paul, also a headstrong man, has his own experience of this.  He writes what he hears from Jesus: “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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  1. Mary Gardill on January 18, 2024 at 05:26

    Dear Br Curtis

    IHaving never heard this comparison, it would be beneficial to have you say more on these characterizations and what exactly went right with Peter and wrong with Judas in their spirituality and choices in following and being in relationship with Jesus..

    • Nora Saneka on January 19, 2024 at 03:16

      Luke 7:47
      “a person who is forgiven little shows only little love” Maybe Judas was forgiven much, and now shows the most love towards Jesus of all his disciples, in the light of the unlimited mercy of God to all sinners. We are all Judas in our hearts, and betray the one we love – the big danger is always self-righteousness and self-justification for our wrong doings, rather than admitting our human failures (see Margaret Farley on Forgiveness In The Service Of Justice

  2. Frederick Adams on January 17, 2021 at 00:40

    Wow. There is something to think about; the effect of Christ’s love on we the broken. There is hope in God’s love.

  3. Alan Cairnie on January 16, 2021 at 15:35

    What I see is the difference between repentance and remorse. I appreciate your comment that Peter repented many times. This is a time to pray for ourselves and others that we know the way to confession is always there through the narrow door.

  4. Elizabeth Hardy on January 16, 2021 at 12:02

    Br Curtis: Thank you for that thought provoking homily. Really intriguing comparison there. It reminded me that in “The Last Temptation of Christ” the author posits that Judas was chosen because he was the only one Jesus knew would be courageous enough to betray him. Elizabeth Hardy+

  5. Dwane Kunitz on January 16, 2021 at 10:30

    I found this somewhat comforting, as we live in such an upheaval world even Peter would have felt broken.

  6. SusanMarie on January 16, 2021 at 08:33

    In my experience Jesus works best with me in my brokenness — and most especially when I’m able to admit my brokenness.
    It is true: I am never amazing; God’s grace is always amazing!

  7. Harriet on January 16, 2021 at 05:34

    It is good to be reminded that God works through our weaknesses. Even though I don’t always understand that message. I don’t like my weaknesses; I try to conquer them. With God’s grace I continue — sometimes overcoming, sometimes failing to overcome. I guess that’s part of the message?

  8. Sylvia Tospann on January 16, 2021 at 03:20

    Brother Curtis,
    I like your explanation about confession “ The word “confession” is used in the New Testament for declaring a personal affirmation, a confession of faith.[i] At other times in the New Testament, the word “confession” refers to a breakdown in faithfulness, a confession of sin.”…. not doing God’s will, being human……
    Thank you

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