Repentance or Remorse?

by Scott Vance on November 23, 2021

Mark 14:66–72 (ESV)
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Have you ever fallen and the impact was so hard that you took your time getting back up again?  I have a couple of painful memories of falls while riding my bike where I took my time getting back on my feet.  But falls are not limited to just the physical, sometimes people fall emotionally.  For example, not speaking up for a friend when you should have or speaking out of turn to your embarrassment.  Perhaps you did something to damage a friendship, or you’ve suffered the loss of someone you care about deeply.  Those emotional falls can be incredibly difficult to overcome.
Hard falls are a part of life, they’re something that we all experience, and Peter is quite possibly the prime example.  Peter has stumbled and fallen a few times as he followed Jesus.  He was embarrassed when he needed Jesus to rescue him from sinking into the water (Matthew 14.28-31).  Peter went from the high of being given the keys to the kingdom only to be jarred back into reality when Jesus told him off, telling Peter he was a satan (Mark 8.27-33).  And don’t forget the foolish boasting just hours before, followed by the failure to defend Jesus and failing Jesus again in another way as he responded in violence (Mark 14.26-31, 47).
And now this.
Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus is a bitter fall, one which is recorded in all four gospels.  In Luke’s Gospel we’re told that when Peter denied knowing Jesus a third time, Jesus turned and looked at Peter.  Jesus was standing where He could see Peter down in the courtyard of the high priest’s house (Luke 22.61-62).
I can’t even imagine what that must have been like as their eyes met, but we do know the outcome; Peter went out and wept bitterly.
But let’s not get down on Peter because we know, don’t we, that we do what Peter did.  We all do.  We’ve all had those times, those moments, where we haven’t acknowledged Jesus.  Those times where we’ve ignored Jesus’ voice or let other things take His place at the center of our hearts and minds.  Those times when we thought no one was looking and so it didn’t really matter (sorry to tell you this but Jesus saw you).
The truth is that we’re all just like Peter.
The question is, what are you and I going to do about it?  How will you respond when you feel that twinge of conviction at your denial or betrayal of Jesus (regardless of how great or small we might rationalize it to be)?
Peter wept bitterly.  It was a sign of godly grief that would lead to repentance, reconciliation, and restoration.
Contrast that with Judas in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 27.1-10).  Judas only has a sense of remorse.
There is a massive difference between repentance and remorse.
As N.T. Wright noted so well, “The one leads to life, the other to death.  Peter’s tears, shaming, humiliating and devastating though they were, were a sign of life.  Judas’ anger and bitterness led straight to death.”
The apostle Paul put it this way, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7.10).
If you’re like me, every day I find myself being just like Peter.  So how will you respond?  It’s all too easy to grow accustomed to our failings.  Unaddressed our failings only serve to aid our rationalizations as if “it’s not that big of a deal.” 
The only solution that I know of is just to be in Jesus’ presence, let His gaze penetrate your heart, and as you feel that twinge of conviction simply confess and earnestly seek to be reconciled and restored.
John 3.16-17 (ESV)
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers!


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