There is a difference between the righteous and the wicked. We often pride ourselves in having the ability to see this demarcation, but nothing is further from the truth. The Bible is replete with ‘righteous misfits’: people who were written off as ‘unsavable’, even to the heathen, yet prevailed with God. At the head of this band stands the thief on the cross, a sinner who had spent most of his adult (and probably youthful) life robbing and beating people. In his shadow stands Zacchaeus, the famous tax collector cum part-time tree climber who was abhorred by the Jews for exacting more taxes than was due, a greater portion of which he kept for himself. Time fails to tell of David the adulterer, Saul, the slayer of Christians and the inhabitants of Nineveh. Within this group are robbers, murderers, adulterers and white-collar criminals. And yet within this very same group stands one who God described as being after His own heart. And so what differentiates the good from the bad, the righteous from the unrighteous?
The night began with Jesus serving His disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem. At the table sat two of Christ’s disciples who were to play fairly prominent roles that night. One was tall, had a commanding voice and prided himself in his abilities. Yet behind his erect form and calm demeanour lay a sinister plot. Judas had made a pact with the enemies of Christ to betray Him into their hands. Like the shrewd dealer that he was, he had negotiated a price of 30 silver pieces and was firmly set on fulfilling the end of his bargain. The other disciple was Peter, a bubbly, outgoing personality with an ardent love for Jesus. Peter had followed Christ for 3 years now, and had witnessed countless miracles, listened to numerous councils and experienced first-hand the tender love of Christ towards him and his fellow disciples. Even then this loved disciple would, only a few hours later, deny with cursing and swearing that he had been a follower of Christ Jesus.
Both had walked with and listened to Jesus while He was with them. Both had dealt treacherously with their God on the night of His capture and trial. At that point in time, in human eyes, at least, both were destined to be counted among the unrighteous. Yet the scriptures beg to differ. After betraying his Lord, Judas saw Christ being bound with chords and treated roughly by the crowd. He followed Him to the house of the High Priest, where he witnessed Christ being beaten and mocked. The disciple’s guilty conscience gave him no rest, and in desperation, Judas interrupted the interrogation to plead with the priests to let Christ go. ”I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4, AMPC), he said, as he cast the bribe he had been given to betray Christ, after which he went to hang himself. Judas’ confession was not drawn from a deep sense of remorse for selling out His Lord. He feared the consequences that his sin would being on his head.
As Christ stood before the High Priest, Peter sat nearby, ostensibly warming himself over the fire. while he pretended to blend in with the crowd, one of the people identified him as one of Christ’s disciples, a charge he vehemently refuted, thrice. Hardly had he denied his Lord the third time when the cock crowed, and the erring disciple remembered the words of his Master, predicting his denial, “before the cock crows twice, you will deny me thrice” (Mark 14:30, AMPC). Glancing towards his Master, Peter saw the gaze of Christ fall on him, from where he read only love and pity. He realized how well Christ know him, and how little he knew about himself. Not able to take it anymore, he rose from where he sat and staggered out, unable to bear the sight. With tears streaming down his face, Peter stumbled along to a lonely spot, where he dropped on his face and wished he could die.
At this point begins the divergence between the two disciples. One failed to show contrition for his sins and instead placed greater weight on the consequences that were to now follow his actions. The other felt deep shame for what he had done. How could he deny Jesus, just hours after confessing his utmost love and devotion? Peter deeply repented his sin, and where had been an impetuous, self-possessed disciple now rose one of the greatest apostles and champions of the gospel. This soldier of the cross would go on to seal his testimony on a cross, upside down, with the assurance that his Master was looking down with approval for his willingness to give his life for the gospel.
A difference therefore exists between the righteous and the wicked. It is not the absent of failure or sin in their lives, but the fact that despite their failures, they rise above and with the help of the Almighty, overcome.
“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again…” (Proverbs 24:16, AMPC)
Story by Paul Nyawita