I announced earlier this year that I am working on a new book project on the topic of hypocrisy. I am making progress on the book, and am aiming for it to be released in July or August of this year. Below is an excerpt from the manuscript, explaining the nature of hypocrisy by comparing Peter and Judas:
As we continue our study on the topic of hypocrisy, I want to highlight Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, as an example. Particularly helpful will be comparing Peter’s denial of Christ with Judas’ betrayal of Christ. At a surface level, it appears that both Peter and Judas committed similar sins, yet Peter found repentance and restoration while Judas did not. Have you ever wondered why that is? I believe that the answer lies in the fact that Judas was a hypocrite while Peter was not.
Peter claimed that he would follow Jesus no matter the cost, even if it meant dying for Him. Yet, within hours of this courageous claim, he denied Jesus three times! Sounds pretty hypocritical, right? We would typically say so, but not according to the definition of hypocrite that we established in the previous chapter. Peter genuinely desired to follow Jesus regardless of the cost; when he made the commitment to die for Jesus, he was being sincere. He was simply unaware of how weak he was in his own strength.
When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He came back to find Peter and the other disciples sleeping. Look carefully at what He said:
Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38, emphasis added)
The problem with Peter was not his heart. His spirit indeed was willing; he simply did not realize how weak his flesh was and how he would cave to the pressure when faced with death. His words of commitment were not made as a show; they were not a feigned effort to win points with Jesus or hide internal wickedness. They were a true expression of his inward heart, and he truly believed he would follow through. He simply had not conquered the weakness of his flesh, and was not ready for the temptation when it came.
Judas on the other hand, was a hypocrite by definition. We see this reality clearly portrayed in the story of Mary pouring the fragrant and expensive oil on Jesus:
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. (John 12:4-6, emphasis added)
Notice the outward display of righteousness in order to conceal the inward reality of wickedness. Worse than having a problem with greed, Judas had a problem with hypocrisy. Not only did he steal money, he faked a care for the poor in order to do it. His words of compassion were a mere show, a mask that cloaked his heart of deceit. This mask worked quite well, by the way. We know Judas as the betrayer, but to the others he was Judas the disciple. Only Jesus knew who Judas really was. At the last supper, when Jesus declared that one the twelve would betray Him, no one knew that it would be Judas (see John 13:21-22). His façade worked; he blended in quite well with the other disciples.
By the very nature of how they function, hypocrites are not normally easy to spot. Spotting a wolf is much easier than spotting a wolf who wears sheep’s clothing. Keep in mind that Judas walked with Jesus and was among the twelve disciples for over three years, and the disciples did not realize he was actually a thief and betrayer in disguise. The gospel accounts are clear that Judas was not a true disciple who merely fell into sin; he had an unrepentant and unbelieving heart all along.
“But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) (John 6:64 ESV)
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70-71 ESV)
When it comes to the difference between the truly righteous person who commits a sin and the person who is living in deep hypocrisy, Jesus gives us a great analogy. He was washing the feet of His disciples and Peter tried to stop Him. Jesus said that if He didn’t wash Peter, then Peter had no part with Him. So, Peter, being the extremist that he was, insisted that Jesus wash not only His feet, but also his hands and head! Then, Jesus gives this revelatory insight:
Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” (John 13:10-11)
Catch what Jesus is saying here. Similar to a parable, He is using a natural example to explain a spiritual truth. He says that there is a type of person who is already “bathed” and needs only to wash their feet. He says that this person is already clean. But then He clearly indicates that Judas is not this type of person. While the other eleven disciples were clean because they had received the Word of Jesus (see John 15:3), Judas was not. He had never truly received His Word in his heart.
In that culture, the washing of feet was necessary and customary because of how a person’s feet would get dirty and grimy walking through dusty or muddy roads. You could take a bath and be clean overall, but then get your feet quite dirty when walking to a destination. The righteous person who sins is like the one who has already taken a bath, but whose feet have gotten dirty as they have walked through this world. Maybe they tripped up here or stumbled there; maybe they even fell into pretty dark sin. But at the core of who they are, they have received Christ and they are righteous in Him. They are clean on the inside, even if they still stumble or sin at times.
The chronic hypocrite on the other hand, is not clean on the inside. They have put on a righteous façade, but inwardly they are unrighteous. They don’t merely stumble into sin, trip up occasionally, or even fall into sin; they live a lifestyle of deception, duplicity, unrepentant sin, and self-righteousness. When the righteous person sins, they are acting out of character. When the hypocrite sins, they are acting out of who they really are.
So, comparing Peter and Judas again, we see this distinction. As we have just seen, according to Jesus, Peter was already clean while Judas was not. Peter’s denial of Christ was a pretty big fall—his feet got pretty dirty on that one! But Judas’ betrayal of Christ was much different. Peter’s momentary denial, while demonstrating the weakness of his flesh, was not the reality of his inward heart. It was inconsistent with his character. Judas’ premeditated betrayal was consistent with his heart and character; it is who he was all along. Judas the disciple was a mask; Judas the betrayer was the reality of his heart.