The Greek word for repent in the New Testament is metanoia, which means a change of mind. Thayer’s Lexicon defines it as “the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined upon a better course of life so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it, and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds”. When in Australia in 1986, I was informed by a Pastor there that in the Australian army, when the command is given to turn around and march the other direction, it is not “to the rear – march”, it is “repent”. This describes the essence of repentance. It is turning around from the direction sin is taking one away from God, and coming to Him (2Chr 7:14, Eze 14:6, Eze 18:30, Jon 3:8-9, Zech 1:4, Acts 14:15, Acts 26:18). When the Israelites left Egypt, God did not lead them through the land of the Philistines, although that was the shortest route. God gave the reason as, “Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt (Ex 13:17).” God used the word repent as a literal turning around and heading the other direction.
The night before Jesus died, all the apostles failed Him (Mk 14:15). Jesus knew this was going to happen. It was prophesied (Zech 13:7, Mt 26:31). However, there were 2 in particular - Peter and Judas. Jesus knew all along Judas was going to do more than just run away. He was going to be an active participant in His arrest. He was going to betray Him to His enemies (Jn 6:70-71, Jn 13:21-26). This was also prophesied (Ps 109:2-8, Acts 1:20). When Judas lead the posse to where Jesus’ special prayer place was, and betrayed Him, Jesus called him His friend (Mt 26:50). He is not willing that any perish, but that all come to repentance (2Pet 3:9). Jesus did not condemn him. He condemned himself. He repented himself, returned the money to the priests in an attempt to make it right, and confessed he had sinned (Mt 27:3-5). These are all key ingredients in repentance. Judas could not overcome the condemnation, and went out and hanged himself. God knew the power of condemnation would destroy him (Acts 1:25).
Then there was Peter. Jesus knew Peter was going to deny him. He even told him in specific details how it was going to happen (Mt 26:33-35). It would be 3 times before the rooster crowed twice. Peter did not want to believe it. Then in the garden Jesus specifically appointed Peter, James, and John to watch and pray. He caught them sleeping on guard duty 3 times in less than an hour while He was going through agonizing prayer preparing to face the punishment for our sins through a gruesome torture and death. (Mk 14:32-42). When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter misunderstood the situation, and cut off a man’s ear in an attempt to fight back (Lk 22:36-38, Jn 18:10-11, Lk 22:51). Jesus healed the ear. After Jesus was arrested, Peter followed afar off even to the palace to watch the end (Mt 26:58). Then Peter did the thing he could not believe was in him to do. You would think after the first rooster crow, he would have realized what was happening. When the rooster crowed the second time right after the third denial came out of Peter’s mouth, he made direct eye contact with Jesus (Lk 22:61). Can you imagine the condemnation that swept over Peter at that moment? Jesus had given him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 16:16-19). He was one of the 12. He was a leader of the leaders. He was one of the inner circle of 3 (Mt 17:1, Mk 5:37, Mk 13:3, Mk 14:33). He had vowed in front of the others to give his life for Jesus. He went out and wept bitterly, and was later restored. That is the difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation drives us from God. Conviction drives us to God in repentance.