Matthew 27-28 When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned he changed his mind

From Matthew 27-28

40 41 42 43 Gospel Jesus is risen Christ thumb

How do you deal with your own remorse over sin? Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of sinners for thirty silver. Perhaps there was a point where he could live with himself for betraying him, but when he found out Jesus was going to die it became too much. Today’s post briefly explores how bad sin can be and the wrong way to handle remorse.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

In chapter 26 Judas made an agreement with the chief priests to betray Jesus for a sum of thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26.14-16). Obviously he did it for the coin.

But after all he had been through with Jesus how could he do this?

Soon afterwards in the chapter he came to the garden of Gethsemane with a crowd of armed men from the chief priests (Mt 26.47-56). He betrayed Jesus into their hand with a kiss (Mt 26.49).

Jesus is brought to the chief priests and tried in a travesty of justice. Eventually they ask Jesus if he is the Son of God. Jesus answers them quoting Dan 7 which I have posted on before. Then they condemn him to death.

27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. (Mt 27.1-2)

Today’s passage follows Judas after these events.

40 Despair of Judas

3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, (Mt 27.3)

Perhaps Judas thought Jesus would simply be imprisoned or flogged and ordered to stop. He changed his mind when he saw Jesus was condemned. He knew they wanted to kill him.

Perhaps he tolerated a little sin here and there, but here he stands against something much worse. What do you think of that?

That was too much and he decided to try and avert what was happening. He goes back to the chief priests with the money.

4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” (Mt 27.4)

He admits he sinned. He says Jesus is innocent. Judas is in the grip of remorse. He tries to stop the murder of an innocent man. He is too late.

Judah stepped over the line and he couldn’t undo what he had done. Sin is so bad you would be better off cutting off your hand in order to avoid it’s consequences.

They have Jesus now where they want him. They don’t care about how Judah feels.

5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Mt 27.5)

Judas’ feelings of remorse are strong. He cares nothing for the silver now. He throws it down not caring about it anymore.

He knows he has sinned. His guilt is terrible. He is all alone. He doesn’t pray for forgiveness. He kills himself to end the shame (cf. Acts 1.18).

6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. (Mt 27.6-8)

The chief priests end up picking the coin. They say it is blood money. Their hypocrisy is amazing. They will pay Judah the amount to have him betray Jesus, but once Jesus is condemned to death and the money given back they will not accept it.

9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” (Mt 27.9-10)

“Matthew attributes the whole scriptural passage to the more well-known prophet Jeremiah rather than to Zechariah (27:9–10).” (Saldarini, A. J. (2003). Matthew. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson (Eds.), Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (p. 1059). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.)

Matthew did not know where he was quoting from and got it wrong. Some try to dance around it connecting it to where Jeremiah mentions a ‘potter’ (e.g. Jer 18.2-3). But I think they are grasping at straws.

“In Zechariah the prophet plays the part of the shepherd (leader) of a flock which is to be destroyed, an allegorical reference to Judah, which is badly led by the “sheep merchants” (the Jerusalem leadership—Zech 11:7, 11) during the fifth century. The sheep merchants pay the prophet-shepherd thirty shekels of silver, which is the price for a slave gored by an ox (Exod 21:32), but he throws it into the temple as a condemnation of them (Zech 11:12–13). Thus the author of Matthew continues his attack on the leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem by having Judas the traitor and conspirator against Jesus condemn them with a prophetic action.” (ibid)

About Jesus

“There are levels, and degrees, of remorse. We saw when we looked at Peter, at the end of the previous chapter, that there is a big difference between remorse, such as that of Judas, and genuine repentance, such as that of Peter. There is a watershed between them.

Like drops of rain falling near a mountain-top, they may start quite close together, but depending which side of the line they fall they will make their way to one side of the country or the other. Rain to the east of Jerusalem will flow down to the Dead Sea; rain to the west will go into the Mediterranean.

Remorse and repentance both begin with looking at something you’ve done and realizing it was wrong. But the first goes down the hill of anger, recrimination, self-hatred and ultimately self-destruction, the way that leads to death.

The second goes down the route Peter took, of tears, shame, and a way back to life.” (Wright, T. (2004). Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (p. 174). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.)

I think Jesus would have wanted Judas to be more like Peter. How do you deal with remorse?

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.