When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
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, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 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.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 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, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Holding a trial at night violated the Law. So the chief priests found what they thought was a loophole. Overnight they held an informal hearing. It was not an official trial. They held the actual trial in the morning. Of course, the trial was short. What they called a hearing or investigation was the real trial. The real trial wasn’t a real trial.
The thing they did last night looked like a trial. It smelled like a trial. it acted like a trial. It was the real trial. They called it something else. Holding a trail at night would violate the law. They called it, an informal hearing. They could have called it an investigation. The next morning was the official trail. It was short and quick. If you blinked you missed it. There was no need to call witnesses at the official trial. They already had the verdict. So they could make their decision official.
Evil men will find ways to justify their actions. They find ways they believe will work around the law. After all these guys were lawyers. We have seen this type of reasoning before. “Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1) Satan’s playbook still works.
If they could have, they would have murdered Jesus right then there. But Roman law restricted them. Violating Roman law would put them in jeopardy. And their standing with Rome is what concerned them most. (John 11:48) They did not want to cross the Romans. Rome gave them their positions and status. And Rome could take it away. So they needed to convince the Roman Governor, Pilate, to do their bidding.
Most of this passage is about Judas. It serves as a parenthetical to the sequence of Christ’s crucifixion.
Matthew does not assign the exact time Judas changed his mind. It does not need to be in this exact time sequence. Placing Judas’ story here helps us understand the story.
Judas’ remorse is not the same as repentance. Repentance is not being sorry. It is a decisive change. It is a turning away from sin. It is turning towards a life of obedience. In the Old Testament “repent” meant for Israel to “return” to the faithfulness of the covenant. It does not mean self-punishment, depression, or remorse.
True repentance is displeasure at sin. It arises out of fear and reverence for God. At the same time, it produces love and a desire for righteousness. Wicked men try to deceive both God and their own conscience. Even when their consciences torment them, they do not hate their sin. Judas was sorry. So what did he do? He did not turn to righteousness. He did not repent. He hung himself.
This should cause us to reflect. Are we repentant? Or are we only sorry for our sins? Are we looking for fire insurance? Or do we love righteousness?
When the priests refused to take back the blood money, Judas threw it down in the temple. Matthew reveals the callousness of the priests’ hearts. There is no concern for Judas. He should be their hero. He brought them Jesus, when no one else could. They understood him for what he was. He was a traitor. He was someone you could not trust.
The extent of the priests’ evil is amazing. It shocks me every time I read it. They acknowledge Jesus’ innocence. Yet they respond to Judas’ claim he betrayed innocent blood with “We don’t care. That is your problem.” They were the ones who paid him to betray Christ. It is like hiring a hitman and because you did not pull the trigger, claiming you are innocent.
They imagined a difference between themselves and Judas. They were religious leaders. They served God. But the god they served was a false god. It was not the God of Abraham, and Moses. They had made up a whole new god. They pretended he was the god of their fathers.
We too must be careful. How do we do that? We all create new gods every day. As Calvin said we are idol factories. We need to immerse ourselves in the scripture. We need to allow the scripture to change us. That is all the scripture. It is more than reading the parts we like. We need to pay particular attention to the parts we don’t like. Second, we must pray for God’s grace to keep us within His will.
Judas went and hung himself. Satan sells the allurement of sin. You know the saying sell the sizzle, not the steak. Once we buy what Satan is selling thing change. Then he convinces us there is no hope for salvation. Have you ever heard someone fear they have committed the unpardonable sin? They believe there is no hope for them. And they are full of remorse. You may have fallen into this trap of Satan. But remember. this. Satan is a liar.
The priests now have a problem with what to do with the money. It was not lawful for them to put it into the temple treasury. Because it was blood money. That statement is an admission of guilt. And it shows how men justify themselves. They are good at keeping the minor points of the law. The weightier things they ignored. (Matthew 23:23) That part of the law was only an inconvenience. It did not interfere with their personal desires.
The quote Matthew attributes to Jeremiah appears to come from Zechariah. Most of the words are from Zechariah 1:12-13. But the content relates very closely to Jeremiah 19:1-13. That is a prophecy of judgment for the shedding of innocent blood. Jeremiah talks about a potter twice. (Jeremiah 19: 1 and 11). Matthew sees Judas and the priests fulfilling Zerchriah’ and Jeremiah’s prophecies.
The end of the quote points out something important. Judas betrayed Jesus. The priests’ had a warped view of the Law. But God’s providence reined.
That thought has given me comfort many times. I may not understand. I may get it wrong. I may do things wrong. But I can not mess up God’s providence. Praise God!