Hopelessness of Judas | Matthew 27:3-10
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 27:3–27:10
Christopher Rich – March 6, 2016
Passion of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 5
Wk6: Hopelessness of Judas | 27:3-10
Good Morning! This week we are continuing the “Passion of the King” We are spending the weeks leading up to Easter, looking to Jesus on the cross taking our defeat for us including Good Friday, His victorious resurrection on Easter, and the commission He gives his disciples to make disciples and live for him. There are big implications of the gospel. What Jesus is about to accomplish on the cross big questions to wrestle with “Who is Jesus? If He is the Son of God what does that mean for the world? But there are also absolutely individual implications. What does who Jesus is mean for me? (not what do I think it means, but what does it actually accomplish?) We cannot forget while there were eternal cosmic things happening there were everyday disciples who were following Jesus with real struggles, real failures needing real restoration. Last week we saw pride, failure, and ultimate redemption in Peter’s roll during the Passion. This week is decidedly different; as we see sin/shame leading to hopelessness and destruction for Judas.
Matthew 27:3-10 | 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, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 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. 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.”
Verse 3-5 | Fix Yourself
The restoration of Peter is a beautiful picture of a disciple’s failure and ultimate restoration by Jesus for Jesus. We saw clearly God’s mercy and grace taking a broken failure and making him whole again. Hope was easy to find. This episode shows us that while God’s grand story of redemption leads to salvation for His people that a real and present reality exists where not every story ends well for every individual or group of people. When this happens we can easily begin to question God’s plan, His goodness, we doubt His character because we do not have all the answers clearly nailed down or we lift up characteristics of God, His love and mercy and forget His complexity includes His righteous justice. So we have this troubled man Judas for whom we either feel great pity (because we quickly forget the severity/nature of his crime) or we relish in his swift but painful demise because we love justice being served. In the midst of Matthew’s narrative of Jesus going to the cross he takes a brief moment to tell us how Judas story ends and how the priest dealt with it to provide clarity on what happened and instruct us on how NOT to deal with our sin.
Judas is defined by his sin. Matthew is clear; he is Judas, his betrayer. Judas has seen that what he has done has led to a negative result. Somehow he didn’t anticipate that the arrest of Jesus would lead to the condemnation of death and now he has feelings of remorse. Maybe we should lighten up on Judas, no. Remember back in Matt 26 at the table Jesus is clear to Judas what the consequences will be for the one who betrays Jesus. Even being aware of the consequences Judas still willingly chose this path. He had been told clearly where this path would lead but now he is actually there he doesn’t like where he’s ended up.
Judas hates his sin. Feeling really bad about your sin, even acknowledging your guilt and experiencing shame is NOT the same thing as repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. You can know you’ve sinned and not repent. Judas, “change of mind” is not even the same word as “repent”; one is a deep genuine change of your mind, will desire, the other merely means an emotional regret. Our emotional moods do not always betray or spiritual condition. Without question Judas is grieved over his sin. He hates the consequences, he wants the pain, guilt and shame to go away. Judas has not had a Holy Spirit conviction of sin that leads to understanding his need for salvation in Christ alone. Feeling guilt, experiencing shame, and trusting the gospel are two very different things. The gospel is not just hating your sin it is loving and trusting God. These distinctions are important because we can look for or believe in a false hope that doesn’t lead to actual repentance and life but instead traps us in hopelessness and eventual death and destruction.
2 Corinthians 7:9-11 | 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
There could be few more vivid examples of how worldly grief produces death than what we see in the end of Judas story, he literally kills himself. On the other hand Peter who also sinned and experienced great shame and guilt we know he experienced great mercy and salvation. What is the difference? Peter had a Holy Spirit led ,godly grief that caused him to take the hit of actually engaging with Christian community for the purposes of healing and restoration, he was with the disciples on Sunday am, and trusted Jesus. Judas pursues a different path he hopes will absolve his guilt and will remove his shame.
Judas goes back to his co-conspirators. Recognizing his sin, he doesn’t go seek out the other disciples, he doesn’t run to Jesus or even cry to God as David did in Ps 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned. He seeks absolution from the guys he walked in sin with. He experiences sin and shame a desire to confess to get it out and be released from the weight of it, so he confessed to other men who we very unlikely be actively concerned with his sin or point him in a direction of healing. This is especially true, since they were a major part of his problem. As priest and elders, these men were very “religious”. But they were not men who feared, worshipped, or trusted Jesus. Judas has a community around him that not only allowed him to pursue sin; but actively encouraged and enabled him to walk in it. This is who he goes back to try to process what has happened. No surprise they are less than supportive of his feelings of grief. They are just as guilt of the same sin as Judas but have no remorse and have no interest entertaining Judas. They never really cared about Judas, only what he could do for them. They don’t love Judas; they were using Judas. Even worse they are priests and religious leaders and here is a guy with a crisis of conscience and faith and what is their answer? Come to God, ask for forgiveness, sacrifice. Nope. “We don’t care, take care of it yourself.” This is the heart of religion; you have screwed up, you have failed, you are broken. Fix yourself. Like Benedict Arnold in the American Revolution after he betrayed the US he was unloved by the British and was now a man without a home. The British didn’t love him and the Americans despised him.
Judas tries to pay for his sin. He looks at the blood money he’s received and tries to pay the wages of his sin back. He can’t. We all have a desire to undo aspects of our lives. We can easily wish words spoken were unsaid, actions taken could be walked back, a time we wish we could act could be replayed so we could make a different choice. You cannot deal with your sin by trying to go back and undo it. In this case Judas realizes he was wrong to gain from Jesus betrayal and wants to pay the money back. But giving the money back doesn’t change that he willingly betrayed Jesus and conspired for his arrest. There is a Pandora’s box that cannot be closed. John Kerry infamously threw his medals from Vietnam over the White House fence because he felt ashamed of the Vietnam War and while we like dramatic gestures like this in general they have no real ability to undo what we’ve participated in or done. Getting to neutral financially or spiritually never leads to wholeness. Judas may have sold himself to the priest for a paltry 30 pieces of sliver but the penalty of what he did is much greater than the small price of a slave. Judas cannot afford to buy his way out of God’s judgement, and neither can we.
Judas looked for hope in himself and found nothing. He knows what is in his heart. He knows what he was capable of. Our world tells us to follow our inner star, to forgive yourself, to find the answers within, to be the solution to your problem, but when Judas did he didn’t find hope, he found hopelessness. He didn’t find a path forward he found a dead end. He couldn’t see a path forward in life carrying the burden of his sin. He was utterly hopeless. Hope can give you the strength to patiently endure trial, tension, and even a long road of restoration; hopelessness leads to the swift condemnation of there is now way forward that can lead to a joyful purposeful life. This week Aubrey McClendon, oil executive and man who participated orchestrating taking the Sonic from Seattle to OKC, was charged with leading conspiracy for rigging the bidding process on some gas and oil leases. The next day he sped his vehicle into the side of a bridge in an apparent suicide. Facing the possibility of consequences for sin he didn’t see a path forward.
Judas’ death is not a sufficient penalty for his sin. We know that his suffering didn’t end with his death but the wrath of God for his sin is eternal. Jesus said as much when he told Judas it would be better for him if he hadn’t been born. We can then know from the mouth of Jesus that Judas consequences for His sin are not limited to his early death; but included the eternal just wrath of God for sin. God is a god of Love, of mercy, of peace, of grace, but he is also a God of Justice. In this case Judas actually gets what Judas deserves. We can feel sorry for Judas or play around with what if’s but the reality is Judas did what he desired, knowing the consequences, and suffered rightly for it. I want to be clear at this moment that I am not speaking about the spiritual condition and eternal destination of all who have committed suicide. Suicide is a terrible and tragic end of life which should not be taken by those whose ultimate hope is in the Lord. It is not however some unpardonable sin or one which nullifies the grace of God in Jesus in someone’s life and soul. The cross of Christ is sufficient to cover your all your sin, past, present, and future. We are called to be people with real hope.
Verse 6-8 | Unpriestly Response
What about the priests? All of the sudden these guys are legalist! The irony! They don’t care about Judas, they don’t care about God or his laws they only care about themselves. They’ve broken numerous biblical laws, conspired to commit murder, ran a false trial and now they’re acting like forensic accountants making sure they don’t misappropriate funds. They say “we cannot take any of this blood money it would make us, and the temple, unholy/unclean.” They are completely neglecting the fact they are the ones who made the money bloody. They are just as guilty as Judas, they just don’t feel the same remorse, but they do realize there actions may not be received well. So they simply redirect the funds from Judas to something that eases their conscience. We’ll buy a field for poor strangers to be buried and then everyone would look favorably on us for their care and concern. They hoped to reinvent their legacy, but no one was buying it and Matthew tells us that field is known as the “Field of Blood” to this day. The act of supposed charity didn’t yield it desired effect; they didn’t have Judas Memorial Gardens where people thought “how nice of them.” They try to distance themselves from sin, Jesus takes it on. The Gospel is not “you remove your own sin or you distance yourself enough from your (or other’s sin) far enough that you get to be righteous.”
2 Cor 5:21 | For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This is the great exchange where he takes on all our sin, all our guilt, all our shame and we get all of his righteousness all of his good standing before God and we get to be made whole.
Verse 9-10 | Glory Redirected
Judas is hopeless, the priests have attempted to ease their consciences and massage their public image; but even in their act of self-aggrandizement God is glorified in His perfect plan still being realized. Matthew quotes a mix of Jeremiah and Zechariah prophecies showing God is still in control and there are no surprises for God. None of this was an accident. God bats 1.000 on His prophecy coming to pass, so as Matthew is sharing this hopeless and cynical episode in the midst of Jesus condemnation and crucifixion he is still point to the power and hand of God in all of it. The priest and religious leaders place little value on Jesus life (30 pieces of sliver the price of a slave) and yet Jesus placed great value on saving His people purchasing them with his own blood. God’s grace isn’t cheap it’s actually free which is why Judas could buy it with his silver, the priests couldn’t secure it with their empty act of charity, and nothing you can do can earn it. It’s free for us; but it is incredibly costly for God. Jesus paid it all with His blood.
We all want to know where we stand with God. We always want to know who’s in and whose out? But that’s not the question that should consume us. The question is “Where is hope found?” We cannot speak for the “what ifs” of Judas story or have all the answers as to why God gives justice to some and mercy to others. This episode is painful and difficult. There is a purpose in the pain we don’t always know or see, but we do know where to look and where to point others for answers that lead to true hope, life, and salvation. We don’t tell people to fix themselves, we don’t tell them to pay what they owe or even do what they can. We point them to the hope that is only found in Jesus alone.
1 Peter 1:3-5 | 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Judas was hopeless; he didn’t find hope in confession, in religion, in restitution, or in himself. Things where hopeless for Judas; but they are not hopeless for us. We can trust God’s character, plan, and goodness or we can trust our ability to understand God’s plan or to save ourselves. Your story isn’t over yet; the people who you care about and pray for their stories aren’t over yet. So we are not without hope. If you have breath, you have an opportunity to repent, but there is a time where it will be too late. The time is now for you to Trust Jesus!