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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Matt 27:3-5 Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Also See Vss. 6-10)

In the study of Matthew, the description of this event is out of sequence when all gospels are taken into consideration. But by its wording, this seems to take place after the final condemnation of Jesus was made - after He had been sentenced by Pilate to death by crucifixion, the death that was demanded by the Jewish leaders (See John 19:4-16).

It seems that after learning that Jesus was condemned to die, Judas Iscariot repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. There has been much debate over the meaning of this scripture. First, what did it mean when Matthew wrote that Judas repented himself? To learn its meaning, it is necessary to find the true meaning of the Greek word translated as repented. Repentance, as it is used in Acts 2:38, and elsewhere, is an act necessary for one to become a Christian, be added to the church of Christ, and gain the hope of eternal salvation. In this use, repent means to change one's mind, purpose, or manner of life; to turn away from a life of worldliness, and turn toward a life of righteousness in the sight of God. However, when Judas Iscariot repented himself, it was merely an act of remorseful regret; he had a guilty conscience, but did not seek forgiveness from Jesus, whom he had betrayed.

The apostles, Paul and Peter, repented of their past, and changed the course of their lives to serve their Savior, Christ Jesus. Judas Iscariot failed miserably at serving the Lord and only regretted his sinful deed, but the guilt that he felt at this time was certainly not a soul-saving repentance. Although he did not seek the forgiveness of Jesus, he still felt an inward guilt. Indeed, it is possible that he didn't expect Jesus to be tried and wrongfully convicted of a crime worthy of death. It is possible that he thought Jesus would, after a time of abuse, be released to go free. However, when the death penalty was demanded by the Jewish leaders, and death was pronounced by Pilate, it seems that then Judas Iscariot fully felt remorse for the act of betrayal he had committed. And probably at this time, filled with guilt, he brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, and openly admitted to them: I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. To these Jewish leaders that had condemned Jesus to be a blasphemous sinner, Judas tells them that they did so wrongfully by confessing that Jesus was innocent of all charges. However, the saddest part of his confession was that it was only made to Jesus' accusers and not sincerely to God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who could have forgiven him.

When Judas confessed Jesus' innocence, the answer of the Jewish leaders was, What is that to us? See thou to that. Essentially, they said, "We care not what you think." Corrupt and filled with the error of their worldly wisdom, they had now convinced a Roman magistrate to execute Jesus, remove His influence from the Jewish people, and restore their leadership control over the lives all Israel. How sad to see the envious, human gratification of "religious leaders" control the spiritual lives of individuals, families, congregations, and even nations of people, and lead them in error that will result in eternal damnation.

Having admitted his guilt and the innocence of Jesus and hearing the reply of the chief priests and elders, Judas Iscariot cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. Peter's account of the death of Judas gives additional details omitted by Matthew. He said that Judas fell headlong, ...burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18). Although human reconciliation of these different renderings are mere speculation, the traditional explanation is that Judas hanged himself near or over a steep precipice, possibly over the valley of Hinnom, and the rope, vine, etc.that he used to hang himself, broke. And when it broke, Judas he fell to the bottom of the ravine, and was dashed to pieces by the force of the fall. This we know, both accounts were Holy Spirit-inspired and are true. This seems to be a reasonable explanation.

Continuing with the following verses, 6-10, we learn that Judas returned the betrayal money and threw it at the feet of the Jewish elders that had paid him to identify Jesus. After he departed they took the money and began questioning how it could be used. They concluded that because it was the price of blood that it was an unlawful offering and could not be put into the treasury (See Deut. 23:18). The term, "the price of blood," literally means the price that anyone could pay to purchase the death of another individual. Although these hypocritical Jews had no feelings of guilt for falsely accusing an innocent Man that resulted in His death sentence, yet it seems contradictory that they were too piously sacrilegious to put the "blood money," which had originally come from them, into their treasury.

After debating the issue among themselves, they took the money returned by Judas Iscariot and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. It was called a "potter's field" because it was once used to mine a certain type of clay that was used to manufacture pottery. Undoubtedly the usable clay had already been taken from this plot of ground, and was now useless for that purpose. Because the value of this ground had been depleted, it could be purchased with very little money. Also, the "strangers" buried here certainly were not Gentile pagans, because the Jews would have nothing to do with them. Therefore, they were probably Jews that had come to Jerusalem for business purposes or to celebrate various holy days, and for some unforeseen reason had died during their visit to that city. Doesn't it seem ironic that strangers found their final resting place in a field purchased by the blood of Jesus, the Savior?

This burial place for strangers was called, The Field of Blood, unto this day, that is, until the day that Matthew wrote this gospel message, which most bible scholars consider to be some thirty years hence. Matthew continues by saying that this event fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me (Matt. 27:9-10). One would think that the reference here is to the prophet Jeremiah, but these words cannot be found in his prophecies. They can, however, be attributed, not as a direct quotation, but in the sense intended, to the prophet Zechariah (See Zech. 11:12-13). Some think the mistaken identity was due to an early translating copyist since the change of one single letter transforms the name Zechariah to Jeremiah.

Thirty pieces of silver, the common cost of a slave during that day, was the value placed on the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ by the Jewish religious leaders. The Messiah, for which they were waiting with great anticipation, was not recognized and accepted due to the human wisdom that they allowed to misinterpret the message of God given to them through His earthly messengers, His prophets. How Sad!