We are going to look away from Jesus’ trial today and focus on the one who turned Him over to His accusers. We will look at Judas and what happened to him after Jesus was taken into custody.
Judas’ name has become synonymous with betrayal since the night he kissed Jesus as a symbol for His arrest. He will forever be remembered for this act. We are going to focus on his next act. This act can be taken either of two ways. It could be an act of contrition or an act of distancing.
Judas didn’t know that when he turned Jesus over to the religious leaders that they were going to kill Him. Judas had no real understanding of the plan he was contributing to. He was disgruntled and wanted to make Jesus “pay” for his perceived slights. He also wanted to get rich, thus the 30 pieces of silver. Like the rest of Jesus’ disciples, he wasn’t listening to what Jesus was saying about His future. If he had been, would he have realized the danger he was putting Jesus in?
Judas had to be in Caiaphas’ home when Jesus was tried to know the verdict, or at least have someone on the inside who reported the outcome to him. Was he within sight of Jesus, John, or Peter during Jesus’ trial? Did Peter and John recognize the role Judas played in putting Jesus into Caiaphas’ hands? If they did and they saw him at Caiaphas’, what would they have done to him?
Somehow Judas learned of the verdict the High Priest and the Sanhedrin passed. This was NOT part of Judas’ plan. He changed his mind as soon as he heard. If he was acting out of contrition he might have pleaded something like this: “Please let me pay for His release. He is innocent! I have sinned in betraying Him. You have to let Him live! I made a mistake.” If he was distancing himself, he might have sounded like this: “This is not what we agreed upon. I betrayed innocent blood. I don’t want to be party to this any longer.”
The first pleading is for Jesus’ sake, where the second is for Judas’ own sake. I truly believe that if Judas had come to Jesus for forgiveness, Jesus would have granted it. But was Judas sorry for what he did or afraid of getting in too deep? I wish I could ask him.
Matthew tells us that Judas went to the chief priests and elders when he realized the sentence passed against Jesus. Were these chief priests and elders involved in the trial themselves or were they left out of the proceedings? Matthew also says Judas threw the pieces of silver down into the temple. Was this done at the actual temple or in Caiaphas’s palace? If it was done at Caiaphas, then the priests could have been involved in Jesus’ “trial.” It could have been done while Jesus was being bound again by the temple guards and the Sanhedrin was preparing what to say to Pilate.
Whatever Judas’ intent, distancing or contrition, he wanted nothing more to do with the money he received in the bargain. This was blood money; innocent blood. Whether the chief priests and elders took it back willingly or not, Judas was determined to have no more to do with it. He had to rid himself of it. I’m reminded of Macbeth and the line: “Out damn spot!”
Judas was wracked with guilt over his actions. He had not been absolved by the religious leaders when he brought the money back, nor had they relented in their decision to execute Jesus. In fact, their answer to Judas’ request had been, “Why should we care? That’s your problem.”
Judas couldn’t take the guilt and shame. He didn’t even consider going to Jesus for forgiveness. He certainly didn’t expect Jesus to rise again, even though Jesus told him He would. None of the disciples did. If Judas had believed Jesus would rise again would he have waited?
Did Judas believe anything Jesus said about His future or Judas’? Just before Judas left the dinner table to betray Jesus, Jesus pronounced a “woe” unto the one who would betray Him. Was Jesus talking about Judas’ upcoming act of self-destruction or of his eternal soul because of his actions? Judas asked right away if he was going to be the betrayer. Jesus as much as told him it would be. Did Judas consider what he was doing as an act of betrayal? How could he ask Jesus if it was going to be him?
Judas did the only thing he could think of under the weight of what he had done. He probably wished he had never been born. If he couldn’t be unborn then at least he could die. Judas went to a quiet place and hung himself. Did Judas pray to God before he did this? Did he weep bitter tears, as Peter was doing?
The priest’s now have a problem. Judas has thrown the money down in the temple. The money is “tainted” with Jesus’ blood. They can’t legally put it back in the treasury, but neither can they leave it lying on the ground. So they decide to buy a field in which to bury the poor. In Acts 1 it appears that Judas was buried in this field too. This is the field where he died by hanging, then later fell to the ground and burst open. Once again, the prophecies concerning Jesus are fulfilled in unexpected ways. I doubt the religious leaders ever would have helped fulfill prophecy of their own accord. God’s hands at work again.
Father God, thank You for having EVERYTHING under control. You planned every detail and told them all to Your people generations before hand. I would like to think that Judas’ change of mind was actually an act of contrition instead of distancing. Did he try and pray to You? Did he repent? What was his final destination? I have a feeling that his ultimate destination was hell because of Jesus’ pronouncement of the woe. You and Jesus didn’t send him there, You just foretold his choices and reactions.
Thank You for allowing me to question “what if” and “what happened?” Thank You for also opening my eyes to the second possible motive for Judas’ actions. I was all set for “contrition” when my heart was given the idea of distancing. I believe with my whole heart that You speak to me through the “pen”, so for me, I’m going to go with the second explanation. It also makes it easier to accept him not waiting around for Jesus’ resurrection to ask for forgiveness. If my weighing the two choices has been impacted by anything but You and Your word, please forgive me and bring me back to Your right conclusions. I have a feeling this one will have to wait until I get to Heaven and see for myself.
Thank You that, when we do repent, You are faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Thank You for that promise. I avail myself of it too often. Help me need it less each day. Thank You that You don’t keep score too.