Lesson 117: Judas's Remorse and Suicide
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome, this is lesson # 117. As our last lesson ended, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. But, before we read about Pilate let's read the section we skipped in Matt. ch. 27. Let's read v.3-10. This is about the death of Judas. Matt. 27:3-10. Let's read. "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 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. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, it is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field is called, the field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah 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." Matthew is the only gospel to tell us about the suicide of Judas. In the book of Acts, ch.1, we learn a few more details. But, why did Matthew place the Judas information at this point? I.e. before Jesus was sentenced by Pilate? We have observed before that Matthew made very little attempt in his book to keep things in chronological order. He simply gave us the facts. Judas's suicide may or may not have happened at precisely that moment; but, Matthew wanted us to see the disarray and pandemonium that undoubtedly seized all the apostles at that time. There's no reason to believe that Judas did not sit-in-on all the so-called trial of Jesus. He certainly would have had no reason to fear the guards and servants as Peter did. It's not likely that the chief priests and elders would have been around the temple until after the council broke up, very early, John said; or until after Pilate had sentenced Jesus possibly up close to 9:00 AM that morning.
We said, before that we would take a few minutes to discuss Judas and his possible motives, before we bring this study to an end. Have you given that any thought? Why, did Judas betray Jesus? He had been with Jesus for probably three years. He ate, slept, walked and lived with Jesus practically 24 hours a day. He had not only seen miracle after miracle that proved without doubt that Jesus was the messiah; he had even received limited miraculous powers himself (Matt. 10:1). I do not buy the idea that Judas was framed by the scriptures, i.e. that he was born for that purpose and thus was trapped into doing this. That does not accord with the free moral agent idea of the scriptures. The devil didn't MAKE him do it. He worked for the devil yes; but, in I Cor. 14:32, the apostle Paul said: the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet. Now, it is true that this was foretold in the O.T.; but, that does not mean that Judas was victimized by the scriptures. The point is simply that God knows the hearts of mankind and the nature of mankind for the very reason that God made man; God knew that if His Son came teaching that which was spiritual, that which was truth, that which was accurate and faultless, that which was best for mankind; that, men by their very nature would not change their evil ways and conform to any great degree. It is not that they are not free to do so, they are! It's just that they won't. If God sent another messiah today, as He did in the first century; sooner or later that messiah would be killed as Jesus was. There would be another Judas; this world is a proving ground, there will never be a heaven on this planet called Earth. now, Jesus is coming back, that's as certain as certain can be. But, there will never be another messiah as I suggested in my illustration. Read the first two verses in the book of Hebrews. And, the point is made other places. But, I say all this to make it clear that Judas made this decision of his own free will. Judas carried this out of his own free will. There have been several theories advanced as to why Judas chose to betray Jesus. I'll just touch on a few. FIRST, being of the greedy nature he seemed to possess, he may have simply got angry at the public rebuke in the house of Simon the leper and decided to retaliate. SECONDLY, some think he had an ambition to be the treasurer of a much larger group than 12 apostles. He may have thought that since public opinion was turning against Jesus, that unless something hasty was done; Jesus would not act to establish his kingdom 'quickly and Judas was trying to compel Jesus to act quickly and establish the kingdom quickly where Judas thought he would be the treasurer. You must admit this accords with the general Jewish concept and prophetic understanding of the kingdom that existed in Judea at that time, i.e. if you remove Jesus' teachings from the picture, it would seem. Judas KNEW Jesus was endowed with the powers of heaven and possibly Judas thought that Jesus would use that power to make himself an earthly king if Jesus was put into a corner, so-to-speak. THIRDLY, some think that Judas had come to the conclusion that Jesus' kingdom was going to fail because of all the ill feelings by the Jewish political bosses. Thus, Judas really thought he was trying-out for a high position within the Sadducee establishment, trying to assure himself a career with the wealthy. FOURTH, and finally, it might be that dealing with the high priest and his great wealth and political power, may have simply influenced Judas to act against his better judgment. This is all speculation and the bottom line is that we just don't know the thinking of Judas. So, let's turn the question around and ask ourselves this question: what do WE LEARN from Judas? Well first of all, it's obvious, we know without even considering the Judas case that life is a fragile situation. It's easy to be disappointed by people and wealth and get our values distorted and give in to temptation. It's so easy to let our faith slip for only a brief time and that "agape"-type love slip from our thinking. You see God has commanded (#1) that we have faith in Jesus Christ and love him and (#2) that we seek the highest interest of our fellow man, always. That's no small assignment. If you practice it long enough, accurately enough, honestly enough; it begins to come more natural over time; but, it never comes easy. It's a life long assignment. And there are worldly invitations everyday to slip into a Judas routine. Second question: what else do we learn from Judas' experience? Matt. 27:3 said, "Judas repented himself." Anybody with a conscience, finds it difficult to live with themselves when they constantly go against their better judgment. The commentators point out that the Greek word used here for "repent" is a different Greek word than is usually used for "repent" in the N.T. This word more nearly corresponds to our word "regret" than the word "repent." Whether that technicality is of great significance or not, I don't know. Matthew's wording in the KJV does seem to indicate that Judas was as disappointed about his scheme failing as his concern for Jesus. I conclude this from v.3 where Matthew said, "when he saw that he was condemned." What does that sentence really imply? The KJV gives me the impression that Judas, as I said, concluded that his scheme had failed and thus AS A RESULT began to regret his involvement. However, one translation (I have) says, that when Judas "saw that JESUS HAD BEEN CONDEMNED. Judas changed his mind and brought back the 30 pieces of silver..." Nevertheless, it is very significant to me that Judas repented himself. Had Judas tried to justify himself, it might cause one to think that he had seen something that made HIM FEEL, at least, Jesus was unfair TO HIM in some way. But, the fact that Judas repented himself; tells you Judas recognized the problem was with himself and not somebody else. And there is another great lesson with Judas, that is so difficult to teach. It's the same factor that's involved in drug and alcoholism in our day. It sneaks up on us in sex, in wealth, in power and in many other forms. I heard a little story once that tends to illustrate this point. It's a fowl story. It's about a great eagle, and that's what makes it a fowl story. This great eagle was flying over the Niagara River, just above the Niagara Falls on one cold winter day when food was hard to find. This eagle gliding along on his great wings, looked down and saw a dead sheep floating in the Niagara River. He sized up the situation and recognized his time was very limited before that sheep would come to the falls and suddenly drop with great turbulence into a deadly canyon that could take this great eagle to his death. But, he said, I can handle it! My wings are strong, and I can call upon my great wings, and very quickly escape when the time comes. I've use my great wings to carry me to safety many times. I have great confidence in my ability. So, the eagle soared to the sheep and made a perfect stall at the right second and came to rest on the dead sheep as it smoothly floated along with the current of the river. The old eagle began to tear at the flesh of sheep with his great beak and powerful jaws. The eagle was enjoying his dinner. AND, all the time he was keeping an eye on the falls and the distance to the falls, ready to call upon his big, lofty and majestic wings when the moment arrived. "finally, right in the middle of his lunch the time came! and the sheep, eagle and all arrived at the top of the falls. The water currents began to increase and he had just a few more seconds to carve out one more big bite of mutton. He made a quick grab for that last bite of mutton and then suddenly spread his big strong wings and beat the air with great force to lift him away from the sheep and from the falls. But, Mr. Eagle had been so involved in filling his belly, that he was unaware that the frigid air on that cold winter day had frozen his claws to the wet wool of the sheep. The ice and the wool fibers were so strong he couldn't pull away (!) and the sheep was so heavy he couldn't get airborne. And, you can imagine the rest of the story. The moral to that fowl story is this: Mr. Eagle got too close to the edge. He knew he was playing it close. He was aware of the danger. But, he trusted in his own ability. It's a lesson so badly needed by our young people today. We tend to have unlimited confidence in ourselves. I have a tendency to think, I can handle it. It's easy to trust ourselves and say: OH! I can go out on a dangerous limb a little, take a few chances. I'm smart enough to stay clear of the breaking point. But, while we're filling our belly, we tend to get involved and forget the dangers of the water. Sometimes that limb doesn't break, it just bends down slowly as we inch out and makes it more and more difficult to climb back to safety. Then, finding ourselves in that position, it's easy to get involved in just holding on to the limb so-to-speak as that limb sags down and sags down and sags down until we don't have the energy and courage to climb back to safety. Then, we delude ourselves by saying OH! I can live here a while. It's not too bad here! I'll eventually inch back to safety, I have great confidence in myself. Judas must have had great confidence in himself as he went to the chief priest and Caiaphas. He must have thought, this is wrong, I know it's wrong; but, I'll teach Jesus not to rebuke me in public. I'll put a little pressure on Jesus to get that kingdom business under way. It's time he starts sitting on a big throne and get a little respect and it's time for me to start counting money by the vault full instead of a few paltry coins. He must have thought, most of these Jewish leaders are honorable men; OH! they're politicians, yes; but, they’re honorable men. He must have thought, I'll monitor the situation close. I can control Caiaphas. If he gets too rough with me or Jesus, I'll take his money back and expose the whole scheme to the public. That'll teach HIM to try to discipline Jesus. That’ll make'em sit up and play the game my way. Any way, if Jesus can calm a storm and feed five thousand people; he'll take care of it some way. He can just say the word and miraculously calm a storm. If Jesus can raise Lazarus form the dead, he can handle Caiaphas. But, as Judas sat by and watched the council abuse Jesus and plot murder; he began to realize these people are criminals. They're dishonest! They sure don't have the disposition of Jesus. Then when he saw the whole council, at least a quorum, vote to put Jesus to death and Jesus didn't retaliate; Judas could see that things had gone too far. And he could see that Jesus was dead serious when he taught: "Love your enemies" (Matt. 5:44) "bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." So, Judas must have went and got the money and returned it to the chief priest and said; wait a minute, let's bring this business to a halt. This has gone far enough. But, the councilmen said, that's your problem. We paid you what we agreed! You take care of your business, we'll take care of ours. Do you know what happened? Judas played it too close to the edge. That limb gradually sunk down to where Judas lost control. When Judas saw Jesus being taken to Golgotha side by side with a couple other real criminals. Judas 'couldn't live with the thought. His heart ached just to think! He realized his crime was forever, his limb had broken. In desperation he did a crime upon himself. In a speech that Peter made about seven weeks later, beginning in Acts 1:15, we learn a little more about the details of Judas' suicide, if you're interested. Take a look at Matt. 27:6. Where did the council get the thirty pieces of silver to pay Judas, in the first place? Most likely from the temple treasury, I would assume. But, then, when Judas brought the exact same money back to the chief priest; they refused to put it back in to the treasury. That statement they quoted, about blood money, at the end of v.6 apparently is not found in the O.T., at all. Thus, it was another one of those TRADITIONS OF THE FATHERS statements. Their conscience wouldn't let them put the money back into the treasury. What kind of a conscience was that? Have you heard about honor among thieves? Well any way, they finally spent the money on a great benevolent project. The Jews didn't want strangers, i.e. foreigners, buried in their cemeteries so they used Judas' blood money to purchase a cheap place for the foreigners. The word potter's field has reference to a place where clay was mined to make clay vessels, i.e. stone jars and pottery. After it had been mined out, it was probably a bare and useless spot for anything else. In the book of Acts the place is called "Aceldama", in which Luke, the writer, explains it means: "The field of blood." McGarvey and Pendleton say that the quotation in v.9-10, attributed to Jeremiah is NOT FOUND in the book of Jeremiah in the O.T. at all. They think that the reference has been mis-copied by some scribe and the reference should be Zechariah 11:12-13. They point out that this would be a very easy error to make in that it involves changing only two letters in the Greek. Our time is up! We'll get back to Pilate in our next lesson. So, have a good day!