Insert text here.
Both the betrayer and the betrayed died on "Good Friday". Judas, full of guilt, took his own life. Jesus, full of innocence, did the opposite; he gave his life.
When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. When they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!"
Then Judas threw down the pieces of silver in the temple, and went and hanged himself. The chief priests took the silver pieces and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood." And they consulted together and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood.
Now Jesus stood and the governor asked Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus said to him, "It is as you say." While he was being accused by the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against you?" But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.
Matthew 27:1-13 NKJV, condensed
Guilt and Innocence
The chief priests and elders of the people come across in a very negative light. Whoever wrote this text, certainly painted an evil picture of this elite group. Here they are, plotting and scheming to put Jesus to death because he threatened their positions of power.
They paid Judas to betray Jesus. In the courtroom they continued to call witnesses against Jesus until they heard what they wanted to hear. Blasphemy! In their minds, that was a charge so serious Jesus deserved to die. However, this religious council didn't have authority to impose a sentence of death; they needed to take the case to the Roman governor.
In the meantime, Judas returned, distraught and full of remorse for his act of betrayal. In perhaps the most truthful line in the entire drama, Judas confessed, "I have sinned! I have betrayed innocent blood." We don't know what Judas expected from the elders, but what he got was a cold and callous response. A treacherous alliance is difficult to get out of. With two parties involved, the confession of one person is a threat to the others. Besides, what did guilt or innocence have to do with anything!
It was the tell-tale bag of money which came back with Judas that disturbed them. The blood money on the temple floor had fingers pointing directly at them. They had to get rid of it, yet it would not be right to put blood money back into the temple treasury! Imagine that. There was something after all that struck them as evil, vile, despicable.
Ironically, the elders got caught up in a debate that split hairs over what the Law of Moses commanded concerning tainted money. So they did the politically expedient thing, they decided to give it to charity. With the money which had betrayed the innocent blood of Jesus, they bought a field in which to bury all those foreigners and others who were not worthy to rest in peace in their regular burial grounds. Deciding on that simple good deed cleared their collective conscience. In the words which Jesus spoke earlier in his ministry, they had "strained out the gnat and swallowed the camel!"
Under the fresh eyes of Pontius Pilate, this case did not appear serious. He didn't care what Jesus said about matters pertaining to Judaism. Pilate at first seems more amused and annoyed than anything else. The accusers did all the talking; the defendant said absolutely nothing. Until Pilate asked Jesus directly, "Are you the king of the Jews?" It was a silly, mocking question. The Jews at that time were an occupied people. The only power they possessed was granted to them by the Roman authorities and constrained by armed soldiers. Pilate had nothing to fear from a "king" of the Jews. The governor marveled at what he was witnessing.
Judas and Jesus died on the same day. Judas hung himself; Jesus was crucified by soldiers carrying out orders from the higher-ups. Judas offered no excuse for his evil deed and blamed no one. He didn't accuse the elders of tricking him or forcing him to cooperate. Isn't it interesting that the betrayer named Judas, standing alone, emerges as the one who accepts full responsibility for his actions! Jesus also stood alone, unafraid among his enemies, offering no defense nor explanation. Our Lord did not attempt to justify his words or deeds, or try to put anything into proper context.
The tragedy for Judas is that he made his confession to the elders who cared nothing for him, and not directly to Jesus who loved him as a dear friend. The disciple Peter, in the previous text, also behaved in a disloyal manner by denying he had ever known Jesus. Peter responded to his failure with remorse and bitter weeping. But the difference between Judas and Peter was that Judas had no hope of forgiveness. Judas, unlike Peter, thought he could never face Jesus again. His only alternative was to take his own life. By doing so, he missed the mercy of the cross and the joy of Easter morning.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe a time when you were going in one direction and then suddenly realized you were going the wrong way.
Judas had plotted with "the enemy" to betray Jesus a day or two earlier (Matthew 26:14-15). He preformed his traitorous deed on Thursday evening in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-50). The next morning, full of shame and remorse, he hung himself. Why do you think he had such a sudden change of heart? When Judas brought the blood money back to the elders, what do you suppose he expected them to do?
Did you ever have such a moment when you suddenly regretted a course of action you had taken? If so, how were your eyes opened to the error of your ways?
Judas felt guilt; the chief priests and elders evidenced no guilt. What does that tell you about these characters? When is guilt a good thing? When is guilt a bad thing?
Identify and discuss the sin of the betrayer and the sin of the chief priests and elders. What words did you use to describe their sins?
Have you ever heard about churches or other charities not wanting to accept certain money because of the story behind the gift? If so, share an example.
Why did the chief priests and elders think it was OK to demand a death sentence for Jesus, yet it was not OK to put the "blood money" into the temple treasury? What were the inconsistencies in their thinking? Why did their conscience bother them about the latter but not the former? How common is it to have such inconsistencies? Name some which you have observed in other people?
We see the sins of others so clearly. Then why are we are so blind to our own sins? When have you failed to see that something you wanted to do was sinful?
What does your theology teach you about sin? Are some sins worse than other sins? Are there big sins and little sins? How are you freed from the guilt of past misdeeds?
Do you expect to see Judas Iscariot in heaven? Why or why not?