Hope vs. Despair

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”  So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.”- (Matthew 27:3-6)

When reading this passage for some it may appear slightly out of order (at least with Matthew’s chronology). However the main thing to remember, in this case, is that this event is essentially taking place at the same time as some of the mob demands before Pilate — behind the scenes. But, moving it down into this position in the harmonized account, allows for the full story around Pilate to be told and then the comments around Judas’ betrayal.

A contrast takes place here, that is very important to note. Here, Judas is called, “the betrayer,” a name that will stick with Judas through the rest of history. The term that is used is paradi/dwmi (paradidomi), which literally means “one who delivers.” In this case, context has clarified how the delivery takes place, for Judas has delivered Jesus into the hands of the wicked. The contrast that takes place, though, is that you have two deliverers at work in this passage — Judas the betrayer, the one who delivers Jesus into the hands of the wicked, and Jesus the deliverer of the elect of God. One a worker of unrighteousness the other the Lord of all righteousness. Indeed, what an interesting but sad contrast this is.

We see from the text that Judas had second thoughts. The term used here is metame/lomai (metamelomai) and it conveys the idea of being sorry for an action, regretting one’s decision, and wishing that it could be undone. This should not be viewed as  as repentance as some may believe.  Typically the word translated as “repent” is metanoe/w (metanoeo), and refers to a total change in mind, in one’s worldview or perspective. No, Judas has not changed his mind, Judas felt bad because he realized his betrayal was that of condemning an innocent man to death. However, his hard heart did not change as evidenced by him not seeking forgiveness, but choosing to take matters into his own hands to resolve his sin. Handling this situation himself caused him to take the only way he could see out of the pain and torment he was experiencing which was death at his own hand. (“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – Romans  6:23) Nevertheless, there is sincere grief being exhibited.

Judas seeks to undo his actions rather than asking Christ for forgiveness, thinking that if he returns the blood money he won’t be as culpable. Again, this is a sign of a heart that is not regenerate, this is one who simply regrets his own actions and fears his future condemnation. The priests are unable to accept blood money, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s first notice, though, their response to Judas. “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” That’s your problem, not ours is essentially what they tell him. They have what they want and nothing can undo the events that will soon transpire.

The final phrase is translated in a variety of ways, often implying that Judas is responsible for fixing his own mess — “don’t involve us” is implied. I would suggest that is partially true, but misses the force of this statement. They say, “look to yourself” or even “look on yourself” (in the Greek the verb there is a “middle” form, implying an action that one is doing upon or to oneself). Here’s the situation in short. Judas is sorry for his actions and is going to the priests. It was the priests whose role was to be the intercessor between God and man for their sins. However in this case they are basically saying to him that there is nothing they can do, he needs to make atonement by his own works — they demonstrate their own impotence as priests to do what they have been called to do. Judas does not run to Christ for forgiveness, he recognizes he stands condemned, what will be left to do but to take his own life — indeed he will look to himself.

The despair that comes from looking upon yourself for your own deliverance. It simply cannot be done. No matter how high and lofty the Christ-less ideals of the unbeliever may sound to our ears, they cannot hope to live them out and will end up in despair…just like Judas. There is hope in one name for in only one name is there forgiveness for sins and a promise of deliverance from this body of death. And that name is the name of Jesus Christ! Run to him! Cling to him! And call the world to do the same! For in Him and in Him alone there is life, hope, peace and joy! What unnecessary sorrows we inflict upon ourselves when we seek to take matters into our own hands; what life there is in the hands of Christ. Choose ye this day, whom you will serve — and do it! Live out your faith in everything you say and do, growing in faith and grace yourself and pointing others to the only hope there is or ever will be for this life and for the next.

God’s Peace!

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