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As day broke on Thursday morning of passion week Jesus was hastily condemned to death by a kangaroo court gathered to legitimize the verdict that had already been decided upon in advance by Annas, Caiaphas, and the other Jewish leaders.  Since the Romans had stripped from them the authority to carry out executions, an inquisition during the night had settled upon the exact charges they would use to prosecute Him before the Roman governor.  In doubt that various false charges would stick, the main charge they settled upon was His own confession to the truth of who He was—the Christ, the Son of God—which they could not accept because He wasn’t the sort of king they wanted and were expecting.  Thus they became guilty by their own actions of rejecting the true salvation from sin He came to bring.  Now, as Jesus was led away to Pilate, Matthew describes what happened to Judas who betrayed Him.  Supposing Jesus would act to save Himself, his expectations too were not fulfilled, so that rather than helping to establish the kingdom he imagined Jesus came to bring—not unlike that which the religious leaders were expecting, but with different rulers—he realized he would be guilty of the blood of Christ.  He tried to undo his deed by returning the silver and confessing Jesus as innocent and that he had sinned by betraying Him.  But the chief priests and elders who wanted to kill Jesus would have none of it, having made Judas their patsy for His death, and turned him away.  The silver that earlier had seemed to shine so bright was now turned to rust as his eyes were opened to see the vain bauble for which he had traded eternal riches.  His gamble for both heavenly and the worldly gain did not pay off, for a man cannot serve two masters (Mat 6:24).  And so, driven to despair, he cast the silver into the temple sanctuary and fled away to hang himself.

As bad as Judas’ sin was in betraying Jesus for money while supposing He would not actually allow Himself to be crucified, was it necessarily worse than other sins men have committed, or unforgiveable?  Was not the greater sin from which he perished the notion that he could not be forgiven, or that repentance would be too hard, so that being overcome with despair and consumed by its torment, he committed self-murder?  See note[1].  What does this remind us about the deceitful appeal of suicide and its false hope of deliverance from despair?  Should we ever despair of the great mercy and love of God?  See Lam 3:31-32 and note[2].

What does Matthew record that the chief priests did with the money that Judas cast away into the temple sanctuary?  See Mat 27:6-8.  How does his description compare with that of Luke in Act 1:18-19?  How do we reconcile Luke’s account that says Judas acquired the field with Matthew’s account that says the chief priests bought it?  As the priests were keen to not accept possession or ownership of the money, is it not likely that they purchased it in Judas’ name?  Is it also possible that Judas had already made an agreement to purchase the property, so that the transaction was in process but not completed at the time he committed suicide—as seems apparent from Luke’s account—on the property itself, so that the natural thing for the priests to do with the money was complete the sale and use the land as a burial place for strangers since it was already defiled by Judas’ gruesome end there?

Why did the priests not just accept the money as a “gift” from Judas to the temple treasury, since he had thrown it into the sanctuary?  See Mat 27:6.  What does this remind us about there being some things that are acceptable as gifts to God, and some things that are not?  Cf. Gen 4:3-5, Deut 23:18.  Should we ever imagine that gifts from ill-gotten gain are acceptable to God?  What in particular did the priests identify about the money Judas cast into the sanctuary that tainted it as unacceptable?  Consider the cognitive dissonance held by the religious leaders who on the one hand in direct violation of the very essence of the Law were taking action to murder Jesus in full recognition of the “blood money” they had paid for His betrayal, while at the same time expressing concern about putting the money into the temple treasury because it was unlawful; cf. Mat 23:24.  In what way is this the epitome of false religion, and the difference between true salvation and just being religious?  Cf. Rom 2:13, Jam 1:22, and contrast Paul’s description of true religion in 2Co 11:3, 1Ti 1:5.  In spite of their sin, would these religious leaders have doubted their salvation?  In what way then is such a divergence between profession and practice a clear indication of religious deception, and that one’s salvation is hardly as certain as supposed?

[1] Judas had a sight and sense of sin, but no apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, and so he pined away in his iniquity.  His sin, we may suppose, was not in its own nature unpardonable…; but he concluded, as Cain, that his iniquity was greater than could be forgiven, and would rather throw himself on the devil’s mercy than God’s.  And some have said, that Judas sinned more in despairing of the mercy of God, than in betraying his Master’s blood.  Now the terrors of the Almighty set themselves in array against him.  All the curses written in God’s book now came into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones, as was foretold concerning him (Ps. 109:18, 19), and drove him to this desperate shift, for the escaping of a hell within him, to leap into that before him, which was but the perfection and perpetuity of this horror and despair.  He throws himself into the fire, to avoid the flame; but miserable is the case when a man must go to hell for ease.   Matthew Henry.

[2] Let us think as bad as we can of sin, provided we do not think it unpardonable; let us despair of help in ourselves, but not of help in God.  He that thinks to ease his conscience by destroying his life, doth, in effect, dare God Almighty to do his worst.  And self-murder, though prescribed by some of the heathen moralists, is certainly a remedy worse than the disease, how bad soever the disease may be.   Matthew Henry.

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