“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 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 the 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 was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy 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.”
As we read the Bible, we cannot help noticing that there are numerous examples of men and women who appeared to fear God and walk with him, who in time forsook him altogether and perished under his wrath. There are multitudes in hell today who were once considered saints of God. Lot’s wife, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Achan, King Saul, Ananias and Sapphira, Demas, and Diotrephes are all names that ought to be alarming. Like the multitude in John 6, though they professed to be disciples and were considered by all, except the Lord himself, to be his disciples, they “went back and walked no more with him.” They are beacons placed before us in Holy Scripture to warn us of the danger of hypocrisy and carnal security. All is not gold that glitters. “They are not all Israel which are of Israel.” Many who profess faith in Christ and are confident that their faith is genuine shall betray and forsake Christ in time and perish under the wrath of God in hell.
No one more fearfully and glaringly demonstrates this fact than Judas, the son of perdition, our Lord’s betrayer. He is the principle subject of this paragraph. Judas was once numbered with the apostles of Christ. He once preached the gospel, performed mighty miracles, and carried the treasurer’s bag for the first church ever to exist in this world. Yet, Judas betrayed the Son of God. Afterward, though he repented, confessed his sin, and made restitution, he committed suicide, perishing under the terror of God’s justice and wrath. Today that man, who once was thought to be such a great man, such an eminent believer, burns in hell, suffering the wrath of God! Let none who read these lines follow him.
The first thing to be learned from this passage is the fact that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I stress this fact again because we must never entertain the thought that there may be some error in the Book of God, or that it is not to be depended upon implicitly. The Bible alone is inspired. The Bible alone is God’s Word. The Bible alone is authoritative. The Bible alone is our rule of faith and practice. The Bible alone is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; Rev. 22:18-19).
Yet, there are many who, daring to defy God, love to point out supposed discrepancies in the Scriptures. Learned infidels are only educated fools; and their folly is evident when they attempt to discredit the Word of God. Many have suggested that Matthew 27:9 is an example of a mistake found in the Bible.
If you read your Bible carefully, you know that the quotation attributed to Jeremiah the prophet in verse nine cannot be found in the Book of Jeremiah. It is found in Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 11:12). Does that mean that Matthew made a mistake? If so, the veracity and inspiration of the Bible falls to the ground. Find a single mistake in Holy Scripture and our faith is destroyed. Prove that the Bible is not verbally inspired, and Christianity is proved to be a lie!
But Matthew did not make a mistake. He wrote exactly what the Holy Spirit inspired him to write. That which we have written in Jeremiah’s prophecy is not all that Jeremiah spoke or even all that he wrote. No doubt Zechariah quoted Jeremiah’s words in his prophecy as they were handed down to him. How do we know? We know that because the Holy Spirit here tells us that he did. There are, of course, other examples of this in the Scriptures (Acts 20:35; Jude 1:14). God has placed many stones of stumbling in the Book of Inspiration over which blind and ignorant men stumble into hell.
The chief priests and elders bound Christ and delivered him into the hands of the Gentiles (vv. 1-2) because the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Our Lord had prophesied that he must be delivered by the Jews into the hands of the Gentiles. Therefore, the Jews did what they did because the Scriptures must be fulfilled (Acts 4:27-28; 13:27-29). Obviously, those wicked men did exactly and only what they wanted to do (Acts 2:23). Their crimes cannot be excused. The chief priests and elders, headed by Annas and Caiaphas, were so intent upon murdering the Lord Jesus that they sat up all night in council in pursuit of their wicked scheme (Luke 22:66). But they could do nothing, except that which God had purposed from eternity (John 19:10-11). Let us ever remember that it is the hand of our God that controls all things, even the evil that men do, and that he does so exactly according to his eternal purpose of grace (Ps. 76:10; Rom. 8:28-30; 11:33; Eph. 1:11).
As Isaac was bound to the altar of sacrifice, so the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Isaac was a type, was bound for us as the Lamb of God to the altar of sacrifice. He was already bound with the cords of love to his elect, bound by his own will to redeem us. Otherwise, he would have broken these bonds more easily than Samson broke the bonds of the Philistines. As Matthew Henry wrote, “We were fettered with the bond of iniquity, held in the cords of our sins (Pro. 5:22); but God bound the yoke of our transgressions upon the neck of the Lord Jesus (Lam. 1:14), that we might be loosed by his bonds, as we are healed by his stripes.”
It was prophesied from Israel’s earliest days that Shiloh would not come, that the Messiah and Redeemer promised in the Old Testament would not come, until the sceptre of civil government had departed from Judah (Gen. 49:10). This prophecy was manifestly fulfilled by this act. These enraged Jews would never have turned the Lord Jesus Christ over to Pilate to be crucified had it not been for the fact that they were now no longer a nation with civil authority. Two years before this event the Romans had stripped them of their last remnant of national power. They had no legal power to put a man to death. If Christ were to be legally murdered by them, the Romans would have to do it. Thus, God almighty arranged for the fulfillment of his Word to the letter.
Second, we have before us a vivid illustration of the fact that “all things are of God” (2 Cor. 5:18). The finger of God was in this matter. The hand of God ruled the whole affair. Nothing was left to chance, fate, accident, or the will of man. The Jews were not in charge here. Pilate was not in charge here. The Gentiles were not in charge here. God almighty was in charge. The betrayal by Judas, the council of the Jews, the deliverance of Jesus into the hands of the Romans, the spinelessness of Pilate, and the barbarianism of the soldiers and the people were all under the total rule of our God. These wicked men, while doing only what their wicked hearts and wills desired, did nothing but that which God Almighty ordained and arranged for the redemption of his people and the glory of his own great name. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).
Our Holy Savior
Third, Judas himself gives us a glaring proof that the Lord Jesus Christ was totally innocent of the trumped up charges laid against him. I cannot imagine any evidence that would be more compelling to honest men of our Redeemer’s total innocence than the fact that even when the Jews were trying to hire false witnesses to testify against him, Judas was totally silent. If there was anyone who could have given evidence against the Master, Judas would have been the man. He was one of the Lord’s chosen apostles, one of his constant companions for more than three years. Judas heard everything he taught in public and in private. If our Lord had done anything amiss, in word or in deed, Judas would have known it. And it would have been in his own interest to tell it. After all, if he could produce one incident of evil against the Master, his betrayal would have been justified.
Why did he not do it? Why was he silent? Why did neither the Jews nor Pilate call him to their courts and question him? There can be only one answer given: Judas did not bear witness against Christ because he knew nothing against him. Wicked, base, and vile as he was, the apostate apostle knew that Jesus Christ was an innocent man, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
This is a matter of immense importance. The Holy Spirit takes great care to give us proof upon proof that our Redeemer is the Lamb of God who, by virtue of his eternal deity and perfect humanity, was able to take away the sins of his people.
“By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”
Fourth, Judas shows us that a person may experience much, know much, and do much that appears to be genuinely spiritual and yet perish at last. I frankly do not know how to say what needs to be said here forcefully enough. Salvation is an experience; but it is much more than an experience. Salvation involves knowledge; but it is much more than knowledge. Salvation produces good works; but it is much more than good works. In those matters, neither you nor I come close to Judas. He was not only an apostle, but in all probability the most highly esteemed of all the apostles. Until he betrayed the Master, he was never once, in so far as the Scriptures tell us, reprimanded for anything. Judas seems to stand head and shoulders above the rest. Even after he had been distinctly identified as the betrayer by the Master (John 13:26-30), no one was suspicious of him. Yet, Judas was a lost man. He never knew God.
Salvation is “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27). Salvation is a living union of faith with the Son of God. Salvation is a heart work, a work of God in our hearts. Salvation is not something you can muster. It is not something the preacher can bestow. It is not something parents can bequeath. “Salvation is of the Lord!” Salvation is the utter surrender of a sinner to the rule, dominion, and will of God by faith in Christ. When a person comes to know Christ, the last Adam, he does willingly what the first Adam refused to do. He bows and surrenders to God as God, acknowledging his right to be God and thus to do what he will (Luke 14:25-33).
Next, Judas shows us that there is a repentance that needs to be repented of. “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 the 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” (vv. 3-5).
This was not the repentance of faith, but merely the repentance of a horrified man, conscious of the fact that he had committed a damning deed, and terrified by the wrath of God. Judas was horrified “when he saw that he was condemned.” It appears that he thought he could never have done such a thing. He may have thought the Lord Jesus would, by some miracle, escape from the Romans, as he often had from the Jews. It may be, in fact, I think it is very likely, that Judas never dreamed that the Son of God would be crucified as a result of his betrayal. He did what he did because he saw a chance to make a little money by kissing the Master, by a pretentious act of love and devotion!
But when he saw what the results of his betrayal were, “when he saw that he was condemned,” in utter terror, he tried to undo the mischief of his crime. We are plainly told that Judas “repented himself.” He confessed, “I have betrayed innocent blood.” He even made restitution of the money he had taken. But Judas’ repentance was a fearful example of that repentance which needs to be repented of. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10).
This matter deserves special attention. Multitudes have a form of repentance that, like Judas’, will bring them at last to hell. Solomon warns us that many shall call upon God, but he will not answer; they shall seek him early, but they shall not find him (Pro. 1:28).
Judas repented not because he had seen the glory of God in Christ, but because he was terrified at the prospect of God’s wrath. He wanted salvation, but not the Savior. He wanted mercy, but not the Master. He wanted grace, but cared nothing for the glory of God. Jesus Christ will not be a fire escape. There is a great difference in being afraid of God and fearing God. There is a great difference between an awareness of guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. True repentance is the gift of God’s goodness, not the fear of his wrath (Rom. 2:4).
Judas stands as a beacon to warn us that the things of this world give no comfort to an immortal soul leaving this world. “The treasures of the wicked profit nothing” (Pro. 10:2). The money Judas wanted so desperately, and the money he earned so wickedly brought him nothing but bitterness and sorrow. I suspect that Judas is still trying to cast it away! “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
Judas teaches us that no sinner is so great a sinner as that sinner who sins against light, and knowledge, and privilege. He went out and hanged himself. What a sad, sad tale the life of Judas is! Here is an apostle of Christ, a preacher of the gospel, a table companion of Peter, James, and John, hanged by his own hands. He came to the very Door of heaven, handled the Door, and showed others the Door; but he went to hell! Be wise and REMEMBER JUDAS. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Pro. 29:1).