Matthew 27:1-5 (NIV) Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins 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.
There had been one other disciple present at Jesus’ trial: Judas Iscariot, His betrayer. Although Judas had no role in the trial, he still wanted to see what happened. And, as the morning grew toward dawn, the sense of dread, and of his own inner darkness grew as well. Finally, Jesus was condemned, and as the sun crested the Mount of Olives to the east of the city, they tied Jesus up and led Him away to Pilate to persuade him to impose the death sentence that they had pronounced on Him.
Before the chief priests and elders could follow Jesus and the guards out, Judas approached them and tried to return the thirty pieces of silver that he had been paid to betray Jesus. On the backside of these events, he was weighed down with the sense of the intense blackness of his own heart. He figured that if only he could give the money back, if only he could proclaim Jesus’ real innocence to these men, he could somehow erase the horrendous events of the last several hours.
But the chief priests and elders wouldn’t accept the money back. If Judas was having issues with what he had done, that was his problem. The consciences of the elders were astonishingly clear. Although they knew that they had done things in a highly illicit manner, and had violated several rules that were designed to preserve the integrity of the judicial process, the had convinced themselves that they had only done so for the greater good of God and country. They failed to see that it was God that they had betrayed, and their country that they had doomed to destruction by their failure to recognize the Son of God in Jesus, and their wanton disregard of God’s regulations.
Judas was undone. He ran across the city to the temple grounds, but couldn’t even pray. The cursed coins seemed to burn a hole in his soul, so he threw them into the court of the temple, a feeble attempt at giving to God what he couldn’t bear to keep for himself.
But even that brought no relief to his soul. He knew that there was no way for him to undo what he had done, no way to rescue Jesus from what he knew to be an entirely unjustified death. So he did the only thing that he could think of to end his suffering: he went and hanged himself.
Father, in addition to everything else that this episode shows about Judas, it shows that he didn’t believe Jesus’ word that he would rise again from the dead, and that he didn’t trust Jesus’ grace to allow him to find forgiveness. Instead, he tried to end his own suffering through suicide, only to then find himself in a place of incredible suffering that will last for all eternity. Such is the result of looking at everything from a purely world-based viewpoint, a viewpoint which, unfortunately, was shared at this point by most, if not all, of the disciples. Thank you that there is grace to be found in Jesus, that there is forgiveness, that there is complete restoration for all who are willing to seek it. Amen.