Thursday night turns to Friday morning. The hours of darkness have been spent with the Lord’s supper, the prayers in Gethsemane, the arrest of Jesus, and his trial before the council. They arrested him in order to kill him, so they spent the night gathering the evidence they needed and strategizing about how to present the case to Pilate, the Roman governor. In the morning, they restrained him and sent him over.
Now the scene focuses on Judas the Betrayer. That has almost become his name in the latter parts of Matthew. Judas changed his mind and brought back the money he was paid to betray Jesus.
There are two ways of looking at this.
- Judas expresses regret but not repentance. His suicide shows that he has no hope of restoration. Judas is lost for all eternity.
- Or, even though the word used for “changed his mind” here is different from the normal word for repentance, Judas does show true repentance and even tries to give back the money. Thus, Judas is not restored in life, but is restored in the kingdom.
I’m not sure what to think. I’m not sure what Matthew intends for me to think. A case can certainly be made for Matthew seeing this as true repentance. As you think about this matter, ask yourself whether you are relying on your reading of scripture or on the tradition you have heard from the pulpit.
Either way, Judas executes his own death penalty, having been told by the priests that he is on his own. In a way, he transfers the guilt back to them with the money. It’s interesting that they are careful about the use of the blood money but callously send an innocent man to death. It reminds me of church leaders today who fiddle while Rome burns.
The council serve as Judas’ representatives in fulfilling scripture. Matthew quotes from Zechariah (though he says Jeremiah) in another case of the life and death of Jesus fulfilling scripture. Matthew may also have in mind the story of the potter in Jeremiah.
Next the scene will move into the governor’s court.