HARMONY OF THE GOSPEL
(30) Suicide of Judas
Jesus Final Week of Work at Jerusalem
This passage tells about Judas' repentance, and him returning the blood-money; his rejection by the priests, Judas suicide, and the purchase of the Potters Field with the blood-money.
Acts 1:18-19: Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
Scripture: Matthew 27:3-10
Time: Friday of Jesus’ Final Week
Place: Garden of Gethsemane
MATTHEW 27:3 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,
Judas is known as the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Judas was the son of Simon (John 6:71), or of Simon Iscariot. The term Iscariot, which is used to distinguish Judas from the other disciple named Judas (Luke 6:16), refers to his hometown of Kerioth, in southern Judah (Josh. 15:25). Thus, Judas was a Judean, the only one of the Twelve who was not from Galilee.
The details of Judas’ life are sketchy. Because of his betrayal of Jesus it is even more of a mystery. Judas’ name appears in three of the lists of the disciples (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16), although it always appears last. His name is missing from the list of the 11 disciples in Acts 1:13; by that time Judas had already committed suicide. Judas must have been an important disciple, because he served as their treasurer (John 12:6).
It appears from the phrase “when he saw that he was condemned” that Judas had been admitted into the court room or was waiting in a nearby room. He may have been waiting for Jesus to use His miraculous power to save Himself and confuse His enemies, although, it is hard to believe that this was the real motive behind the betrayal. As the chief priests and elders were leading Jesus through the hall to take Him to Pilate, Judas saw his Master. Why doesn’t Judas go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness? Instead of doing that, he addressed the religious rulers.
It is true that Judas repented, but not like Peter, who repented, believed, and was pardoned: no, he repented, despaired, and was ruined. Repentance is defined as “a turning away from sin, disobedience, or rebellion and a turning back to God (Luke 5:32). In a more general sense, repentance means a change of mind (Gen. 6:6–7) or a feeling of remorse or regret for past conduct. True repentance is a “godly sorrow” for sin, an act of turning around and going in the opposite direction. This type of repentance leads to a fundamental change in a person’s relationship to God.”
What was it that induced Judas to repent? It was when he saw that he was condemned. He probably expected that either Christ would make his escape, or else He would have pleaded his own cause at their bar so well that they would have let Him go. But he had no reason to expect that this would happen, because he had so often heard his Master say that He must be crucified. Things did not go as Judas anticipated. He saw that everything was going against Christ, and instead of defending Himself, He was yielding to it.
Judas repented himself; that is, he was filled with grief, sorrow, and indignation, at himself, when he thought about what he had done. He was sorry all right, but it was worldly sorrow that leads to death (2 Corinthians 7:10).When he was tempted to betray his Master, the thirty pieces of silver looked very desirable. But after he betrayed the Savior, and the money was paid, the silver looked like garbage. Now his conscience took over; "What have I done! What a fool, what a contemptible person, I am, for selling my Master, for such a trifle!’’ Now he curses the bag he carried, the money he coveted, the priests he dealt with, and the day that he was born. Now he found his Master’s words were true; It were better for that man, that he had never been born.
What were the signs of Judas’ repentance? First, he made restitution; He brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests, when they were all together in public. Now the money hurt his conscience, and he was sick of it. He brought it back to those priests who gave it to him, to let them know that he repented over the bargain he made with them.
Matthew 27:4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
Judas confession; "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood" is also a sign of his repentance and a pronouncement of the honor of Christ, by declaring that His blood is innocent. If he had been guilty of any sinful practices, Judas, as his disciple, would certainly have known about it. He pronounces Him innocent, to the faces of those who had pronounced him guilty. He does not lay the blame on anyone else, and does not say, "You have sinned by hiring me to do it;’’ but instead, he places all the blame on him; "I have sinned, in doing it.’’ Thus far Judas has repented, however it was not repentance unto salvation. He confessed, but not to God. He did not go to him, and say, I have sinned against heaven, Father forgive me. He confessed the betraying of innocent blood, but did not confess that wicked love of money, which was the root of this evil.
These arch conspirators who had cooperated so eagerly a few hours ago now refused to have any further part in the matter. This is one of the rewards of treachery. Judas was remorseful, but this was not a godly repentance that leads to salvation. Although he was sorry for what he had done or rather for the effects which his crime brought upon himself, yet he was unwilling to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
Notice how the chief priests and elders replied to Judas’s remorseful confession; they said, "What is that to us? See thou to that." The reply of the priests reveals the real cruelty of their hearts: A. W. Tozer calls this the “great double-cross;” Judas betrays Christ in collusion with the priests, who in return, reject him! Was it nothing to them that they had thirsted after this blood, and hired Judas to betray it, and had now condemned it to be shed unjustly? Is this nothing to them? Today, many make light of Christ crucified; what is it to them, that he suffered such things?
Envision, if you can, how uncaringly they speak of the sin of Judas; he said, I have sinned, and they said, "What is that to us? Why should we be concerned about your sins? Really, it is foolish for us to think that the sins of others are nothing to us, especially those sins that we assist in, or take part in. Is it nothing to us, that God is dishonored, souls wounded, Satan gratified and his interests served, and that we have aided and abetted it?
The guilt of sin is not as easily transferred as some people think it is. If there was guilt due to his betrayal, they tell Judas that he must look to it, that he must bear it. First, Why? Because he had betrayed Christ to them, he was the greater sinner. Secondly, Because he knew and believed Him to be innocent; but betrayed Him anyway.
See how inconsiderately they speak of the conviction, terror, and shame that Judas was under. They were glad to make use of him in the sin, and they may have even been very warm toward him, after he said, "What will ye give me, and I will betray him to you?" At that time, they did not say, What is that to us? But now that his sin had created fears and doubts, they had nothing to say to Judas. Note, Sinners, under convictions, will find that their old companions in sin can offer little comfort.
Matthew 27:5 And he cast down (threw down) the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
He cast down the pieces of silver in the temple. The chief priests would not take the money. They feared that if they did they would have to bear the guilt, along with Judas. They wanted Judas to bear the guilt alone, but it was more than he could handle, so he threw the thirty coins down in the temple, fulfilling the words of the prophet, “And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD” (Zechariah 11:13). But the restitution of the silver did not undo the wrong, because it was restored in a wrong spirit—a desire for relief rather than hatred of sin; he confessed to the wrong party, or rather to those who should have been secondary, and who could not grant forgiveness.
He went, and hanged himself. Suicide is a cowardly reaction to ones troubles. It is final and cannot be reversed. Judas suicide is an indication that he was unsaved: he betrays innocent blood for money, becomes guilty, returns the money, and commits suicide. These are the actions of a guilty conscience, not a forgiven and regenerate one.
Judas felt helpless and that it was too late to fix the damage he had done to his Master. They probably laughed when they answered him “What is that to us.” Now he was angry as well as dejected, so he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed. He left the Temple and went to some solitary place, like a possessed man that was being drawn by the devil. It was the same devil, with the help of the priests, that drew him to the sin he now regretted so very much.
Judas, in his despondency, went out and hanged himself, at Aceldama, on the southern slope of the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, and in the process he fell down a rock face and was dashed into pieces (Acts 1:18-19). Others conclude that he hanged himself on a tree, that the rope or branch broke, and that his body was hurled over a cliff, causing him to be disemboweled, whereas I have read that his body was not discovered for some days causing it to become bloated and his bowels gushed out. “And he went to his own place.” (Acts 1:25).
When Judas hanged himself; He became his own executioner. Judas had a 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 of a type that is unpardonable. He could have turned to the Lord Jesus, even at this late hour, and been forgiven. We know there were some that had been on the court that tried Him, sentenced Him, and murdered Him who was saved on that day. And some have said, that Judas sinned more by not seeking the mercy of God, than in betraying his Master’s blood.
This event is an instance of the awful end of those whom Satan has entered into, and particularly those that yield to the love of money. This is an instance of the awful effects of despair; it often ends in suicide. Let us think as bad as we can of sin, provided we do not think of it as unpardonable. Let us never seek help in ourselves, while ignoring help from God. Let us guard against the beginnings of despondence, and pray, Lord, lead us not into temptation.
Matthew 27:6 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.
The Jews believed that the Divine laws forbid them from receiving into the temple treasury any contributions from money obtained in an immoral or unjust way—even though they may have taken it out of the treasury, saying it was for the public good. For this reason they now refused to allow Judas’ blood-money to be placed in the chest of the temple, along with the other contributions for its repairs. They were right to do this, but by the very act of refusing this money, they proved themselves to be hypocrites who misrepresent the spirit of God’s requirements: they did not see that it was even more unlawful for them, who had paid Judas to betray Christ, to be employed in the service of the temple. Those that “bear the vessels of the Lord,” ought to be holy. Christ, who faced men like this before, said to them, “Ye blind guides! ye strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel,” and at another time He said they made the outside of the cup clean, but inside it was full of deceit, treachery, and murder. But nothing he said bothered them.
Matthew 27:7 And they took counsel (deliberated), and bought with them (the 30 pieces of silver) the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
The money which Judas brought back to the priests was used to purchase a parcel of land, called the potter’s field; because some potter had owned it, or lived on it, or lived near it, or because broken potters’ vessels were thrown into it. And this field was to be a place that would be used for burring strangers, that is, proselytes to the Jewish religion, which were from other nations; they came to Jerusalem to worship and happened to die there. Buying this field appears to be an act of charity, but on the other hand, one may wonder why they would bury strangers in a place by themselves. Could they have wanted to keep strangers at a distance? They may have the attitude expressed by Isaiah, “Stand by thyself, come not near me, I am holier than thou, (Isa. 65:5). They may have had another reason for purchasing the field. Perhaps they thought they could atone for what they had done, by this public act of charity. Today there are people who were made to believe that by giving money to the churches or TV preachers they can make amends for immoralities.
When they bought the field, the chief priests unwittingly fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy that the burial money would be used to make a purchase from a potter (Zechariah 11:12-13). Strangely enough, the Zechariah passage has an alternative reading—“treasury” for “potter.” The RSV translation has this interpretation, “Then I said to them, ‘If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty shekels of silver. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Cast it into the treasury’—the lordly price at which I was paid off by them. So I took the thirty shekels of silver and cast them into the treasury in the house of the Lord’” (Zechariah 11:12-13). The priests had scruples about putting blood money into the treasury so they fulfilled the prophecy of the other (RSV) reading by giving it to the potter in exchange for his field.
Matthew 27:8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
Matthew assigns this prophecy to Jeremiah (see verse 9), whereas it obviously comes from the book of Zechariah. He probably labels the quotation from Jeremiah, because in Jesus’ day Jeremiah was the first of the books of the prophets, and that section was identified by the name of the first book. A similar usage occurs in Luke 24:44 where the book of Psalms gives its name to the entire section of the poetic books. (See endnote 13 for an expanded explanation of this prophesy.)
Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy (Jeremiah) the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued (valuing Christ at a price) whom they of the children of Israel did value;
Matthew 27:10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.
The significant thing is that Jesus was present when Judas returned with his thirty pieces of silver. In fact, Jesus was on His way to die—even for Judas. Our Lord had given him an opportunity to come back to Him there in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He had said, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” And even at this late hour Judas could have turned to the Lord Jesus and been forgiven.
In other passages the word “shekels” occurs instead of “pieces.” The shekel, was the common weight for money. The “piece” or shekel of silver weighed 220 grains, or about half an ounce, and was worth a little more than half a dollar (55 cents). In the New Testament two words are rendered by the phrase “piece of silver”:
1. Drachma, Luke 15:8, 9, which was a Greek silver coin, equivalent, at the time of St. Luke, to the Roman denarius (15 or 16 cents).
2. Silver occurs only in the account of the betrayal of our Lord for “thirty pieces of silver.” It is difficult to ascertain what coins the apostle is talking about. If the most common silver pieces are meant, they would be denarii. The parallel passage in Zechariah, 11:12-13, must, however, be taken into consideration, where shekels (worth about 55 cents) must be understood. It is more probable that the thirty pieces of silver were tetradrachms than that they were denarii (60 cents).
 (John 6:71) He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
(Luke 6:16) And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
(Joshua 15:25) And Hazor, Hadattah, and Kerioth, and Hezron, which is Hazor,
(John 12:6) “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” John was quick to add that Judas did not say this because he had any real love for the poor, but because he was a thief and was greedy. Judas had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
(Luke 5:32) “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The Pharisees considered themselves to be righteous. They had no deep sense of sin or of need. Therefore, they could not benefit from the ministry of the Great Physician. But these tax collectors and sinners realized that they were sinners and that they needed to be saved from their sins. It was for people like them that the Savior came. Actually, the Pharisees were not righteous. They needed to be saved as much as the tax collectors. But they were unwilling to confess their sins and acknowledge their guilt. And so they criticized the Doctor for going to people who were seriously ill.
 (Gen. 6:6–7) “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” The Lord’s sorrow does not indicate an arbitrary change of mind, though it seems that way to man. Rather, it indicates a different attitude on God’s part in response to some change in man’s behavior. Because He is holy, He must react against sin.
(2 Corinthians 2:10) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
(Acts 1:18-19) “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.” It is generally supposed that “falling headlong” happened while he was attempting to hang himself. Perhaps, hanging himself over the ledge, he then fell into the valley below. “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity,” indicates that Judas is the one who purchased the land. Perhaps, after consulting together the priests had the money returned to Judas along with the suggestion or demand that he buy a certain parcel of land with it.
 (Acts 1:25) That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
Blood-money; money paid to bring about a man’s death.
(Zechariah 11:12-13) “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” When Zechariah asks for his wages, they give him thirty pieces of silver—the redemption price of a slave who has been gored by an ox. This payment is cast to the potter, a prophecy of what Judas would do after his betrayal of the Lord.
Some have expressed concern over the mention of Jeremiah in this passage on the basis that the quotation apparently comes from Zechariah. While there is an allusion here to Zechariah 11:12–13, the actual words do not agree with either the Hebrew or the LXX. The major difference is the addition of the word field, upon which the fulfillment claimed is based. This word, and the conception behind it, comes from Jeremiah 32:6–9, where the prophet refers to the purchase of a field for certain pieces of silver. It is obvious that Matthew’s concept of prophetic fulfillment rests upon both passages. Thus, he combines both passages into one quotation, giving credit to Jeremiah as the older and more predominant of the two prophets. Hendricksen (p. 948) draws the same conclusion, noting that a major prophet is preferred over a minor one in a similar double reference in Mark 1:2–3. There Isaiah is credited instead of Malachi (see Mal 3:1). This is certainly to be preferred to Plummer’s suggestion (p. 386) that it was a “slip of the memory.
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Charles Swindoll has written about an unusual photograph he once viewed. This picture captured the familiar sight of a yellow “Dead End” sign, but the message had been altered by someone with a can of spray paint. Underneath the words “Dead End” was the spray-painted question, “What isn’t?” This question of hopelessness has also been painted on the hearts of many disheartened people who need to hear that Christ can transform their dead ends into doorways of hope.
Living on the Ragged Edge, Charles Swindoll, 1985, p. 77