The Temptation of Judas, Part 2
Topic: Expository Passage: Matthew 27:3-10
The Temptation of Judas, Part 2
Good evening! Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 27:3-10. We are continuing our series on temptation, and this evening, we will finish the story of Judas by examining what happened after Judas betrayed Jesus.
This is a very important lesson. Most sermons about temptation focus on the battle raging in our hearts when sin is in front of us. But there’s also a battle that rages when sin is behind us. You see, Satan doesn’t stop tempting you once you give in; he just changes his strategy at that point. Specifically, Satan loves to pervert guilt. So it is very important that we understand what to do with our guilt. And that is what we will spend most of our time talking about this evening.
Let’s begin by reading Matthew 27:3-8, and then we will pray (Mat 27:3-8).
Last time, we discussed Judas’s background, his heart condition, his experiences, and his betrayal of Jesus. Today, we will discuss his remorse and death.
If you were reading your Bible for the very first time, Matthew 27:3-8 may come as a surprise. What is surprising about the passage we just read? Judas has a change of heart! After betraying Jesus with a kiss, one might expect Judas to take his thirty pieces of silver and disappear into the night. But that is not what happens!
Where does Judas go after betraying Jesus? We don’t know that for sure, but it appears that he may have followed the arresting party back the chief priest’s house, where the first part of Jesus’ trial took place. What part if any Judas played in the trial is impossible to tell. But he was at least aware of what was happening. We know this because Mat 27:3 says that Judas knew when Christ was condemned by the Sanhedrin. So he was around. Not only that, but during those hours, a battle was raging in Judas’s heart.
Have you ever suffered from buyer’s remorse? Maybe you purchased a car or a new TV and then afterwards regretted it. Judas was suffering from the worst case of buyer’s remorse in history. I assume that he was in agony–in turmoil! Had he done the right thing in betraying Jesus? He couldn’t think straight. In today’s terminology, perhaps he was having a panic attack. Finally, when Judas realizes that Jesus is most likely going to die, he returns to the chief priests and elders, confesses his sin, and tries to give back the money.
In the passage we just read, Judas is a desperate man. But we have to ask ourselves, “Why?” After all, he just earned a large sum of money! He now had friends in high places! He wasn’t in any physical danger like the rest of the disciples…. So what could possibly have motivated him to commit suicide? Here is the answer: Judas was suffering under an unbearable weight of guilt.
You have to understand guilt in order to understand this passage. So let’s talk about guilt for a bit. First, what is its definition?
The Definition of Guilt
How would you define “guilt”? There are two types of guilt: objective guilt and subjective guilt. Objective guilt is a reality before God that has nothing to do with your feelings. If you commit murder, you are objectively guilty. It doesn’t matter whether or not you regret your decisions or if you ever get caught; you will answer to God for that sin. When the Bible uses the word “guilt,” it is almost always referring to objective guilt.
However, we often use the word “guilt” in a different way, don’t we? We use the word “guilt” to refer to the bad feelings we get when we know we are guilty. That is subjective guilt.
Unlike objective guilt, which is a settled reality, feelings of subjective guilt change over time and from person to person. In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the main character is driven almost insane by his guilt. At the same time, Joseph Stalin is quoted as having said something like, “If you kill one, it is a tragedy. If you kill a million, it is a statistic.” So what we feel guilty about and how guilty we feel differ widely from person to person.
However, guilt itself is universal.
The Universality of Guilt
Objective guilt is universal because the Bible says, “All have sinned.” But it is fascinating to note that subjective guilt is also universal! How many of you have ever experienced a guilty conscience–raise your hand? Every human who has ever lived except Jesus knows what that feels like! That’s why we relate to stories like, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and so many others!
Not only do we all feel guilty; we all try to fix our guilt! What are some ways that people both past and present have tried to atone for their guilt?
The desire to cleanse our consciences explains hundreds of human activities including practically all religion down through the ages. What do human sacrifice, modern philanthropy, Catholic confession, alcoholism, and going to the psychologist have in common? They are all ways of dealing with guilt!
By the way, the fact that we all feel guilty is an excellent argument for the existence of God. Next time you are talking to someone who doesn’t believe in God, ask him how he accounts for guilt in his worldview. If we are all essentially animals, why do I feel bad about hurting my neighbor? Animals don’t have those same feelings. Why do I?
In fact, let’s talk about that now.
The Origin of Guilt
Who created guilt? Be careful how you answer! Let me ask it this way–who created the conscience? God did! So God also created guilt! Now, obviously there was no guilt before the Fall. But after the Fall, guilt is a part of God’s good design.
How is guilt beneficial? Guilt is the spiritual equivalent of pain. Can you imagine life without any pain? For some of you who suffer chronic pain, that is a dream! In heaven, there will be no more pain. But there also won’t be disease or death. However, what if you kept the death, sickness, injury, danger, etc. but just took away the pain? What would happen? We would all have shorter life expectancies, wouldn’t we?
God uses physical pain to alert us to physical problems that need to be fixed. In the same way, God uses guilt to alert us to spiritual problems that need to be fixed. So guilt in itself is a very good thing! It is designed to lead us straight to the cross!
However, Satan wants to distort your guilt and get you to respond to it wrongly. So let’s talk about Satan’s perversions of guilt.
Satan’s Perversions of Guilt
This passage illustrates two of Satan’s strategies for perverting guilt. The first strategy is to minimize guilt as much as possible.
Satan wants to soothe your conscience so that he can take you by the hand and lead you off the cliff into hell. He wants to make you believe that the good things you’ve done can make up for your bad deeds. He wants you to feel good about yourself so that you will never go looking for Christ. Either that, or he wants you to become so comfortable with your sin that it does not even bother you anymore.
Who does Satan use this strategy on in this passage? (On the chief priests and elders) Isn’t it breathtaking how callous they are? First, they have absolutely no compassion on Judas who is desperate to the point of suicide, even though his desperation was partly their fault! Notice, what they don’t say to Judas when he confesses his sin. They don’t say, “Oh Judas, you’re think about this all wrong! You didn’t sin! It was Jesus who sinned by claiming to be the Son of God! You’re not that bad of a person!” They didn’t try to comfort him.
And they certainly didn’t point him to forgiveness, either. They didn’t say, “Yes, you did sin, but your sins can be forgiven!” Instead, what did they say to his tormented soul? Judas says, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood!” And they respond, “What is that to us? You see to it!” In other words, “Sounds like a personal problem. Get lost!” That harsh response drove Judas over the edge, and they don’t even care.
The second sign that the chief priests and elders are incredibly callous is the straight-faced conversation they have about how to use the money Judas threw down! They determine that it’s not lawful for them to put the money into the treasury because it is “blood money.” And yet they never stop to ask themselves whether they are guilty of Jesus’ blood! They are totally hard. Satan is having his way with them by minimizing their guilt.
But Satan uses a different strategy on Judas, doesn’t he? Satan’s second strategy for perverting guilt is to maximize it. The purpose of this strategy is to make you feel so awful you can’t stand it any longer while keeping you from the one and only solution. Satan wants to lead you down meandering paths of self-righteousness that lead absolutely nowhere! He wants to turn up the heat until you are driven to self-destructive behavior. Instead of trying to convince Judas he is innocent, Satan piles on the guilt until Judas destroys himself.
By the way, don’t you see people on both ends of this spectrum today? You see it, for instance, in the sexual revolution. At first it was all about freedom. Now it seems to be about forcing others to affirm your lifestyle choices. Why would you have to do that? It’s because you’re running from your guilty conscience. Inside, you know what you’re doing is wrong. So if anyone even implicitly suggests that it’s wrong, you must shout them down because deep down, you know that they’re right.
Much of secular psychology exists to convince people it’s not really their fault. It’s your parents’ fault or the fault of your circumstances or your genetic makeup, but you don’t have to feel bad about your sin.
At the same time, we see people suffering under all kinds of mental conditions. Some of those conditions are certainly linked to guilt.
So what is the solution?
The Solution for Guilt
The only solution for guilt is the blood of Jesus. Ironically, this is the very blood that Judas and the chief priests and elders were discussing in this passage. But none of them had any idea that blood was their only hope.
The Old Testament sacrificial system was meant to point forward to Christ. Ever since the very first sacrifice, when God killed animals to make tunics for Adam and Eve after they sinned, God had been sending an unmistakable message: blood must be shed in order to cover one’s sin. However, as the book of Hebrews so eloquently argues, the blood of bulls and of goats can never take away sins! That is why the Son of God had to become man in order to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus became our substitute on the cross. As a result, if we repent and believe in Him, His blood covers us! We are objectively declared, “Not guilty!” We call this doctrine “justification.” The gospel is the solution for our objective guilt!
The gospel is also the solution for our subjective guilt. Because God has justified us, we need not condemn ourselves. Instead, we can experience the freedom of a clear conscience. We know that judicially, we stand holy, blameless, and above reproach in God’s sight. And practically, God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us obey Him and has promised to grant us relational forgiveness as soon as we ask. We don’t need to feel guilty!
The blood of Jesus is the only solution for guilty unbelievers. So the next time you are witnessing, talk about sin; and when you do, know that you have an ally not only in the Holy Spirit, but also in that person’s conscience. Then, once you have shown them their guilt before God, show them the way for dealing with that guilt through the blood of the Lamb. Talk about “felt needs”–by showing them the solution to their guilt, you will helping with their most fundamental spiritual need!
The blood of Jesus is also the only solution for guilty believers. For the Christian still struggling with guilt, the answer is still repentance and faith. Confess your sins to God and the people you sinned against. Then, look to Christ, and believe that you are forgiven.
The solution for a guilty conscience is always looking in faith to Jesus. Unfortunately, that is not what Judas did.
Judas had a tremendous amount of regret. The Bible says that he was remorseful. He tried to give back the money in order to appease his conscience. When the chief priests and elders wouldn’t take the money, Judas threw it down anyways. He even said he had “sinned” by betraying innocent blood! That’s a far cry from the “I made a mistake” speech we so often hear from celebrities! Judas was so close to genuine repentance! And yet, he was also so far away.
How was Judas’s remorse different than genuine repentance? Turn to 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. In this passage, Paul is talking about a very stern letter he wrote to the Corinthians which resulted in their repentance (2 Cor 7:9-11).
This passage reveals that not all remorse is the same. A person can be sorry about what he has done without experiencing what Paul calls “godly sorrow.” Sometimes, it is hard to tell the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow in the moment the sorrow is expressed. But according to Paul in this passage, “the proof is in the pudding.” Ask yourself, “What did my sorrow produce?” and then you will be on the right track for determining what sort of sorrow you had.
I can think of a couple ways Judas’s remorse was different than repentance. First, Judas never asked God for forgiveness. He acknowledged his sin to other people, but he did not deal with it directly before God like David did in Psalm 51. Second, Judas never had genuine faith. Simply admitting that Christ was innocent is not the same as trusting Him for salvation. Third, Judas’s remorse did not result in godly actions. He did not diligently seek to vindicate himself. Instead, he despaired of life. Judas’s sorrow did not lead to salvation but to death.
So let’s talk finally about his death.
Matthew 27:5 says very simply that Judas hanged himself. However, Acts 1:18-19 adds some more details. Turn with me to Acts 1:18-19. In this passage, Peter is talking about Judas to one hundred and twenty followers of Jesus who are gathered, waiting for the Holy Spirit’s arrival after Jesus went back to heaven (Acts 1:18-19).
Bible scholars have debated how to harmonize this passage with Matthew 27. However, I actually don’t think it’s that hard. According to Matthew 27, Judas hanged himself. According to Acts 1, he took a nasty head-first fall and literally spilled his guts. The traditional explanation is that Judas hanged himself on a branch over a cliff there in the Kidron valley, where the Field of Blood is located, and that after he had hung there awhile, the branch broke, and his body fell to the ground and splattered on the rocks.
Matthew 27 says that the chief priests and elders bought the Potter’s Field, but Acts 1 says that Judas acquired it. Peter could say that Judas acquired it in a loose sense because the land was purchased with Judas’s money. Judas may have had dreams about what he would do with that money, but in the end, it only bought him a burial plot.
Matthew 27 says that the field was called “Field of Blood” because it was purchased with blood money. Acts 1 says it was called that because Judas’s blood was shed in that field. I see no reason why it could the land could not have been given that nickname for both reasons.
So Judas goes out and hangs himself in the very same field the chief priests and elders buy with his thirty pieces of silver. It is very ironic and tragic.
Fascinatingly, there is a phrase in Acts 1:18 that is very similar to another phrase found in a famous verse. In Acts 1:18, it says that Judas purchased that field with the “wages of iniquity.” Sound familiar? Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Judas’s death is a graphic illustration of that verse. The money he got for betraying Jesus purchased his burial plot. His sin led straight to his death. Remember that the next time you are tempted.
So how do we respond to this lesson? You must learn to identify Satan’s strategies for tempting you after you have sinned by perverting guilt.
You see these tendencies to either minimize or maximize guilt all the time in pastoral counseling. For instance, somebody may come to you as a pastor and confess his struggle with some sin like pornography. But then he quickly turns around to say, “But if my wife would just be more attentive,” or “If my accountability partner had been more on top of it,” or “If I wasn’t so depressed,” or “If I wasn’t so naturally prone to this sin….” What is that individual doing? –He is minimizing his guilt! Satan is winning the battle!
By the way, it’s not just pornography. People make the same types of excuses with anger, drug and alcohol addiction, laziness, gossip, and every other kind of sin you can think of. When you minimize your guilt after you have sinned, you are giving in to Satan’s temptation.
However, as a pastor, other people will come to you, and they are so racked over their sin that they say things like, “I will never get victory over this struggle.” “How could I be so stupid?” “My family would be better off without me.” So what is their problem? They are giving in to Satan’s temptation to maximize their guilt but not deal with it correctly! You would think that feeling bad about sin is always good. However, that’s not true! The type of thinking I just referenced almost always lead to depression, which leads to more and worse sin, which leads to more and worse suffering for the individual and his or her family. Do not allow Satan to maximize your guilt without any relief.
So what is the solution? The solution is to resist Satan’s temptation to minimize or maximize our guilt and to look to Jesus in genuine faith and repentance instead.
We have multiple hymns that teach us how to deal with guilt. If you know these lyrics, I want you to quote them with me.
“Arise, my soul, arise,
shake off your guilty fears;
the bleeding Sacrifice
in my behalf appears:
before the throne my Surety stands,
before the throne my Surety stands,
my name is written on his hands.”
“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.”
Satan is not done with you after he has convinced you to sin. Now he must keep you from the One who offers genuine forgiveness. Don’t let him win at that game. Humble yourself and run to the Lamb.