Matthew 27:1-26 Part 2

As we come near to the sacred text this morning (with some fear and dread – anticipating the event soon to come), we will recall that we introduced the new chapter last time with some history concerning the man Pilate.

Jesus has now been reexamined (as was required) (verse one); and the Sanhedrin, fully committed to destroying Him, have led Him to the Roman governor (verse two).  According to Roman law no one could be executed without the governor’s consent (the foreign power was the sole authority over life and death!).  When we come back to this scene (verse eleven) we will find Jesus standing bound before Pilate, abandoned of the Father, having been beaten and humiliated; and judged outside the pale of the law at that very spot in the created universe which is the figure of the judgment seat of God!

But now, instead of continuing with his narrative of the trial, Matthew suddenly cuts away and provides us with a record of what had happened behind the scenes with Judas.  Now, although parenthetically inserted, this seven or eight verses is, by no means, an afterthought.  As we’ve seen on numerous occasions there is no “filler” in Matthew’s Gospel!  Every verse and every word is carefully chosen and packed with meaning (after all, this is the Gospel!).  This is not a history; and it isn’t a story (even an apostolic story!).  It is Revelation.  Therefore it is the very “mind” of God revealed concerning the salvation He has wrought on our behalf.

So these verses (three through ten) are GOSPEL!  And they are full of Truth that is necessary for us to know.  Therefore the passage is not to be seen as an interruption in the flow of the Gospel narrative; but an insertion of vitally important information… not simply a “fulfillment” of a prophetic word (although that would be enough), and not simply a “side note” that can be read and then set aside (in order to get back to the “real” story); but right at the point of Jesus being judged by the representative of the world’s government, Matthew inserts this eight verses!

Of course someone has asked “Why right here?”  I think it was an awfully good question – one which needs to be asked all the time, especially when the “need” for an answer is as obvious as it is here.  And the answer to that question (which we’ll see shortly) will provide us with the reason that this passage is so critically important to the Gospel.

But for now let’s read verses three and four again…


“Then Judas, the one delivering Him up that He be condemned, having seen, having experienced remorse, returned the thirty silvers to the chief priests and elders saying, ‘I sinned having delivered up innocent blood.’  But they said, ‘What to us?  You shall see.’”


So Judas has seen the whole thing.  Having gone to the priests after Passover he led the crowd of priests and elders and temple guard and attendants to Gethsemane where Jesus was apprehended and bound; and he had returned with them to the temple complex…witnessing then the entire proceeding.

And with the bag of silvers (blood money) burning in his pocket, he watched intently while the awful spectacle unfolded before his eyes.  The revered priests and elders of Israel had become a fiendish mob.  We don’t know exactly what he expected to happen, but he certainly never expected what he had just witnessed!

Having been terribly disappointed and disaffected upon realizing that his high expectations for Jesus and the twelve were not going to be realized, he had sold his services to the priests.  And the One with Whom he had been so close for three years was now the object of lawless fury!  It must have seemed to him like a pack of wild animals (maybe wolves), once their prey was cornered, ripping and tearing at Jesus to get their share of His flesh!

He had done the same thing (Judas had)… wanting to come out of all of this with something!  Three years of his life – and only a little bag of money… blood money!  He had been a part of the ripping and tearing; and he had his share.

But Jesus hadn’t done anything!  He wasn’t guilty of anything.  And Judas’ concept of the priesthood – the religious leaders of Israel!  ...It wasn’t anything like what he had just seen.  This wasn’t religious.  These were animals.

Nothing religious… nothing lawful… nothing orderly; no compassion, no mercy, no priestly composure… no Moses!  The trial was a sham; it was a “lynch mob”… ugly… and it all had begun with him.  He did it.  He had delivered the Man to all of this.  It wasn’t going at all like he had anticipated.  They had used him to get to Jesus; and what he had witnessed here was startling in every respect.

Matthew says that Judas had “deep remorse” over what he had just seen.  The word used here is translated “repentance” in most translations.  It’s not repentance.  It’s a different word than repentance (metamelomai vs. metanoia) – deep remorse.

Repentance is a change of mind… a change of direction… a change of life!  With respect to salvation, repentance involves (first) mourning over one’s state of sin and degradation in connection with God!  A “poverty of spirit”.  A “desperation” (if you will)… anguish of loss and separation from God.  But then there’s a joyful flight from “self” unto Christ where there is freedom and light and life and release.  It is truly said, “blessed are the poor in spirit.…”

But deep remorse is different, isn’t it?  Completely different.  Where repentance begins with mourning over one’s sin in connection with God, remorse has to do with one’s self… it’s self-concerned and self-inflicting!

In repentance the standard by which there is self-judgment and poverty of spirit is God and His holiness.  But in remorse the standard of judgment is self.

Where in repentance the guilty cried out to Christ in anguish for forgiveness and release and acceptance before God, in remorse the guilty remains in darkness and personal torment.

Whereas in repentance (although the sorrow many times reoccurs) the flight to Christ is life-giving and freedom-producing and joyful, remorse simply leaves one in introspection and gloom and a personal prison.

And repentance is a balm for the soul and retrieves it into wholeness and well-being.  As one stands before God forgiven and clean and acceptable in Christ, the “wholeness” includes spiritual and mental and physical well-being… whereas with remorse the self-inflicted turns inward and becomes morose and bitter; spiritual depression and mental instability and physical suffering are all obvious results.

Forgiveness provides an immediate right-standing with God; but remorse leaves one at enmity with God… and the effect is death.  Self-inflicted suffering and depression and suicide are nothing more than examples of self-centered people dealing with their own sin and guilt and uncleanness!

Instead of turning away from self and seeing the sin and guilt in connection with God and the forgiveness and freedom afforded in Christ, the remorseful is so full of esteem for himself, and so self-indulgent, he turns inward and introspective and morose… and remains forever separated from the release he so desperately needs!

The man Judas was only a few steps from God’s Anointed Messiah!  Casting himself down in poverty of spirit before the feet of the Christ and begging for His forgiveness would have netted him forgiveness and eternal life.  But instead he chose himself… and remorse… and death… and eternal separation from God.  He wouldn’t turn from himself to Christ.  He wouldn’t… and he didn’t.

As the text says, the blood money burned in his hand… it was abhorrent to him.  He had sinned; he had caused the shedding of innocent blood (not the blood of Messiah, but “innocent blood”).  And he tried to return it.

But some of the Sanhedrin members had paid him in advance; and they had gotten what they wanted.  And they were through with Judas.  The remorseful Judas was nothing to them but a filthy “snitch” who they had used!  And they could have cared less that he was full of remorse over what he had done!

His confession that he had “delivered up innocent blood” was met with disdain from the priests.  I’ve translated their response literally here; but what it means is… “What do we care?  Go away and deal with it yourself!”  “That’s not our problem; you see to it!”

Having just witnessed the lawlessness and brutality of these men, I don’t know what Judas expected; but he was a fool to have gone to them for sympathy and comfort and consolation.  And stung by the cold, hard rejection of these esteemed religious leaders, Judas (verse five) leaves them and proceeds up the steps to the “naos” (the sanctuary); and in an act of final desperation he flings the bag of silvers into the open entrance.  And he goes away.

Acts chapter one, verses eighteen and nineteen provides some further details; but Judas committed suicide.  The supreme act of self-indulgence – suicide.  Deep remorse… and self-destruction; they go together.

Verse six.  Some of the priests saw what he had done, and they went and retrieved the bag of silvers from the sanctuary.  And having discussed what to do with it, they deduced that it was unlawful to put it into the temple treasury!

Now, the temple treasury was the place for the temple taxes and the votive gifts.  Votive gifts were those moneys that were paid as a result of a vow.  They were called “korban”.  We’ve come across that word before, haven’t we?  In His condemnation of the pharisees Jesus calls them “hypocrites” because they cried “korban” when their own parents needed support!

In order to relieve themselves of the responsibility of parental support, they had falsely claimed that all the money that was available to them had been vowed to the temple treasury.  Supporting aging parents and providing for their basic needs wasn’t a public act… and nobody would see it if they did that.

But a visible deposit into the temple treasury… or even a claim that personal vows were being paid into the treasury… was an act of piety that elicited great esteem from ones’ peers and from the public!

So in order to gain that esteem they left their own parents in poverty and need – having no pity for their welfare – and breaking the fifth Commandment of God.

And now, in a truly awesome display of hypocrisy, the priests who had taken the money out of the treasury in order to hire Judas, refused to put it back into the treasury because it was the “hire of a dog”!  That means somebody who had prostituted himself (Deuteronomy twenty-three, eighteen).

The priests saw the money for what it was – blood money – but they didn’t see themselves as having made it blood money by paying it out to Judas from the treasury!  Judas was the one who had received it; therefore he’s the one who made it blood money by selling Jesus’ blood!  So it was a crime to put it into the treasury, but it wasn’t a crime to pay it out of the treasury!!!

Some have called this “casuistry” which is “disingenuous reasoning”.  Now, disingenuous reasoning is a very nice and sophisticated way of describing false logic.  And false logic is used primarily so support a preexisting conclusion.

But let’s call this exactly what it is.  This is one of the most blatant and incredible examples of hypocrisy in all of Scripture.  All the blame goes to the dog who hired himself out; and the priests and elders of Israel exonerated themselves from all wrongdoing where the blood of Jesus was concerned… even in the light of their lawless and animalistic treatment of Him during the trial!

And the instrument that they used (i.e. the public show of self-exoneration) was the blood money!  They “banned” it from the treasury!  The blood was on Judas’ hands.  They blamed the  “snitch”… the “dog” was the guilty one.  And the money was unclean!  It wasn’t the priests who paid it, but the “snitch” and the money were unclean!

So, as Matthew says in verse seven, they took up counsel about it; and they decided to use the money to buy the “potter’s field” in order to have a place to bury foreigners… non-Jews… pagans!  Gentiles couldn’t be buried with Jews – this was God’s promised land, and it was occupied by God’s chosen people!

But Gentiles were all over the place.  And some died… and they had to be buried.  A local “potter” had a field available, and they bought it out of the blood money in order to keep the dead Gentiles separated from the dead Jews!

In verse eight Matthew uses the Greek words “argos haimatos” (field of blood).  This is what it came to be known as among the Christian community – even to the day Matthew wrote this Gospel years later.  It was the field purchased by Jesus’ blood money.

In Acts chapter one Luke translates it into Hebrew:  Chaqal d’ma.  It looks like it was called by two different names; but it wasn’t.  Matthew just used the Greek.

Now.  Verses nine and ten.  And here’s the important part, and also the answer to our question about why this passage was inserted here by Matthew.

All that has happened here – even to naming the field itself – was prophesied hundreds of years before.  The sovereign hand of God is clearly seen in it all – especially in the fact that Matthew switches to the first person singular (at the end of verse ten).  This is the Word – the Rhema – of God through the prophet… “as Kurios did direct me!”

Matthew leaves no doubt that these Jewish priests and elders were mere instruments fulfilling the predestined purposes of God – even though the whole time they were prosecuting their own aims.

You’ll notice that I used the Greek word “Kurios” there.  It means “Lord”.  Not The Lord; but just “Lord”.  Not The Kurios; but just “Kurios”.

Now, the more explicit prophecy – the one Matthew seems to quote most accurately – is in Zechariah (chapter eleven, verses twelve and thirteen).  All the words and details of Matthew’s quote are there.  But Matthew states that Jeremiah said it!  And there’s been some confusion and even some harsh criticism of Scripture because of it.

We won’t take the time to read both prophecies now; but this is very simple to clear up.  Zechariah was making a specific application of the concept of the potter’s field which was first spoken through Jeremiah (chapter thirty-two, verses six through nine).  And since Jeremiah was first, and since he was the major prophet, Matthew rightly attributes it to him.

And besides, if he hadn’t referred it to Jeremiah we wouldn’t know the reason he inserts this passage here in this place.  Although Zechariah refers to the “blood money” paid by Israel’s leaders to get rid if the “Shepherd of Israel”, it is Jeremiah, in the midst of a long prophecy concerning God’s covenant promises, says that God will bring His people from all the nations; and they will be His people and He will be their God.

And He will make an everlasting covenant with them; and they shall truly fear Him; and He will plant them in the land.  And Israel, which He has made desolate, will be their resting place.  And they shall buy fields for money in and around Jerusalem and Judah, and record the deeds.  And with His whole heart God will cause them to dwell safely!

And Jeremiah goes out and buys the potter’s field for money, just as Jahveh directed him to do; and he records the deed with witnesses – as prophecy of the coming destruction of Israel and the calling of the Gentile nations!

In Matthew’s Gospel it is the money paid for the blood of Christ which buys that field which God directed Jeremiah to buy!  It is the blood of Christ – the field of blood – in which the pagan Gentiles were to be buried.

And it was these leaders of Israel themselves, in an attempt to rid themselves of Israel’s Shepherd, who went out and bought the field… in an ironic fulfillment of the words of Jeremiah prophesied against them.  Truly a remarkable passage of Scripture!

How awesome it is to see the plan of God worked out in history – even using the lives and plans and works of those who are committed to rid themselves of the Great Shepherd of Israel.

And now we participate in the sign and seal of the irreversible covenant of salvation that God has made with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord… and with all of us who are in Him.

But it is Gentiles being planted in the New Israel, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, that’s being “figured” here by Matthew… all directly attributed to the Word of God through Jeremiah, and filled up to the brim by the suffering and death of our Lord.  And now you know the reason it’s here included.