When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders.
“I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” They retorted. “That’s your problem.”
Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.”
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection has heard about Judas. His story is so infamous that his very name has become an insult. To be called a Judas indicates that you are someone who cannot be trusted…someone who will stab others in the back…a traitor. And this is not an unfair assessment. Judas was a man of weak character (see John 12, which tells of his greed and theft from his companions). He sold out his teacher and his fellow disciples, and his betrayal lead to Jesus’ arrest and death. But for all of his failings, he was not beyond feeling guilt and remorse when the realization of what he had done finally sank in.
Judas tried to take it back. He wanted to fix it. He tried to return the money, and confessed his sin. He proclaimed Jesus’ innocence, but it was too late. Events that had been set in motion that could not be stopped. And it was his inability to make it right that caused Judas, in despair, to take his own life. It’s a sad tale and although Judas’ sin will forever be remembered, his story is not an uncommon one. Many of us have found ourselves dealing with the consequences of words and actions that we wish we could take back, but could not.
What struck me, though, was the difference between Judas’ response and that of the priests. Judas realized his mistake, and tried to make it right, but could not. The priests, on the other hand, could not care less about the anguish that Judas felt or the fact that an innocent man was going to die.
“What do we care? That’s your problem.” — That’s cold.
But what truly blows my mind about their response is not their apathy towards Judas and their complicity in a murder plot. It’s that at the end of it all, they were more worried about the impropriety of putting “blood money” in the offering plate…money that they themselves had paid to have Jesus betrayed and murdered! They were so blinded by their own hypocrisy that they could not see the absurdity of their “dilemma.”
In my heart, I want to think of them as monsters. It would be so much easier if we could just dismiss them as evil, twisted or wicked creatures. (And the things they did most certainly WERE evil, twisted and wicked!) But the reality is that they were just humans, like you and me. The reason that they were able to reach such a level of depravity is because they had trained themselves to ignore the pricks of their conscience. They were practiced in the art of self-deception and skilled in the mental gymnastics necessary to justify their actions. And this is a crime of which we have all been guilty.
When confronted with our own wrongdoing, it is a natural response to try to defend ourselves. We deny and deflect. We try to explain why it wasn’t really as bad as it seems:
No one ever uses it or would even notice that it was missing…
He had it coming…
She started it…
Everyone else does it…
The problem is that as long as we keep lying to ourselves and others, we remain willfully blind to our sin. We are just hypocrites, trying to fool everyone (including ourselves) that we are not.
The only way to break the cycle of sin and deception is to be more like Judas. I never thought I’d find myself encouraging others to be like Judas, but it’s true. If we want to make things right, we have to own our mistakes and confess our sins. However, what Judas did not understand was the immensity of God’s forgiveness and grace. Because he believed that it was too late, Judas gave in to despair and hung himself. But with God, it’s never too late. No person is too great a sinner, no relationship is too far gone, and no situation is beyond his ability to heal and restore. When we come to God in humility and with a contrite spirit, he WILL redeem us…failures and all.
PRAYER: Almighty God, reveal to us the areas of our lives where we are hypocritical. We humbly ask your forgiveness for the things we have done and the lies we have told ourselves and others. Help us to move beyond the deception to walk in the light of your Truth. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.