Now when morning had come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away, and delivered Him up to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they counseled together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, “AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER’S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME.”
Fulfilled! I love when Matthew writes that word. Matthew had holy license to tell his first-century Jewish audience how prophecy was fulfilled–we don’t. We certainly see similarities and such but the proclamation of prophetic passages as being accomplished was reserved for the New Testament writers. For instance, I believe most of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in 70 AD, when the temple toppled and Jerusalem was sacked. Nevertheless, I can’t be dogmatic about this because others find future fulfillment in Matthew 24. Who is right and who is wrong? We don’t have the authority that the New Testament author’s have. But what we do have is the New Testament. The best way that I have found to unlock the New Testament writings is by using a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Other than a few selected psalms, the Bible was not written in chapter and verse. Much of what we read in the New Testament are letters. We call them epistles, because of tradition, but in modern, English vernacular, they are letters. And speaking of vernacular, the New Testament was written in Koine (pronounced coy-nay) Greek–that is, common folk dialect. It was not written by scholars to scholars using big, flashy, formal words. Which is a bit of hypocrisy on my account because I use the old-school NASB which uses, Thee, Thou, Hast and Art when referring to God. No such distinction is made in the original Greek. Nevertheless, I have my reasons. Today’s text is another prime example. Which brings us back to prophecy.
I use the ’77 NASB translation because it is very readable and accurate, except when referring to God, and also because it highlights Old Testament quotes by the use of all-caps. It’s a simple, strategic way for me to remember that Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens. When I see the all-caps, I remember to consult our Old Testament tutor. Today’s text quotes the prophet Jeremiah (we will come back to this), and a passage of which we have considered in the past, which claims completeness.
But I am getting way ahead of myself, let’s consider the context from the beginning of today’s text, remembering that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, abandoned by the disciples, convicted in night-court through his own prophetic words, punched, mocked and denied by Peter, thrice.
“Now when morning had come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away, and delivered Him up to Pilate the governor.” How can I expound on this? It’s short, simple and anything but sweet. The only innocent man in the history of the world has been convicted based on his own, true testimony and is being sent, bound to the ruler of Judea, because they didn’t have the authority to put Jesus to death. Apparently they could prosecute and pass judgement but not hand out a sentence. That’s a bit of foreshadowing but we have immediate context to consider.
‘Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!'” Most modern translations read that Judas felt “remorse.” But the ESV reads, “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind…” While I personally, in my own opinion, think that this is a better translation of the literal Greek, I don’t like it. To me, personally, in my own opinion, it is too close to the literal translation of “repent;” “changing one’s mind after being with.” The King James actually uses the word “repent.” Based on the context, I don’t believe Judas repented at all. Was he sorry for what he did? I am sure he was. Did he give them the money back? Absolutely, the context says that he did. But being regretful and sorry for what he did was not enough. He may have changed his mind about his actions but he didn’t have a complete change of mind concerning who Jesus was. Knowing Jesus was innocent and regretting his actions still fall short of salvation. Therefore I prefer the Berean Literal Bible’s translation; “Then Judas, the one having delivered Him up, having seen that He was condemned, having regretted it, he returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.”
Judas said, “‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!'” Don’t be fooled, Judas is only looking out for one man, Judas. Out of pure guilt, he returns the money. If he sought forgiveness from a rejuvenated, repented heart, he would have run to Jesus, begging for forgiveness. Therefore, woe to Judas, as Jesus said, it would have been better if he had not been born. But woe to the chief priests and elders of the people even more than Judas. Notice once again the exchange between Judas and the chief priests and elders; “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” At a shear minimum, at least Judas admits he has sinned, betraying the blood of an innocent man. However notice the response of the chief priests and elders. “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” In other words, that’s your problem not our problem. The man who betrayed Jesus, tried to returned the money for said betrayal and proclaimed the innocence of Jesus. They didn’t care, not one bit. Their next action gives them away.
“But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’ And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.'” Holy hypocrisy! But we’ll come back to this.
Judas tossed the money towards the temple and then hanged himself. That is not remorse or repentance, that is regret. Judas could not live with what he had done. He was hopeless. He didn’t believe he could be forgiven and he couldn’t live with himself, therefore he took the cowardly way out. Judas committed soul suicide that day, the day of denial, the day of preparation, the day of days. And Matthew is the only gospel writers to include it. Luke makes mention in Acts but by way of quoting Peter. “For he was counted among us, and received his portion in this ministry. (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.)” Some see a contradiction here but we consider the context and examples. Peter doesn’t say that Judas died by falling, but that having fallen, his bowels gushed out. That is, his doubly dead corpse, rotted and fell and his insides burst out. Judas committed soul suicide and flesh suicide.
“And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.’ And they counseled together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.” I know that I don’t have to write this because the context is clear, nevertheless; if the money isn’t good enough for the temple treasury, how is it that it came from their hands, to buy blood, but returned dirty? Which is dirty, their hands or the inanimate object of the money? Are they serious? Let me get this straight; the money, which is an inanimate object without guilt or shame, is too dirty for the temple but their hands and hearts aren’t? Not only that, but also this; like the bread becoming the literal body of Christ, as some speculate, I want to know how and when the money turned into blood money? I hope you see the horrifically hypocritical chief priests and elders. There is some application for today though. You don’t know where your money has been. I read a report that most money, a vast majority actually, in the United States has traces of cocaine on it. I guess the offering plates will be empty next Sunday. All kidding aside, the hypocrisy of the elders and chief priests is irrational at best. Truthfully, they were absolutely wicked–woe to them.
“For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, ‘AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER’S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME.’
Vitamin E time, we’re once again going to consult our Old Testament tutor to see the prophecy fulfilled in today’s text from the prophet, Jeremiah. Problem, and this is one of the very few problems that we cannot solve using the CAGED method. Zechariah wrote about the thirty silver pieces and the Potter’s field, not Jeremiah. Jeremiah did write; “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.'” Jeremiah goes on to describe what I would consider very relevant to this day of days. Nevertheless, the context is not as clear and concise as Zechariah.
“And I said to them, ‘If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!’ So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Then I cut my second staff, Union, in pieces, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” For more on this, read Zechariah 11. And if you have not, read my missive, Brotherly Betrayal?
Honestly, I don’t know what Matthew meant by writing Jeremiah, but quoting, Zechariah. Theories abound, but I always remind myself to keep it simple stupid. It could be a clerical error, yet I think of God and his sovereignty. We know mistakes are made but in most cases we see correction in earlier manuscripts that enlighten us. I believe the simplest answer is usually the easiest one. Matthew intended for his first-century, Jewish audience to see both Jeremiah and Zechariah. Which brings us back full circle. I don’t know for sure–I cannot be dogmatic about this. Nevertheless, I can write, consider the context. Read the prophets and I think that you will be astonished at how many prophecies point to this day of days. Nevertheless, leave your preconceived notions and presuppositions at the door. Consider the context of Matthew and read the prophets. In some form or fashion, they all point to this day. Even much of what Jesus said, points to this day. Even the festival of Passover, points to this day. In the history of the world, this is the true day of days, where the true Israel was put to death by the apostate Israel.