Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
Judas said, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood"

Gospel reading: Matthew 27:1-10
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; 2 and they bound him and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor. 3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the  elders, 4 saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money." 7 So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on  whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me."
Meditation: Why did Judas end his life in tragedy?  When Judas betrayed his Master, he very likely did not intend to cause him bodily harm. He may have thought that Jesus' arrest would be the catalyst that would make Jesus "wake up" and use his divine power to liberate Palestine from Roman rule.  He must have been bitterly disappointed that Jesus refused to use his favor with the people for leading an uprising against Rome.  Now Judas is bitterly disappointed with himself because his betrayal has resulted in Jesus' condemnation by the chief religious authorities.  His "repentance" however contains no trust in forgiveness nor mercy.  He recognizes the horror of his deed and how much evil it has caused.  And he knows that it is impossible to undo what he has done.  That is always the way with sin.  We mostly choose sin because we think it will somehow make us happy.  But after we recognize the consequences of our choice, we regret the wrong and wish it could be undone.

Judas returned the ransom, a small sum of money for such a deed, to the Temple priests.  Their refusal to take it back makes Judas violently throw it into the Temple.  Judas publicly admitted his guilt: "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood."  And his next act is to publicly condemn himself by committing violent suicide. Judas took matters into his own hands by handing Jesus over to his enemies.  Now he takes matters into his own hands again by handing himself over to despair and the destruction of his body.  Perhaps he thought that self-inflicted death would put an end to living with a guilty conscience.

Unlike Peter, who also denied his Master, but then repents and seeks forgiveness, Judas regrets his sin but closes the door to seeking peace and pardon with God. Despair is an ally of pride.  It cannot see beyond the misery, pain, and grief of self to the possibility of pardon, peace, and restoration of friendship with God and neighbor.  Judas could have chosen to not end his life in despair.  He would have found his Risen Master ready to give him peace and pardon.  And he would have likely died a martyr's death as did most of the other apostles who shed their blood for their Master. When you are tempted to doubt and despair, do you turn to the Lord for his help and grace?

"Lord, may I never despair of your merciful love and forgiveness.  Whenever I stumble or fail to do your will, give me the courage to call on your name and receive your pardon and grace to change."

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 (c) 2005 Don Schwager