Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said. “What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!” So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. The chief priests took the silver and said, “It’s not lawful to put it into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” So they conferred together and bought the potter’s field with it as a burial place for foreigners. Therefore that field has been called “Blood Field” to this day. Then what was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
They took the 30 pieces of silver, the price of Him whose price was set by the Israelites, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.
Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.
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Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said. “What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!"
His name is synonymous with disloyalty. During the American Revolutionary War, Benedict Arnold began the war in the Continental Army, but later defected to the British Army.
While still a general on the American side, he became Commander of the West Point fort in New York and offered to surrender it to the British. Arnold’s plan unraveled when American forces captured British Major John André who was carrying papers revealing the proposed surrender and betrayal.
In September 1780, after the plot came to light, he fled to a British ship docked on the Hudson River, narrowly escaping the forces of George Washington. He joined the British Army as a brigadier general and received a sizable pension and £6,000 signing bonus.
Britain quickly secured Arnold’s services, and he led British raids in Virginia, New London, and Groton, Connecticut before the war ended with the American victory at Yorktown.
Many believe he betrayed American forces because he was frustrated at being passed over for promotion, sickened by others taking credit for his achievements, and tired of accusations that he exacted private property for the use of the army.
“Betrayal” is defined this way: to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty or to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling a trust. The thought of it quickly elevates our emotions—such as Benedict Arnold betraying his country.
Today’s walk leads us to an emotion-filled, challenging passage. Of the four evangelists, only Matthew includes this story in his Gospel. This passage is often referred to as “The Field of Blood,” meaning the field where Judas the betrayer died was purchased with “blood money.”
Judas was labeled as the one who betrayed Jesus. He learned Jesus was condemned and possibly watched as He was led away to Pilate. This caused him to feel great remorse that eventually led him to take his own life by hanging.
“Filled with remorse” is from Greek (metamelomai). This verb is rare in the New Testament compared to the typical verb for “repenting” (metanoeō). Here, it seems to refer to a change of mind, or a feeling of regret, which falls considerably short of repentance.
We can’t assume that “filled with remorse” and “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” means Judas came to a saving faith in the Messiah, but it certainly indicates he experienced extreme remorse by betraying Him. It also implied deep, emotional distress. At the very least Judas realized he was instrumental in the death of an innocent man—as well as a friend and teacher.
Because of his remorse, Judas carried out the two final actions of his life.
The Sanhedrin had just sent Jesus off to Pilate, accompanied by a select few from their group. Others went to the temple to carry out their Passover Day duties. Judas met the chief priests and elders there and attempted to return the 30 silver coins.
He confessed, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” The word “innocent” he used is only found one other place in the New Testament—in Pilate’s claim of innocence regarding Jesus’ blood (27:24).
The chief priests and elders disassociated themselves from Judas, saying, “What’s that to us? That’s your responsibility!” They remained preoccupied with the letter of the law while oblivious to its spirit. They were insensitive to Judas’ desperation, only concerned with the finer points of their oral traditions.
In his anguish, it may be that Judas was looking to them for guidance and help, since they were religious leaders as well as politicians. But their minds were only set on executing Jesus executed, and that was yet to be accomplished.
Knowing he’d receive no sympathy from his co-conspirators, Judas acted on his own. He threw the blood money, now repulsive to him, into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself in an act of despair.
Since it was against the law to put blood money into the temple treasury, the chief priests picked up the coins and used them to buy the potter’s field as a cemetery for foreigners. They were more concerned about the religious technicalities of the blood money than the fact they’d used it to murder an innocent man.
From their perspective, blood money referred to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. For Matthew, it doubled as an allusion to Judas’ death as well. Characteristically, he saw a fulfillment of prophecy in these happenings (Zechariah 11:12-13; Jeremiah 32:6-9).
But it’s not surprising the Jewish leaders didn’t see the similarities between their situation and the prophetic details. The fuller Old Testament picture, paralleling Judas’ and Jesus’ blood money, was only seen when Matthew pulled together the themes of Jeremiah 19:1-13 and Zechariah 11:12-13.
In God’s providence, their blindness extended to more than the identity of Jesus. These rebels served as tools of the Lord to carry out his will, foreordained centuries before.[i]
Judas wasn’t the only betrayer mentioned by Matthew. He tells the story of Peter’s denials (Matthew 26:69-75). But these dramatic stories end quite differently.
Following His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus rejoined Peter, Thomas, and five others on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where He cooked breakfast for them. After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” And three times, Peter replied, “Yes, Lord. You know I love You” (John 21:1-17).
After you read today’s passage, slow down and take a deep breath.
Picture yourself on the shore of Galilee with Jesus. Shake His hand as you arrive. Look around and feel the breeze on your face. Smell the fish cooking on the open fire. Listen to the conversations around you. Take a piece of warm bread from Jesus and remember the moment in the Upper Room where you ate bread with Him before His crucifixion and resurrection.
Then hear Jesus say to you, “Do you love Me?”
[i] Weber, S. K. (2000). Vol. 1: Matthew. Holman New Testament Commentary (458–459). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
- How will you respond to Jesus’ question, “Do you love Me?”
- Judas experienced great remorse following his betrayal of Jesus. The chief priests and elders disassociated themselves from him by replying, “What’s that to us?” Is there someone you know who’s struggling and needs help today? Will you respond, “What is that to me?”
- What do you need to study further from today’s passage and devotional?