Jump Start # 2844
Matthew 27:5 “And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hung himself.”
Our verse today is the sad end to Judas. He was one of the chosen. For three years He was with Jesus. He saw the miracles up close. He heard those powerful words spoken by the Lord. He was in the boat when Jesus caused the storm to cease. He saw Jesus walking on water. He saw the widow’s son raised from the dead. He saw Lazarus come out of the tomb. He even had his feet washed by Jesus. But Judas’ heart wasn’t true nor committed. He sold Jesus out. He was a turncoat that led to Jesus being arrested and eventually killed.
And, now, as our verse tells us, he doesn’t want the money. He had a change of heart, but it was too late. The Jews had turned Jesus over to the Romans and things have gotten so far out of hand that there was no turning back. Jesus was going to the cross and Judas was responsible.
There are different ideas about what was running through Judas’ mind. Seeing the innocence of Jesus, seeing how willingly He allowed everything to happen, just might have been enough to change his heart. Others have suggested that Jesus had always gotten away in other attempts. Once a mob tried to stone Jesus. He got away. Another time, they tried to shove Him off a cliff. He got away. He was always getting away. Could Judas have thought this was a quick way to scam some money and Jesus won’t be hurt. He’ll get away. But this time He didn’t. This time, the cross was all too real.
For whatever reason, shame and guilt filled Judas’ heart. He did something so terrible that there was no fixing it. The Jewish hierarchy had no place for Judas. The Romans didn’t want Judas. And, having betrayed Jesus, the disciples would have nothing to do with him. He was truly a man without a country. No friend in the world. His pocket full of silver didn’t matter now. He was eaten up with guilt and his only option he could come up with was suicide. Judas hung himself.
What is interesting is that another of the Lord’s chosen was also eaten up with guilt. This was Peter. There is just a thin line between betraying and denying. Both involve turning your back on someone. Both are hurtful. And, both Judas and Peter regretted what they did. For Peter, he wept bitterly. Broken and ashamed, he did not support the Lord when the chips were down. He thought only of himself. The safe course, was to pretend and lie that he never knew Jesus. But unlike Judas, not only had Peter seen and heard all those things of the Lord, he was also in that inner circle with James and John. It was Peter who walked on the water. None of the other disciples did. It was Peter who saw the Lord transfigured. It was Peter who drew the sword and tried to defend Jesus. But now, alone, scared, he claims he doesn’t know Jesus. The Lord looks. Peter sees. Their eyes connect. Guilt fills the heart of Peter.
There is an interesting parallel between Judas and Peter. Both hurt Jesus. Both let Jesus down. And, both experienced remorse, guilt and failure. Guilt is an emotion that comes when we realize that we have done something wrong. And, in the parallel between Judas and Peter, guilt will lead a person to doing one of two things.
For Peter, he destroyed the guilt. It is Peter who rushes to the tomb on that resurrection morning. It is Peter who is with the other disciples when Jesus appears. It is Peter who speaks so boldly on that Pentecost day in Acts 2. It is Peter who says we will not stop speaking what we’ve seen and heard. Sent to a Gentile, Peter preaches Christ. Later, the Holy Spirit uses Peter to author two N.T. letters. Peter did wrong. Peter felt terrible. Yet, Peter destroyed the shame and guilt, but returning to God and becoming an instrument of God for good.
For Judas, he allowed his guilt to destroy him. His choice, rather than repentance and forgiveness, was a rope. For others today, it’s a bottle or some pills. The shame is too much. The guilt is too deep. They see no recovery. They see no hope. They give up. They give up on a marriage. They give up on a walk with the Lord. They give up on Heaven. They give up on the Lord.
There are some lessons for us:
First, we are surrounded by those who may never admit it but their hearts are filled with guilt. It’s the father who neglected his kids so he could build a career. Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the cradle,” about a father who had no time for his son is haunting the anthem of many homes today. Children grow up, but they haven’t been parented. For others, it’s the guilt from walking away from a marriage. Some innocent flirting at work led to some wild passion which blinded the eyes and the heart. The fling seemed more fun than the marriage, so one chased after it. And, now, what a mess. A separation. A divorce. And, what seemed to be freedom and happiness has become misery. And, guilt fills the heart. For others, it was something said in a conversation. Things got heated. Words were uttered that should never have been said. Feelings were hurt. A friendship ended. And, guilt is all that remains.
At far too many funerals, rather than recalling precious memories, the time is filled with the sorrows of guilt. And, now, it’s too late.
Second, we know the experience of guilt, but what so many do not know is what to do with guilt. There is Peter and there is Judas. It seems too hard to do what Peter did, so Judas becomes the default option. Sitting at a bar late at night, drinking to forget. Chasing after vain things just to put the shame out of your mind, but it always remains there.
God has written the story of people who make a wreck of their lives. Guilt was the street they lived on. Yet, through God’s word, we see the proper outcome and the way out of guilt. There is David. Adultery. Murder. Deception. Lying. The list is long. He killed not only a neighbor, but one of his mighty men. Guilt will lead to more and more poor choices. It did for David. Finally, God, who never gives up on us, sent a prophet. David confessed. David sought the Lord. David became useful. David took the path that Peter would later take.
Paul is another lesson God gives us. He chased down the people of God and put them in prison. He aggressively tried to stamp out Christianity. When he finally realized that this was all wrong, he didn’t find a rope. He chose baptism. He chose to follow the Lord. He became the mighty apostle. He returned to Jerusalem multiple times, among the families he once hunted down, and preached the saving grace of Jesus.
Guilt, like mold on a wall, grows. It will eat you up. It will destroy you. It did Judas. His guilt colored the way he saw things. His guilt, although forgivable, was considered too much for him.
Peter and Judas…You and I…regrets…guilt…sorrow. We’d love to press that rewind button and do things differently, but we can’t. The words were said. The deeds were done. Here we all. Repentance or a rope? Try to make things right or give up? Seek mercy or end life? Do better or quit?
These words can help us and they can help others. God is gracious and merciful. God gives second chances. Look at David. Look at Paul. Look at Peter. Look at you.