Matthew 27:3-10 (ESV)
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into 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 it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 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.”
Judas realized that Jesus wasn’t going to use his divine power to deliver himself from imprisonment. Instead, Jesus stood condemned as a result of the betrayal. Judas began to feel awful, and he changed his mind about the “hand Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver agreement.” He went back to the chief priests and elders, who should have given Judas good spiritual advice. But the religious leaders didn’t care about Judas. They let him know that his conscience was his own problem and not theirs. They wanted nothing more to do with him. They were concerned with making sure that Jesus was executed. Like Peter, Judas felt dreadful about what he had done. He confessed that he had sinned and betrayed innocent blood. He threw the thirty pieces of silver back into the temple. It is absolutely ironic that the religious leaders wouldn’t take the money because it was used to buy the death of another. They were the ones who paid Judas in the first place. So it was fine for them to pay Judas to betray an innocent man, handing him over to the Romans, but they wouldn’t accept that same money back into the treasury. What a mess their hypocrisy had gotten them all into! They couldn’t see their right from their left anymore and had lost the notion of what it meant to live for God.
So why was Peter right with God after his betrayal, but not Judas? Both felt awful about what they had done. Both responded emotionally to their sin. Although both seemed repentant, their actions revealed the nature of their sorrow. Peter’s was godly sorrow. He repented and met up with the rest of the disciples. Judas’ was worldy sorrow. He was frustrated with what he had done, but instead of rejoining the disciples, he hung himself. Had the repentance of Judas been genuine, he would have run to God instead of away from him. Although it is possible to take one’s own life and still be saved, in this case, Judas was never an honest follower of Jesus. He was with Jesus physically but not spiritually. Most believe Judas was “in it for the money,” acting as group treasurer and betraying Jesus for silver. Actions reveal the nature of faith. Pray that those in your life who are sorry about their sin will be moved all the way to genuine repentance, and that the source of their genuine repentance would never need to be “repented of” again.