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, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. [Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV)]
Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. [Pope John Paul II]
Judas wasn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus that Thursday night. With his three denials, Peter also betrayed our Lord. Both men were filled with remorse but neither man could undo what had been done. One never lost faith and hung in there; the other lost faith and hung himself. One stayed around for the resurrection to see the living Christ and to experience Jesus’ forgiveness; the other missed his opportunity for redemption when he gave up all hope. One became the humble willing servant of the Lord and the rock of the church; the other one’s name lives on in ignominy and is synonymous with betrayal and treason.
Judas betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver (the same amount paid to compensate the master of a slave who was gored to death by an ox). Did Judas think that by returning the money he could undo what was done? By no longer profiting from his treachery, did Judas think he’d be free from guilt? I often wonder what would have happened had Judas waited a few more days. Jesus forgave Peter. If Judas had waited and truly repented, would Jesus have forgiven him as He did Peter? While Judas’ sin was great, it was not unforgivable! But Judas missed Easter by killing himself in despair and disgrace.
As for the leading priests and elders—they didn’t care about Jesus’ innocence. Giving no thought to the wrong they committed, they debated what to do with this blood money. By Jesus’ day, Deuteronomy’s law that a temple offering earned from prostitution was detestable to the Lord was applied to any money gained illicitly. Although these “holy” men had no problem orchestrating an innocent man’s murder with money from the Temple treasury, as sticklers for the law, they wouldn’t return the now tainted money to the treasury. Did they think using the silver to purchase a defiled piece of property in the Hinnom Valley would diminish their guilt? Referred to as a garbage dump in Jeremiah 19, this land had been desecrated by idol worship. The field became known as Aceldama (meaning “field of blood”) and was used to bury strangers who died while visiting Jerusalem.
Like Judas, the leading priests and elders missed Easter. Although they were the ones most qualified to recognize Jesus’ fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, they refused to see what was right before them—both before and after Golgotha. When the tomb was found empty, rather than consider the meaning of such a miracle, they denied its truth and bribed the guards to say the disciples stole Jesus’ body.
Did you miss Easter yesterday? I don’t mean the Easter Bunny or the brightly decorated baskets, colored eggs, chocolate rabbits, elaborate brunch, jelly beans, lilies, ham dinner, or Peeps. Did you miss the significance of Easter—the message of love, forgiveness, hope, and salvation? Judas and Jerusalem’s religious leaders certainly did. They missed the first Easter and all of the possibilities it brought.
If you missed the resurrection message of Easter, there’s still hope. While it’s too late for Judas and Jerusalem’s leaders, it’s not too late for you. There’s no need to wallow in guilt or remorse. Today can be your Easter! Today, the Holy Spirit can bring about your very own resurrection. The redemption of Easter can be experienced any day of the year!
Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection. [Watchman Nee]