Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5
Dear fellow-redeemed sinners, ransomed by the shed blood of Jesus, grace, mercy and peace be unto you through faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
True repentance has two parts. One is that we see our sins against God and sorrow over them because we have broken God’s holy commandments and justly deserve His eternal wrath and punishment (contrition). The other is that we trust in God to be merciful to us and forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake (faith). And, where there is true repentance, there will also follow the fruit of an amended life.
The Augsburg Confession, in Article XII, confesses this truth when it says: “Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.”
We see this in David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. David acknowledged his sin and guilt and he sorrowed over his transgression. He said (v. 3-5): “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me….”
But David also looked to the LORD God to show him mercy. He prayed (v. 1-2 ): “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” David trusted that God would deal with him in mercy and grant him forgiveness for the sake of the promised Messiah and Savior who would “redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Ps. 130:8).
It was then that David prayed (v. 10-13): “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”
Judas, when he realized what he had done — that he had betrayed “innocent blood” and that Jesus was now “condemned” — was remorseful. He saw his sin, was sorry for what he had done, and even tried to return the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. Judas had sorrow over his sin, but did he trust in God’s mercy? The answer is quite obvious. He did not!
And how the chief priests, as servants of God, failed Judas! When Judas confessed his sin to them, they should have proclaimed to him the Gospel — the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the Messiah and Savior who would be offered up as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. But, since they did not believe in the Messiah themselves but rejected and condemn Him, they cared nothing for the eternal welfare of Judas and told him, “What is that to us? You see to it!” So, Judas despaired of God’s mercy and “went and hanged himself.”
Could Judas have received mercy? Consider the examples of David in the Old Testament, and Peter in the New. David committed adultery and murder, yet God forgave him. When David, after being confronted regarding his sin by Nathan the prophet, acknowledged, “I have sinned against the LORD,” Nathan told him, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13; cf. 2 Sam. 11-12; Psalms 51 and 32).
Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus, and he too received mercy and went on to serve his Savior. Jesus had told him in Luke 22:32: “When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” And Jesus, asking Peter three times if he loved Him, recommissioned him to feed His sheep and His lambs (cf. John 21:15ff.).
Could Judas have received forgiveness? Certainly; for Christ died for the sins of the whole world, “the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19,21; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:3,4). As John the Baptist had said of Him, Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!
But Judas thought his sin was too great. He did not believe that God could or would forgive him. He despaired of God’s mercy and died in his sin and unbelief. How tragic!
What about you? Have you ever betrayed or denied your Lord Jesus? Have you ever turned aside from following Him and broken His commandments? You know that you have — we all have! The Bible tells us that “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a).
Have you felt sorrow over your sins? Are you saddened over the fact that you have broken God’s holy law? Do you fear God’s judgment and wrath? Does it bother you to know that it was because of your sins (and mine, too) that Jesus was condemned to suffer and die on the cross?
Have you ever felt like Judas must have felt? Have you ever felt that your sin was too great or that you have sinned too many times for God to forgive you yet again? Do you fear that this time God will not forgive you and that you are hopelessly headed for hell?
If so, you are despairing of God’s mercy! You are forgetting the fact that “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b); that Jesus has paid in full the penalty for our sins and that, when we turn in faith to Jesus, we “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
Remember the truth expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 86:5: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” When we look to Jesus and His cross for mercy, God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” because “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 1:9 and 2:1,2).Remember also that our Lord Jesus tells us in John 6:37: “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Look to Jesus and receive God’s mercy, pardon and forgiveness.
Dear Lord Jesus, we know that we have denied and betrayed You by our sins. By Your Holy Spirit, bring us to see our sinfulness and repent, having true sorrow over our sins and the just punishment we deserve, but also true faith in You, trusting that for the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, we have pardon, forgiveness, and the eternal joys of heaven. Amen.
[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]