As we talk about the symbol of the coins, we first talk about the person of Judas. Now please understand, I am not here to defend Judas or his actions, simply to clarify and remind us of the actual facts of these events. So, we are reminded that Judas was one of the chosen twelve, an apostle, set apart as an apostle. As Judas lived and learned from Jesus what he saw in Jesus was what he had evidently learned growing up, that is that the Savior the nation of Israel was seeking was not a religious, spiritual savior, but a social/political savior and that is how Judas saw Him. Judas saw Jesus in much the same way as did many of his fellow Israelites, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law included, namely that the Savior would be a social/political savior who would rescue and save them from being in submission to the Romans, much like the Israelites were rescued from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. And when we think about it and honestly admit it, we not much different in how we view Jesus than how the other disciples often saw Jesus as well.
As a social/political savior, and because Jesus was not acting as Judas expected, reminding us to be careful of our expectations especially when it comes to God, Judas had a desire to “call” Jesus’ hand, to force Jesus into action. If Jesus will not be the savior I expect, then I will force him to be such a savior, or at least I believe that is what Judas was thinking. And what better way to do this, forcing Jesus into action than by having Him arrested. Certainly if He were arrested He would have to do something or be put in jail.
So Judas’ plan was to betrayed Jesus, to pass on crucial information concerning Jesus whereabouts, especially concerning when He would be alone and out of the public eye, to His enemies, the Pharisees and chief priests. After some bit of negotiation for the information Judas was to pass on, the price was settled at 30 pieces of silver. The Pharisees pay Judas and he sets a signal. Judas, being one of Jesus disciples, one of the twelve apostles, knew Jesus’ regular habits and so it was set that when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, that would be the place and the signal would be the kiss of peace. Now remember, what Judas was attempting, at least in my own way of thinking is that he believed he was helping Jesus. The plan worked flawlessly and Jesus was arrested.
Following Jesus arrest, however, Judas sees that things are not going according to his plan. What Judas saw was that Jesus did not resist arrest. He did not begin a revolt. He was put on trial and while He was on trial He did not even defend Himself. What Judas saw was that Jesus simply let the plan and plot follow through, which was His plan all along. What Judas saw was the charges and accusations against Jesus by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law and how they incited the crowds to be against Jesus as well. What Judas saw was that his plan failed and Jesus was condemned. What Judas saw was that Jesus was not simply accused, or put in prison, but condemned and sentenced to die and so he reconsiders his actions.
When the events went as wrong as he believed they could go, again, according to his plan, Judas has a change of mind. Judas could see that maybe he was wrong concerning Jesus. Maybe Jesus was not the Messiah, at least not the social/political savior for which he and others were looking. Ultimately the conclusion that came to Judas is that he had indeed betrayed innocent blood. It was his fault that Jesus was going to be put to death. It was his fault that Jesus would be crucified, at least that was what he was thinking, because he had no understanding that this was a part of Jesus’ plan to bring forgiveness and salvation to the world.
And interestingly enough Judas repents. Very often we forget this little fact, but it is a fact that Judas repented. He repented and sought to make restitution for his betrayal by returning the coins, the betrayal money. The problem was, the Pharisees and teachers of the law offered not absolution, instead they simply told him that it was his problem. They were not going to release Jesus, they were not going to absolve Judas, they were simply going to do what they had planned to do all along, get rid of Jesus.
As for the blood money, because it was blood money the social conscious Sanhedren decided it should not be put back into the temple treasury, so instead it was agreed to use the money to purchase a field, which would be a burial plot for transients.
And finally we are told that Judas went out and hanged himself. Now remember, Judas showed remorse, he was sorry for what he had done, he returned the money attempting to make restitution, but he was rejected and he was denied absolution, and really it was not that he was denied absolution, maybe from the Sanhedrin, but not from God. His problem was that he refused absolution. He was left to wallow in his own self pity. He would not and could not believe that Jesus would and could forgiven him and so in his despair he denied the absolution God would give him and all people as a result of Jesus’ death on the cross and he hanged himself.
What does this mean? Certainly we can see that Judas did have good intentions, but as the old saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions, no matter how good do not save anyone and Judas is our prime example.
We also learn that no matter how good our intentions are, very often our intentions have unintended consequences. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and we cannot control those reactions. We may not intend for certain reactions, but they happen anyway.
As for Judas, what condemned Judas was not that he killed himself. What condemned Judas was that he refused forgiveness and he refused forgiveness by not believing that Jesus could and would forgive him.
As for us, very often in our own lives we have good intentions. We plan for good. We work for good, we want good, but often our good intentions go awry. Very often our good intentions have unintended consequences and reactions, and there is nothing we can do about it. The worst part is when we believe that our good intentions might perhaps earn something for us, like forgiveness and heaven. And so when our intentions fail very often we wallow in our misery and despair very much like Judas.
For us, however, when we fail, we know that it was because of our failures that Jesus came to earth. It was because of and for us that Jesus came to die on the cross and He did. Yes, we fail, time and again and yet we are given forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.
The greatest gift God gives to us is forgiveness of sins, because with forgiveness is life and salvation. Forgiveness is ours. It has already been won. Our only option is to refuse and reject forgiveness which is what we do when we fail to recognize and confess our sins. That failure is gift refusal. Jesus has won forgiveness and He gives it freely through His Word, through confession and Absolution and through His Sacraments, which is the very reason we make regular and diligent use of these means of grace, so that we might be given forgiveness of sins and so that when we mess up, we know we still have forgiveness. And with forgiveness we know that we have life and salvation and with forgiveness we rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.