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
Those verses, specifically verse 5, can be tough to read. Maybe it seems like an odd place to start for what is expected to be a more uplifting devotional thought, but this is what stuck out to me this year during Resurrection Week. I watched the movie The Passion for the first time in years. The scenes with Judas intrigued me.
While watching, I fact-checked a few of the scenes because I knew they took some liberties, and 15 years into my walk with the Lord I learned that Judas tried to give the thirty pieces of silver back.
This is profound, my friends. Let’s look at the breakdown of this story with a few important details highlighted as we go -
Judas follows Jesus for 3 years. He was there when Jesus performed miracles. He broke bread with Him. He was there as Jesus slowly but surely outlined what was to come. He was there when Jesus foretold that one would betray him. Yet, in Matthew 26, he made a deal with the chief priests to find and identify Jesus for them in return for 30 pieces of silver.
Why 30 pieces of silver? If we hop back to Exodus 21, we learn that 30 shekels (pieces of silver) was the value of a slave. Judas made a deal to trade Jesus for the value of a slave.
It’s crazy how he followed Jesus for 3 years, saw all that He did and was, and could still trade him for nothing but 30 shekels. Or is it? Or have I had moments where I traded Jesus in for lesser things in my life? Look, I’m born again. I have been for 15+ years. Jesus is mine, and I am His - forever. But there are moments where I choose the things of this world over him, and I can’t help but feel like I was Judas standing in front of the chief priests having 30 measly shekels of silver thrown my way.
As we continue with the story, we’re now in the Garden (Matthew 26, Luke 22). Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. A kiss symbolized a few things in this context in the NT - respect, affection. But it was empty as what the kiss from Judas actually did was betray Jesus, not greet with him with genuine respect or affection.
Interesting how our actions aren’t always indicative of our genuine motives.
But Jesus knew that Judas would do it. In fact, in Matthew 26:50, “Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.’” He knew. He knew before they got to the Garden how this was going to unfold, and He knew what Judas traded Him for.
After it was decided that Jesus would be crucified - Judas watched all of this unfold - the Scriptures say “he changed his mind (Matt. 27:3).” He saw the impact his decisions had, they were probably far greater than he could have ever imagined, and he regretted what he had done. He realized the trade wasn't worth it. But the chief priests didn’t care; they had what they wanted from him at this point. He couldn’t undo what he did, so he threw the money back at them, left, and the shame of it all was so overbearing he took his own life.
The Bible says he hung himself in a field. The Bible also tells us in Matthew 27 that the chief priests couldn’t put the silver coins he threw back at them in the treasury because it was blood money, so they purchased a field with it. We have reason to believe based on the Gospels and verses in Acts that the field Judas hung himself in was indirectly purchased by the money he betrayed Jesus for.
Sometimes that thing we went running away from God to chase is the very thing that introduces death to certain areas of our lives.
God restores all things; He breathes life back into our dry bones. But I’m sure we’ve all had relationships, opportunities, even parts of ourselves, die because of a bad trade we made.
And now we’re back to the beginning; back to what wouldn’t leave my mind since I watched that movie again. Judas tried to give the money back. He tried to undo the trade he made because he saw, first-hand, how the impact of it was greater than he could have ever imagined. It wasn’t what he thought it would be… the money wasn’t worth it anymore.
Can I tell you something? It’s never worth it. If we’ve given our lives to Jesus, we will always want to give the silver back, too.
We don’t always get the real-time perspective like Judas did. Sometimes we don’t realize what we’ve done until a year later when we look back and see the rubble around us. Because of that, it’s important to stamp this to the inside of your heart and mind so you don't make the trade to begin with: It’s never worth it.
No matter what it is, if you have to trade Jesus in for it in any way, it is not worth it. And understand, any time you choose the things of the world at the expense of any part of your relationship with Jesus - you’re trading Him in. You’re trading Him in for 30 shekels.
Now, what Judas didn’t know in his heart is that the goodness of Jesus made it possible for him to be forgiven and restored from what he'd done. He let the condemnation and shame weigh on him so much he couldn’t take living with what he’d done anymore; so much he couldn’t see Jesus was dying to make all things new - his heart included.
You and I don't have to live like that. Our hindsight is the cross and resurrection. The truth is, we’ve all made bad trades, but the higher truth is that the grace and goodness of Jesus allows us to walk in life and forgiveness if we are His.
When we look at the details of what Judas did, we can agree it’s awful. We can agree that, while we understand why he felt shame, condemnation and regret, he kind of deserved to. We can probably even find compassion for the way he felt when he realized what he’d done. And we can all agree he made a bad trade that wasn’t worth it from the beginning.
But... if we can agree on all of those things, we also must agree that, like Judas, we’ve traded Jesus in for lesser things at times; some of us to the point that we haven’t surrendered our lives to Him yet.
So to the believer…it wasn’t worth it. Drop the silver and run back to Jesus. There’s grace, love and forgiveness in His arms.
To the unbeliever… it isn’t worth it. Drop the silver and run to Jesus. He longs to be gracious to you, and make all things new.