In these tough economic times, everyone could use a
little more “coin,” it seems. Your house is probably worth less than it was a
year ago; your company may have cut back your hours or your salary; and unless
you’re far more brilliant than 99% of us, your retirement savings probably has
taken a severe hit, too. I figure I’ll have mine back to tuna fish and
pork-and-beans level about the time I’m 87 or 88. We want to be good stewards
of the resources God has provided us from our labors, of course. We want to be
both wisely cautious and faithfully generous at the same time. This is especially
so when we’re concerned about how our resources can be used to meet both our
worldly needs as well as God’s directive to spread the Gospel.
That’s a challenge that leads to much temptation;
certainly all the more when it’s not a time to be throwing money around
carelessly. Caution and prudence is in order, it seems. We all want a good
deal. We all want a bargain.
Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, Judas wasn’t
quite so cautious—with money, or with anything else. In fact, he was sinfully
reckless—right from the moment he hatched his plan to betray Jesus to the
Jewish leaders. First, he threw aside the three years of teachings and
revelations and miracles that Jesus had provided in the sight and hearing of His
disciples. Judas also ignored the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning
the Christ—every one of which would have their complete realization in Jesus.
He rejected the plain language that Jesus had used to communicate just what
sort of Savior He was going to be, and what that would mean to Judas and to the
Finally, Judas brought his rebellious heart and mouth
to the chief priest and the elders, and he bartered away the eternal Son of the
heavenly Father for a few months’ earthly wages. Those thirty pieces of silver
are the coins we heard about in our Gospel lesson; the coins being gathered
from the temple floor by the chief priests.
Judas, remorseful for his betrayal but not trusting
that even this great treachery could be forgiven by an all-loving, all-forgiving
God, had attempted to return his ill-gotten gains. He’d realized that couldn’t
undo what he’d started—the impending condemnation and death of Jesus—but maybe
Judas thought that admitting his wrongdoing and unloading the loot would
somehow unburden his soul.
It didn’t work, for the forgiveness of sins requires
not just repentance, but also faith—and Judas had lost his faith in Jesus.
Throwing the money down in the temple, Judas stormed out of the house of the
Lord, and ran headlong down the road to hang himself and be delivered to the
gates of hell instead.
Having already stooped to bribery to obtain Jesus’
betrayal, and then further lowering themselves with lies, pride, and ignorance
to arrive at His conviction on false charges, it certainly wasn’t above the
chief priests to stoop to pick up Judas’ money.
They don’t even attempt to put the spin of legitimacy
on the payment they made to Judas. They openly discuss the fact that it was
blood money, unsuitable to be used in the Lord’s work because of its tainted
history as having purchased their enemy’s life.
So concerned they were with appearances and rules! It
was perfectly fine, they thought, to use the Lord’s money to condemn an
innocent man. Yet, the very same coins couldn’t possibly be introduced back
into the temple treasury now that they had accomplished their evil purpose. To
do such a thing would corrupt their carefully-crafted legalism. It would mix
the impurity of Judas’ greed and disloyalty with the purity of life and
religion they had deluded themselves into thinking they had created. Blood
money, it was—and they freely admitted it.
So, dear Christian: What’s your “blood money”? What
will you admit to? What do you take freely from the Lord, use for your own
selfish purposes apart from His will, and then refuse to return to His use?
What are you afraid will upset your delicate balance on the tightrope you’ve
strung for yourself across the abyss of hell? What means do you use to send
Jesus to that cross?
It doesn’t have to be so obvious an answer as money
itself, of course. Although I’m sure we all find ways to use that means of
exchange to accomplish our own purposes apart from God’s good intentions, there
are plenty of other ways we can do it. Maybe it’s words that you hand out
instead, using them to maneuver and manipulate others to accomplish what you
want, or to wound and torment them. Maybe it’s time—precious, irreplaceable
time that you mis-allocate instead of spending on useful, God-pleasing things.
Maybe it’s your intellect, as you fill your mind with minutiae about sports or
celebrities or politics, yet you can’t explain to your neighbor why knowing Christ
crucified for sinners is the only thing that really matters.
We are all treacherous Judases. We are all high
priests, presiding over the temples of our own choosing, looking respectable
and presentable to others, but harboring deep, dark corruption within us. Who,
me? Betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver? Never!
Ah, but betray him for 30 pages of trashy fiction; 30 minutes
of extra sleep; 30 days of self-generated righteousness; 30 insulting laughs at
the expense of others? Sure, no problem.
It doesn’t take a lot for us to betray Jesus, for sin
is sin, and we sin much daily. Whatever form our “blood money” takes, wherever
it comes from, wherever it goes—it’s Jesus who is going to end up paying for
it. He’s got to settle all accounts.
Between Judas and the priests, the price to be settled
upon was 30 pieces of silver. Between the Son and the Father, the price was Jesus’
holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death—His precious blood, shed for you, as
His body was given to redeem you from a debt you couldn’t pay, to purchase your
body and soul from a death and a devil you couldn’t bargain your way out of.
Between you and God, though, the price is exactly… nothing.
It’s grace, freely given. It’s undeserved love and mercy lavished upon you in
quantities more than you could buy with 30 trillion pieces of
silver; with 30 pious lives; 30 worlds; even 30 universes.
Thirty pieces of worldly silver purchased the betrayal
of our heavenly Lord’s precious blood. And that innocent, priceless blood of
Jesus, shed on the cross, bought you back from sin, death, and the devil.
That’s His gift to you, no matter how you’ve failed Him or how you’ve betrayed
Him. That’s the bargain of a lifetime. That’s a deal you can live