Red Letter Year: 6/6

Matthew 27:1-10

Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says, “They took the thirty pieces of silver — the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel, 10 and purchased the potter’s field, as the Lord directed.”


This marks the second time in Matthew’s Gospel that money has scattered across the Temple floor. The first time Jesus disrupted business as usual and most likely made his arrest and execution inevitable. Those in power do not suffer such disruptions lightly. We see here a chilling example of why Jesus had a problem with business as usual. Distraught at the deadly turn of events and his own complicity, Judas comes to his religious leaders confessing his sin. Their response is callous and dismissive. They turn Judas away and leave him alone with his despair. The outcome is tragic but hardly surprising. The religious leaders show great care for how the “blood money” is used, but no care at all for the desperate man. As Jesus has said more than once, they focus on minutiae and ignore what really matters.

There are two critical things that I think we should take away from this sad passage. The first is that we cannot leave individuals to take care of sin on their own. “That’s your problem,” is never an appropriate response from the church. Your problem is our problem. That is not to say that your problem is someone else’s problem in a specific sense (this is one of the flaws of current modesty teaching, that one person is responsible for the sin of another), rather, sin is a communal issue and must be dealt with as such. What does this look like? It begins with pastors who care for people and accept that the sin of others is something they have to care deeply about.

The other thing I think we need to take away from this is how very human, how very ordinary Judas was. Throughout history attempts have been made to either villainize or more recently indemnify Judas. Thinking that otherizes Judas or removes his action from the realm of possibility from the rest of us must be avoided. Judas was one of the Twelve. Judas prayed for people. Judas preached the Gospel. Judas saw people healed and delivered from demons when he prayed for them. Judas was taught by Jesus directly, face to face, for three years.  His betrayal is not far removed from Peter’s cowardly denial we read yesterday. His repentance here may have been genuine (there is no way we can judge this). He is a tragic figure and he, like all the other sorry figures in the Bible, is just as human as you or I. We are as prone to failure of this magnitude as he was. And blood money is as likely to scatter across the floors of our sanctuaries as it was the Temple.

One final note about the Blood Field. Matthew used the word for blood three times in this short passage (the whole story is preparing us for Jesus’ death at the end of the chapter): it is Jesus’ blood that buys this field. The value was the equivalent of what a person was to be compensated if one of their slaves was gored by another’s bull. Jesus was worth no more to them than a slave and the field was worth no more than somewhere to bury foreigners. Even here we see that the blood of Jesus welcomes in the outsiders, gives those who are rejected some place to rest. Neither the betrayal of Judas or the callousness of the religious leaders can do anything other than work toward the mission of Jesus. His kingdom advances even in defeat.

The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 6/4

Matthew 26:47-58

47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? 54 But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

55 Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. 56 But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.

57 Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. 58 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end.


A few moments before, Jesus was struggling in Gethsemane. Now he confidently declares that thousands of angels are at his disposal, but they must not be called on in order that his mission, the messianic mission foretold in Scripture may be completed. This marks a significant shift in Jesus’ thought and attitude, from one of shrinking from the moment to one of ample confidence. What caused this sudden change? It wasn’t his friends who have been sleeping, except for the one who is coming to betray him. The only other thing we have here is that Jesus has been praying, pouring out his despair to God, asking for a reprieve, submitting to the Father’s will. These were all the things Jesus said in prayer, what we read yesterday. What we have here is what Jesus heard in prayer, what the Father and Holy Spirit spoke back to him. He received a picture of angels standing ready. He heard again the words of the prophets. He was encouraged to complete the mission he had already accepted. Jesus had been predicting this moment for most of Matthew, even in the face of rebukes from the same disciples who are now sleeping and fleeing. Knowing it was coming did not give him this confidence, not even knowing the will of God shielded him from doubt and fear. But prayer did. Jesus poured out all he was thinking and feeling in that moment and the Holy Spirit poured back in truth, vision, and hope. If this was the experience of Jesus, how much more so for us?

The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.