They Knew Better but Didn't Do Better
"The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into the treasury since it is blood money. So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day." Matthew 27:6-7
I've read this passage many times but only recently noticed how callous the chief priests and elders were. Judas confessed his guilt for selling Jesus out. His vulnerability was high, and he needed compassion and direction. However, the response of the leaders was, "What is that to us? That's your responsibility." (27:4b). How callous! No wonder Judas took his own life. Would his life have turned out differently if the leaders had responded to Judas lovingly?
Could we assume the Jewish leaders had no concept of repentance and its benefit? I don't think so. Many times in the Old Testament, God taught the people the benefits of repentance and forgiveness. In Chronicles, the author writes, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14. Repentance at that moment could have had great blessings for the Jewish nation.
This passage also shows that the priests and elders knew what they had done to Jesus was wrong. They knew it was wrong to pay bribe money; they identified it as "blood money." And they were wise enough to know not to put it in the treasury. But they never reached the point when they admitted their sin and repented seeking forgiveness. I believe they saw themselves as being above God's law.
The church is being secularized today because so many church leaders believe they know better than the Bible. They question God's wisdom by choosing to ignore or rewrite numerous passages in scripture. Instead of being callous and sending sinners away as the chief priests did, the leaders are, instead, declaring sinful actions beautiful and holy. But the results are the same, people will be damaged.
Christians, especially those in leadership, must respond to those we are guiding with compassion and truth. We must tell them how loved they are and share the hope of living under God's law. If I could sit down with Judas, I would remind him that God doesn't look at our past, but our remorseful present and promising future. The Psalmist writes, "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west." (103:12) As God remembers his covenant with his people, he forgets the sins of those who repent.
There was hope for Judas if only he chose repentance over suicide. There is hope for everyone alive. After we have breathed our last, our hope is gone, but if we genuinely repent with our last breath, we will be with Christ in paradise. When we hear a person's confession, we cannot callously send them away with the belief there is no hope for them. But we also cannot tell them that what they are doing is not sinful if God's law says it is.
If the conversation between Judas and the chief priests in the temple two thousand years ago had been about repentance, not only would Judas' life have been blessed, but it is possible the future of the whole Jewish nation would have been altered. The same is true for everyone reading this post. Your past, no matter how sinful, cannot keep you from God's love.