The Clinking Coins
Matthew 26.14-16 14
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Clinking Coins – Sounds can leave a lasting impression. Tonight our thoughts of the passion of Jesus are stirred by the haunting sound of the clinking coins – the thirty pieces of silver that were paid to Judas to betray our Lord. What kind of thoughts and feelings should this sound produce in our hearts? Oh Holy Spirit guide our hearts to believe what Jesus has done for us by being betrayed and allowing Himself to fall into the hands of sinners. Amen.
1. How and why did Judas betray Jesus?
Many people think that betrayal is the worst sin a person can commit. It is a low person who would deliver a friend to death who has been faithful and loyal to them. It is the worst form of hypocrisy. The Italian poet Dante, in his poetic description of Hell, saved the lowest level of the Inferno for those who betray. In his portrayal three people suffer in this deepest place: Brutus and Cassius, the famous betrayers of Julius Caesar, and Judas, the betrayer of Jesus.
For the high priests Judas must have been an unexpected wild card. They were plotting to destroy Jesus, but they had to put their plans off. They were too afraid to do anything during the Feast of the Passover. Any outright attempt to arrest Him in daylight while He was preaching in the Temple would have caused an uproar among the people. But Judas made it possible to arrest Jesus secretly and quietly.
The Bible tells us why Judas did it. His words to the high priests were simply, "What will you give me…?" Judas was selfish, and periodically he would pilfer the common treasury of the disciples for his own needs (John 12.6). In the Gospel of John it is specifically Judas who complains that the expensive ointment that was poured upon Jesus could have been sold and given to the poor. He didn’t care about the poor. What he cared about were his own selfish desires. He had his needs met like the other disciples. But Judas wasn’t satisfied, "What will you give me…?"
2. How and why do we betray Jesus?
Why does the Bible tell us these things? This isn’t just a sad story about a man who did a bad thing. Judas and the clinking coins are a constant reminder to us that temptations to selfishness and hypocrisy are always strong. We too can get hooked into this if we don’t take care.
There is a story about a young man who worked hard and who was beginning to accumulate a lot of wealth. However he didn’t have much use for God or for other people unless they could get him more money. One day his pastor came to visit him at his office. "Look out the window," the pastor said, "what do you see?" "I see men, women, and children," the young man said. "Now look in the mirror," the pastor said. "What do you see?" "I see my self, of course," said the young man. "Now do you know the difference between the window and the mirror?" asked the pastor. "Both are made of glass. But the mirror is coated with a thin layer of silver. In it the only thing you can see is yourself."
Even the thinnest layer silver, the weakest desire for more than God has justly given to us, turns us in on ourselves. The ninth and tenth commandments both warn us against coveting: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Those commandments are there to prevent us from falling into the hypocrisy of a life that serves the self rather than God. With repentance the glass is wiped clean, the priorities are realigned. The devil cannot cause us to betray our Lord.
3. Why is Jesus not surprised by betrayal and what does He do about our betrayal?
One of the most amazing things about the passion is that Jesus is not at all surprised by Judas’ betrayal. Jesus knew that this would happen. Zechariah had actually prophesied that God’s Shepherd for Israel would only be worth 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11.12). The number 30 is also important. This was what a slave was worth in Israel (Exodus 21.32). If a slave was accidentally killed, the person responsible was required to pay 30 pieces of silver. Jesus did become a slave for us as He said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10.45).
Jesus loved Judas and Peter and you and me even though we have betrayed Him. He gave His life for all who have turned away from God. Peter repented, and I continue to repent everyday for my little betrayals. Judas did not repent. Even to the very end he tried to take care of himself by trying to return the money. Instead of looking to the transactions of men, he needed to look to God and to the great transaction of Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of our sins.
You are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. In one translation of the prayer we say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." The debt that Jesus is speaking about is the debt of sin. It can’t be paid back with any amount of silver. That debt can only be paid by Jesus. "You were ransomed from (your) futile ways… not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1.18-19). Amen.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Wednesday Evening Lenten Service
March 3, 2004
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2004
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