Maundy Thursday – St. Matthew 27:1-10
Judas did not have to die.
That is the irony of the entire Passion account. Judas did a horrible thing, but he did not have to die. Peter likewise did a horrible thing, in fact all of the disciples did; and yet they did not die; only Judas did.
But at the same time, Judas also shows us why the death of Jesus is necessary.
For where does Judas turn when he sees how things are unfolding before him? Who does Judas look to when he sees that Jesus is on a fast track to death? What does Judas do when he tries to fix this problem he was so intricately involved in creating?
He looks to himself. He does not repent as Peter does after denying Jesus. He does not come back and seek Jesus as the other disciples do. Judas sees the events unfolding before him, he sees the true intent of the chief priests and the Pharisees, he sees the false witnesses that are brought forward, and he sees the plan to take Jesus to Pilate and demand that He be crucified taking shape.
He sees all of this, and the role that he played in bringing it about; and he looks only to himself; he asks himself ‘how can I fix this’, ‘what can I do to make things right’, ‘it was by my actions that this happened, surely by my actions I can turn things around’.
And that is where Judas sees how hopeless things really are; Judas cannot fix this, Judas cannot undo things, Judas cannot make things right.
Judas does the best he can: he takes the 30 pieces of silver, money that would have guaranteed a comfortable life for him and his family; money that could have bought him anything he wanted; money that would have made him the envy of everyone around him; he takes that money, and he goes to the chief priests and he tries to give it back.
Now at this point, we often blame the chief priests and say that they should have shared God’s Word with Judas, they should have offered comfort and forgiveness to Judas, they should have been more godly with him, as opposed to turning their backs on him and refusing to even acknowledge him.
All of which is very much true; but all of which is also not the point.
Judas is not looking for God, he is not looking to God’s Word, he is not even looking for comfort or forgiveness. Judas is looking at himself and only himself. Judas is looking at what can he do to make things right; because in his mind, that is the only way to get out of this.
And that is where we are all too much like Judas.
For when a wrong is committed what is your first instinct? Is it to seek forgiveness? Is it to call the pastor and schedule private confession and absolution? Is it to go to your brother or sister in Christ and make amends?
Or is your first, second, third, and fourth instinct to try to make things right on your own? What is the playground rule after all? If you hit someone, don’t apologize, rather, let them hit you back, make things even. If you take something that is not yours, give someone something in return. If you break a window or run over the flowers or shoot something you weren’t supposed to, immediately offer to pay for the replacement.
You broke it, and just like Judas you are trying to fix it. You take your 30 pieces of silver and you go and try to make things right once again. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a dollar for a dollar; it will all come out even in the end; and in the end, it will be like nothing ever happened.
And what happens when your efforts fail to make things even again? Judas hung himself; a life for a life. That is what many wracked with guilt from one abortion do, they kill the next one to make things even. That is what murderers do as well, they kill the next one to hide the guilt of the first one.
Perhaps your sins do not rise to the level of suicide; that’s good. But you are still left with the question of what to do about these wrongs that you cannot make right.
The pattern is the same though; you look for the one that does take the guilt away. Allow someone to hit you twice as hard to make up for the one who would not strike. Pay double for the next repair to cover the one you could not repay. Suffer in your own way, so that the one you caused suffering to does not suffer alone.
Can you make things even? You certainly try; but like Judas, you soon find that it doesn’t work very well. There is nothing that can take the guilt away.
The only answer is blood.
Not the blood of Judas that drips down his corpse hanging on the tree; and no, not your own blood which boils with each failed attempt to undo your actions; and not even the blood of goats and calves that are sacrificed in the temple; but the blood of Jesus that is poured out for you.
Jesus offers His own blood tonight, here in the Lord’s Supper. Here He announces that His holy and precious blood is given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. There is no sin to small, there is no sin to great that the blood of Jesus cannot wash away, that cannot be made right, that cannot make you whole once more.
You cannot undo your wrongs or make right the ways you have fallen from; but the blood of Jesus poured out for you can. For by His death and resurrection, the blood of Jesus does what you cannot do by your own works or actions or feeble efforts: it makes you clean, it makes you holy, it makes you right with God.
That blood shed is what restores Peter, it makes him whole, makes him right with God once more, even after denying Jesus three times. That blood shed is what restores all of the other disciples who ran away, refusing to stand with Jesus in His hour of need. That blood of Jesus is what restores Saul, who though he persecuted Christians far and wide, was forgiven by the blood of Jesus poured out for him on the cross.
That blood of Jesus now restores you, who fall short of the glory of God in thought, word and deed. The blood shed on the cross forgives you, and the blood that you sip of tonight assures you that the forgiveness of sins is as certain as can be.
And yes, that blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross, could have and would have restored Judas, made him right with God once more, even though he betrayed Jesus into the hands of sinful men.
Blood is shed tonight; once in despair and once in hope. Seek the blood that offers hope, for that is where salvation is found; not in your own means or actions, but in the cross of Jesus.