As the religious leaders plot to ensure their unjust condemnation of Jesus can stand the test of the Roman court, Matthew interjects an interlude into his text to allow the reader to follow the life of Judas to its tragic end.
Verse three depicts a realization on the part of Judas. Jesus has been condemned. The word Matthew uses depicts Judas as having literally and physically seen Jesus condemned and abused. He knows he was wrong about Him.
He is remorseful. He is overwhelmed with guilt. His conscience is wearing heavily upon him. But Matthew does not use the word that commonly refers to repentance in the Bible. He simply wishes he could undo what he has done. But he cannot.
Trying to appease his guilty conscience, Judas pleads his case before the religious leaders. They only answer, “It’s your problem, not ours.” (This, by the way, is how religion always responds to the needs of mankind)
Judas throws the thirty pieces of silver into a place where only priests are allowed, then goes out and hangs himself. The religious leaders, knowing they cannot pocket this money, purchase a field to bury strangers with the silver.
Why did Matthew include this segment in his narrative? Possibly, these are some points to consider:
1. To declare that Judas saw Jesus for whom He really was… the suffering servant rather than the political leader he wanted.
2. To show that the conscience can lead men and women to remorse, and still not bring them to true repentance.
3. To show the futility of religion. Judas seeks to answer his dilemma with religion (religious leaders). But religion is ineffective and has no answers. (Do we really want more religion?)
4. To show that even in the most insignificant events of the Gospel account, God is in control (Judas, and even the Field of Blood were prophesied hundreds of years before).
Just as in the teaching by Jesus of the Vine and the Vine-dresser (John 15), the branches attached to the Vine were pruned and produced more fruit; but those not attached were gathered and burned. Judas lived a part of his adult life in close proximity of Jesus, but was never attached.
The futility of religion is this… it cannot remove one single sin. Many today are running to organized religion pleading, “Take this sin off me,” to no avail. Only one can wash us white as snow – – Jesus.