March 29, 2020

Online Worship Service for Lent Five, Sunday March 29, 2020

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Passage: Matthew 27:3-10
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Sermon for Lent Five, Sunday March 29, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5, NKJV)

Matthew 27:3–10 (NKJV)
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”

5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –

It seems to me that we’ve forgotten what certain words really mean today…like, for example, the word literally. We’ve also become numb to other words…like the word tragedy.

 River dolphins and mountain gorillas are in danger of extinction…to lose them would be a tragedy.
 A familiar public figure or athlete dies suddenly and…it’s a tragedy.
 An NFL team’s starting quarterback is injured in training camp, out for the season…it’s a tragedy.

Some things that happen in this world are truly tragic…especially deaths that could be avoided. If we are personally affected by death then it always seems greater than if we weren’t really acquainted with the person. It hurts more when it hits close to home.

Our view of a tragedy – as Christians - is also changed by a person’s confession of faith. If the person who died was baptized and publicly confessed confidence in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus…we look at it differently than a person who died having never confessed faith in Jesus.

Tragedy…is it just semantics…a quibbling over words? What’s the point?

The death of Judas Iscariot was truly a tragedy. It was a tragedy because it might have been avoided. Jesus reached out to Judas repeatedly on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, asking him questions in an effort to get him to think about what he was doing. We can’t help but wonder if the Religious Leaders had pointed Judas to the mercy of God instead of calling upon him to bear his own sin…then?

In the Word of God before us this morning we see the vital difference between ‘being sorry’, ‘not being sorry’ and being penitent. May God grant to each of us that we be penitent.

Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, since the beginning, Satan has been trying to turn human eyes away from you and your Word. He continues to deceive the world with lies and luring vices. Now, in our trials and temptations, enable us to fix our eyes only on your Son, Jesus the Christ. Help us to remember that it was his joy to endure the cross for our sakes (Hebrews 12:2). He has destroyed the work of the Devil (1 John 3:8) and is not ashamed to call those who trust in Him His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11). In every tribulation and affliction, let us always look to Jesus, to see him as the strength of our heart, the joy of our life, and the hope of our salvation. Amen.

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What happened to Jesus’ disciples in Gethsemane? Well, they prayed, they slept and then they ran. The Gospel writers tell us that one of the Disciples (John?) had access to the High Priest’s Palace and saw to it that Peter came into the courtyard (John 18:16). We don’t know the whereabouts of the rest of them.

Where did Judas go after Jesus was arrested? Did he go into hiding? Did he follow the procession to the Palace of the High Priest, Caiaphas? It appears that he may have because the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Judas saw that Jesus had been condemned as worthy of death.

3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

It’s fair to say that Judas was sorry…that things turned out the way that they did. We may wonder what Judas was thinking when he presented himself to the Chief Priests and asked (Matthew 26:15):

“What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?”

It’s pointless to ask what he was thinking…because the Holy Spirit hasn’t revealed much at all about Judas’ thought processes. We can say that Satan influenced Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3-6, John 13:27). We can say that Judas was a thief who took from the money that was given to support Jesus’ ministry (John12:6).

It’s clear that the Devil capitalized on Judas’ weakness and greed. Judas saw what appeared to be a way to obtain easy money. He informed the chief priests about Jesus’ whereabouts and arranged for His betrayal. Whether He ‘saw the blood in their eyes’ or ‘thought it would never happen’ or how he justified it to himself, we can’t say.

We can understand though, can’t we?

We all know from personal experience…that’s the way it is with sin. Whatever the particular temptation, sin always seems to look good, whether the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6) or a bag of gold or a pile of gems or another man’s wife and possessions. There isn’t a warning label like on a pack of cigarettes, “This could lead to guilt and eternal death.” We see the shiny temptation, but the consequences…Satan and this corrupt world hide that. Sin looks and smells good…like that pile of fresh donuts behind the glass case.

But there are consequences… …if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For Judas the shiny temptation was ‘easy money’, 30 pieces of silver. What is it for you? Just take a minute and think about it, what is that thing that you know is wrong but just can’t seem to quit? Is it holding your tongue from gossip? Is it lust or greed? Is it belittling other people? Disrespect for your parents? Living with your girlfriend? Is it something else?

Sin may look good, but there are strings attached. Sin is tied to guilt and guilt to death. Sure, we can ignore our consciences but the guilt will always be there. Learn from Judas.

When Judas saw that Jesus had been condemned, he was sorry. Let us understand that being sorry isn’t the same thing as confessing your sin to GOD and seeking His Forgiveness. Judas didn’t do that.

Judas tried to undo what he had done. He tried to cancel the deal. It wasn’t too late yet because Jesus hadn’t been delivered to Pilate. He would take back the money and cut himself free from the consequences…from the guilt. He said:

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
3
He felt guilty. He felt responsible. We can understand because we have also done things we regretted; things that seemed innocent but ended up hurting other people. Sorry you got caught, sorry you feel bad isn’t the same as being sorry that you have sinned against God.

But poor Judas went to the wrong place and the wrong people with his confession, with his guilt.

Sure, they patted him on the back and thanked him when he came and took the bribe from them. When he returned with the money and the guilt…they didn’t have time for him. They were calloused and cold.

When tempted to sin, don’t turn to your friends who don’t know Jesus. When you feel guilty about what you have done, don’t turn to your peers who practice the same sins. If your conscience says no, then listen. Don’t ask the community what’s wrong, because our society promotes every kind of wickedness. If it makes you feel good, do it. If someone tells you it’s wrong – its only wrong for them.

There was one person who could help Judas, but Judas didn’t go to Jesus with his sin. He was told to try and take his own guilt and the consequences of his sin. It was hopeless.

5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

In a final tragic act of hopelessness, Judas took the silver and threw it into the Holy Place, the Temple of the LORD. I was as if he thought, if there was any way to be free of the guilt it was to give the money it to the church. In the end, the act gave him no peace. Judas went out and hanged himself.

If death is a tragic consequence of sin, then to die in sins without forgiveness is truly a heartbreaking tragedy. Sorry isn’t penitent. Then there is not sorry at all.

And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”

The Religious Leaders weren’t sorry for the bribe that they paid to Judas. We can only guess that they believed – like so many today – that the ‘end justifies the means.’ It doesn’t matter what you do, if you mean well. Judas saw his sin in the betrayal; the chief priests refused to acknowledge theirs.

In fact, they sought to cover it up.

6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

It was the same 30 pieces of silver they had taken from the treasury to pay Judas as a bribe. Such a ‘gift’ would normally be returned to the ‘giver’ but for obvious reasons they couldn’t give it back to Judas. They couldn’t use it for a godly reason because the price of blood! In declaring it the price of blood they condemned themselves; for aren’t those who pay the bribe just as guilty as the one who receives it? Did they acknowledge their sin? Did they repent?

No, their chief concern was finding a way to use the money, to cover their tracks. What better way than to make it a donation to a worthy cause? They resolved to use the 30 pieces of silver to buy a field owned by a potter. The community was in need of a cemetery for strangers and travelers who died suddenly in Jerusalem. In fact, to this day, many cemeteries have ‘Potters’ fields’ in which the poor and strangers are buried.

It didn’t turn out quite like they wanted…the field came to be known as the ‘field of blood.’ It came to be forever connected with Judas and the ‘blood money’ used to purchase it (cf. also Acts 1:18-19).

This wasn’t just fortunate timing it was a matter foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Gospel of Matthew alerts us to yet another remarkable event:

9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”

If you have a cross reference Bible you will notice that this quotation isn’t actually taken from the Prophet Jeremiah but the Prophet Zechariah. There are some who gleefully point to this and suggest it is proof that God’s Word is unreliable. We know that is not the case.

Why would Matthew claim this was spoken by Jeremiah? The Jews often referred to the whole of the Old Testament as ‘Moses and the Prophets.’ The term ‘Moses’ was a summary of the first five books, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by Moses. The term ‘The Prophets’ was a summary of the bulk of the remain books, what our Bibles call the ‘major and minor’ prophets. Since this latter section began with the Prophet Jeremiah, sometimes the whole was referred to as Jeremiah.

This is a truly remarkable prophecy. If you read Zechariah 11:12-13, you will find that the LORD called upon His unfaithful and wayward people to ‘pay Him for his time’ of protecting them. The Leaders of Israel weighed out 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave and gave it to Zechariah. The LORD instructed him to throw the 30 pieces of silver into the house of the LORD to purchase their release from their Shepherd.

So too, the Leaders of Israel gave Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray the Good Shepherd, whom they had rejected as Savior. When the deed had been done the silver was again thrown to the potter, to purchase a field of blood to bury strangers.

 In Judas we find one sorry for sin, but not penitent.
 In the Chief Priests we see men deceiving themselves and in no way grieving their sin.

God grant that we find neither among us. When the Law of God shows us our sins and leads us to guilt…then may the Spirit of God help us to remember that Jesus went to the Cross and Grave willingly to separate us from sin and guilt and its consequences forever. He did not stumble under the weight of the cross so that we might attempt to bear our sin and guilt and imagine that we can ‘make up for it.’ Rather, He (1 Peter 2:24-25):

“…bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

When tempted to minimize or cover up our sin, may the Spirit of God stop us in our tracks, and lead us to confess our sins and trust in Christ for forgiveness. There is a difference between ‘sorry’, ‘not sorry’ and ‘godly sorrow with confidence in Christ.’ There is a very different end to godly sorrow too, as it is written (2 Corinthians 7:10):

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Judas knew the hopeless sorrow of the world, guilt without promise or hope of forgiveness. Judas knew the hopeless sorrow of the world, guilt without promise of forgiveness. It was a terrible tragedy.

God grant that you keep your eyes fixed on Him, that you do not grow weary or lose heart (Hebrews 12:2)!
Amen.