Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” Matthew 27:3-6, NASB
I find it deeply ironic that the priests, the ones who professed to cleave to Moses’ law with a vice grip – the men who were responsible for helping people make propitiation for their sins through the sacrificial system – were the very ones who told the remorseful Judas, when he admitted his sin, “Hey, that’s your problem!”
They didn’t know it, but that attitude accurately reflected their new role. No longer would they have anything at all to do with the forgiveness of sins. The One whose murder they cherished with all the strength of their fierce jealousy would now be the means of direct access to God, and forgiveness could be obtained directly from His throne. The words of the prophet Ezekiel were coming true before their eyes:
‘Thus says the Lord God , “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? … [the] sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them… therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord … “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep… Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out… I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest” … (Ezekiel 34)
Jesus took their place – He is our Shepherd and High Priest.
Judas obviously understood the concept of blood-guiltiness as set forth in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 19:10, 13). He now had the guilt of innocent blood on his head (the priests would later take the guilt upon themselves and declare it over their children as well). In the Old Testament, blood-guiltiness was not incurred, or could be forgiven, if the person didn’t mean to kill the other person, or if the dead person was found within the city limits but no one knew who had killed him or her. Only if the murder was pre-meditated and motivated by hatred did the victim’s closest of kin have the right to kill the guilty one.
And so, the priests, too, took upon themselves the unforgivable kind of blood-guiltiness. As we will see in the following verses, the Scriptures set this concept up in the minds of its readers through types and enacted parables:
- Jonathan, speaking to King Saul about David, a type of Christ: “For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; … why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?” (1 Samuel 19:5). In Ezekiel 34:23-24, written long after the historical King David died, Jesus is referred to by God as His servant David.
- Jeremiah, also acting as a type of Christ, having been sent by God to prophesy to mankind, uttered words that could well have been spoken by Christ Himself: “Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and on its inhabitants; for truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” (Jeremiah 26:15)
- See also 2 Samuel 3:28, Jeremiah 7:6, Jeremiah 22:3, Jonah 1:14
See, their hearts were full of murder, they brought false witnesses, they coveted what was not theirs, and committed idolatry in placing their traditions over the word of God; they would murder the very Son of God, but they were still concerned with how “lawful” it was to put the 30 silver shekels back in the temple treasury. Talk about hypocrisy.
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