1. But when it was morning, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus, to put him to death.2. And they led him away bound, and delivered him to Pointius Pilate the governor.3. Then Judas, who had betrayed him, perceiving that he was condemned, repented, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4. Saying, I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.5. And having thrown down the pieces of silver in the temple, he retired, and went away, and strangled himself.6. And the chief priests, having taken the pieces of silver, said, It is not lawful for us to throw them into the treasury, for they are the price of blood.7. And having taken counsel, they bought with them the potter's field for a burying-place to strangers; 8. For which reason that field is called, The field of blood, to this day.9. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took thirty pieces of silver, the price of him who was valued, whom they of the children of Israel valued, 10. And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
1. And immediately on the break of day, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, after having deliberated, led Jesus away bound and delivered him to Pilate.
1. And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him away to Pilate.
Matthew 27:1. But when it was morning. The high priest, with his council, after having examined him at an unseasonable hour of the night, finally resolve, at sunrise, to place him at the bar of the governor. By so doing, they observe the form of judicial proceedings, that they may not be suspected of undue haste, when they run to Pilate at an unusually early hour, as usually happens in cases of tumult. But it is probable, that when Christ had been led away from their council, they immediately held a consultation, and, without long delay, resolved what they would do; for we have been already told at what time Christ went out from them and met Peter, which was after the cock-crowing, and just as day was breaking. The Evangelists, therefore, do not mean that they removed from the place, but only relate, that as soon as it was daylight, they condemned Christ to death, and did not lose a moment in earnestly putting into execution their wicked design. What Luke formerly stated, (22:66,) that they assembled in the morning, ought not to be explained as referring to the very beginning, but to the last act, which is immediately added: as if he had said, that as soon as it was day, our Lord having acknowledged that he was the Son of God, they pronounced their sentence of his death. Now if they had been permitted to decide in taking away life, they would all have been eager, in their fury, to murder him with their own hands; but as Pilate had cognizance of capital crimes, they are constrained to refer the matter to his jurisdiction; only they entangle him by their own previous decision. For the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:59) took place in a seditious manner, as happens in cases of tumult; but it was proper that the Son of God should be solemnly condemned by an earthly judge, that he might efface our condemnation in heaven.
3. Then Judas, perceiving that he was condemned. By this adverb (tote) then, Matthew does not fix the exact point of time; for we shall find him shortly afterwards adding, that Judas, when he saw that the priests disdainfully refused to take back the reward of his treason, threw it down in the temple. But from the house of Caiaphas they came straight to the Pretorium, and stood there until Christ was condemned. It can scarcely be supposed that they were found in the temple on that day; but as the Evangelist was speaking of the rage and madness of the council, he inserted also the death of Judas, by which their blind obstinacy, and the hardness of their hearts like iron, were more fully displayed.
He says that Judas repented; not that he reformed, but that the crime which he had committed gave him uneasiness; as God frequently opens the eyes of the reprobate, so as to begin to feel their miseries, and to be alarmed at them. For those who are sincerely grieved so as to reform, are said not only (metamelein), but, also (metanoein), from which is derived also (metanoia), which is a true conversion of the soul to God. So then, Judas conceived disgust and horror, not so as to turn to God, but rather that, being overwhelmed with despair, he might serve as an example of a man entirely shut out from the grace of God. Justly, indeed, does Paul say, that the sorrow which leads to repentance is salutary, (2 Corinthians 7:10;) but if a man stumble at the very threshold, he will derive no advantage from a confused and mistaken grief. What is more, this is a just punishment with which God at length visits the wicked, who have obstinately despised his judgment, that he gives them up to Satan to be tormented without the hope of consolation.
True repentance is displeasure at sin, arising out of fear and reverence for God, and producing, at the same time, a love and desire of righteousness. Wicked men are far from such a feeling; for they would desire to sin without intermission, and even, as far as lies in their power, they endeavor to deceive both God and their own conscience, but notwithstanding their reluctance and opposition, they are tormented with blind horror by their conscience, so that, though they do not hate their sin, still they feel, with sorrow and distress, that it presses heavily and painfully upon them. This is the reason why their grief is useless; for they do not cheerfully turn to God, or even aim at doing better, but, being attached to their wicked desires, they pine away in torment, which they cannot escape. In this way, as I have just said, God punishes their obstinacy; for although his elect are drawn to him by severe chastisements, and as it were contrary to their will, yet he heals in due time the wounds which he has inflicted, so that they come cheerfully to him, by whose hand they acknowledge that they are struck, and by whose wrath they are alarmed. The former, therefore, while they have no hatred to sin, not only dread, but fly from the judgment of God, and thus, having received an incurable wound, they perish in the midst of their sorrows.
If Judas had listened to the warning of Christ, there would still have been place for repentance; but since he despised so gracious an offer of salvation, he is given up to the dominion of Satan, that he may throw him into despair. But if the Papists were right in what they teach in their schools about repentance, we could find no defect in that of Judas, to which their definition of repentance fully applies; for we perceive in it contrition of heart, and confession of the mouth, and satisfaction of deed, as they talk. Hence we infer, that they take nothing more than the bark; for they leave out what was the chief point, the conversion of the man to God, when the sinner, broken down by shame and fear, denies himself so as to render obedience to righteousness.
4. What is that to us? Here is described the stupidity and madness of the priests, since even after having been warned by the dreadful example of Judas, still they do not think about themselves. I do acknowledge that hypocrites, as they are accustomed to flatter themselves, had some plausible excuse at hand for distinguishing between their case and that of Judas; for they did not think that they were partakers of his crime, though they abused the treachery of Judas. But Judas not only confesses that he has sinned, but asserts the innocence of Christ; from which it follows, that they had meditated the death of a righteous man, and, therefore, that they were guilty of a detestable murder. Nor is there any room to doubt that God intended to sear their consciences with a hot iron, to discover the hidden corruption. Let us therefore learn, that when we see wicked persons, with whom we have any thing in common, filled with alarm, those are so many excitements to repentance, and that they who neglect such excitements aggravate their criminality. We ought also to believe, that the crime of one man can have no effect in acquitting all those who are in any way involved in it; and still more, that the leading perpetrators of a crime can gain no advantage by distinguishing between themselves and their agents, that they may not suffer the same punishment.
5. And he went away, and strangled himself. This is the price for which Satan sells the allurements by which he flatters wicked men for a time. He throws them into a state of fury, so that, voluntarily cutting themselves off from the hope of salvation, they find no consolation but in death. Though others would have permitted Judas to enjoy the thirty pieces of silver, by which he had betrayed Christ and his own salvation, he throws them down, and not only deprives himself of the use of them, but, along with the base reward of the death of Christ, he throws away also his own life. Thus, though God does not put forth his hand, wicked men are disappointed of their desires, so that, when they have obtained their wishes, they not only deprive themselves of the enjoyment of unsatisfying benefits, but even make cords for themselves. But though they are their own executioners by punishing themselves, they do not in any respect alleviate or diminish the severity of the wrath of God.
6. It is not lawful for us to throw it into the treasury. Hence it plainly appears that hypocrites, by attending to nothing more than the outward appearance, are guilty of gross trifling with God. Provided that they do not violate their Corban, (Mark 7:11,) they imagine that in other matters they are pure, and give themselves no concern about the infamous bargain, by which they, not less than Judas, had provoked against themselves the vengeance of God. But if it was unlawful to put into the sacred treasury the price of blood, why was it lawful for them to take the money out of it? for all their wealth was derived from the offerings of the temple, and from no other source did they take what they now scruple to mingle again with it as being polluted. Now, whence came the pollution but from themselves?
8. For a burying-place to strangers. The more that wicked men endeavor to conceal their enormities, the more does the Lord watch over them to bring those enormities to light. They hoped that, by an honorable disguise, they would bury their crime, were they to purchase a barren field for burying strangers. But the wonderful providence of God turns this arrangement to an opposite result, so that this field became a perpetual memorial of that treason, which had formerly been little known. For it was not themselves that gave this name to the place, but after the occurrence was generally known, the field was called, by common consent, The field of blood; as if God had commanded that their disgrace should be in every man's mouth. It was a plausible design to provide a burying-place for strangers, if any of those who came up to Jerusalem from distant countries, for the purpose of sacrificing, should happen to die there. As some of them were of the Gentiles, I do not disapprove of the opinion of some ancient writers, that this symbol held out the hope of salvation to the Gentiles, because they were included in the price of the death of Christ; but as that opinion is more ingenious than solid, I leave it undetermined. The word corbana, (treasury,) is Chaldaic, and is derived from the Hebrew word (qrvn), (corban,) of which we have spoken elsewhere.
9. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet. How the name of Jeremiah crept in, I confess that I do not know nor do I give myself much trouble to inquire. The passage itself plainly shows that the name of Jeremiah has been put down by mistake, instead of Zechariah, (11:13;) for in Jeremiah we find nothing of this sort, nor any thing that even approaches to it. Now that other passage, if some degree of skill be not used in applying it, might seem to have been improperly distorted to a wrong meaning; but if we attend to the rule which the apostles followed in quoting Scripture, we shall easily perceive that what we find there is highly applicable to Christ. The Lord, after having complained that his labors were of no avail, so long as he discharged the office of a shepherd, says that he is compelled by the troublesome and unpleasant nature of the employment to relinquish it altogether, and, therefore, declares that he will break his crook, and will be a shepherd no longer. He afterwards adds, that when he asked his salary, they gave him thirty pieces of silver. The import of these words is, that he was treated quite contemptuously as if he had been some mean and ordinary laborer. For the ceremonies and vain pretenses, by which the Jews recompensed his acts of kindness, are compared by him to thirty pieces of silver, as if they had been the unworthy and despicable hire of a cowherd or a day-laborer; and, therefore, he bids them throw it before a potter in the temple; as if he had said: |As for this fine present which they make to me, which would not be less dishonorable in me to accept than it is contemptuous in them to offer it, let them rather spend it in purchasing tiles or bricks for repairing the chinks of the temple.| To make it still more evident that Christ is the God of armies, towards whom the people had been from the beginning malicious and ungrateful, when he
was manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16,)
it became necessary that what had formerly been spoken figuratively should now be literally and visibly accomplished in his person. So, then, when he was compelled by their malice to take leave of them, and to withdraw his labors from them as unworthy of such a privilege, they valued him at thirty pieces of silver. And this disdain of the Son of God was the crowning act of their extreme impiety.
The price of him that was valued. Matthew does not quote the words of Zechariah; for he merely alludes to the metaphor, under which the Lord then complains of the ingratitude of the people. But the meaning is the same, that while the Jews ought to have entirely devoted themselves, and all that they possessed, to the Lord, they contemptuously dismissed him with a mean hire; as if, by governing them for so many ages, he had deserved nothing more than any cowherd would have received for the labors of a single year. He complains, therefore, that though he is beyond all estimation, he was rated by them at so low a price.
Whom they of the children of Israel did value. This expression, which he uses towards the close, must be taken in a general sense. Judas had struck a bargain with the priests, who were the avowed representatives of the whole people; so that it was the Jews who set up Christ for sale, and he was sold, as it were, by the voice of the public crier. The price was such as was fit to be given to a potter.
10. As the Lord appointed me. By this clause Matthew confirms the statement, that this was not done without the providence of God; because, while they have a different object in view, they unconsciously fulfill an ancient prediction. For how could it have occurred to them to purchase a field from a potter, if the Lord had not turned their blameworthy conduct so as to carry into execution his own purpose?