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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, - Mat 27:3 LSB

What inferences from Matthew can support what sparked Judas' feelings of remorse for betraying Jesus? Is there revelation from Biblical material outside of Matthew that shed light on the means of Judas' remorse?

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    Judas saw Jesus' miracles and knew he had the ability to conquer Roman through his miraculous power. judas tried to force Jesus' hand, but instead Jesus' willingly died for us.
    – Perry Webb
    Dec 18, 2022 at 12:58

3 Answers 3

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Before Judas hanged himself, his last word is

Matthew 27:4: “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” (NIV)

A true Israelite should be well understood shedding innocent blood would receive avenge by the Lord.

We may have a question, when Judas planned to betray Jesus, shouldn't he understand that Jesus would get kill? This impression is probably because we always know well from the scripture that the Pharisee and the leaders were plotting to kill Jesus, but to Judas at his moment, would they tell Judas their true intention?

Let's review Matthew 26:14-16, a short script regarding the deal between Judas and the chief priests;

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests

15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.

16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (NIV)

From the last word of Judas, it is possible that Judas recognised he was deceived by the chief priests, for he might expect Jesus would only get punished, and didn't expect he committed a great sin by shedding an innocent blood.

Therefore to answer this question, What inferences from Matthew can support what sparked Judas' feelings of remorse for betraying Jesus?

The answer is in the implication from the last word of Judas in Matthew 27:4. Judas found out he had been deceived and shed an innocent blood, that had committed a sin of no forgiveness.

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  • You've zeroed in on the heart of my question and have given a very good and direct answer! At first, I don't know that I agree that Judas was "deceived" but he was defiantly taken advantage of.
    – Lance
    Dec 20, 2022 at 1:35
  • "it is possible that Judas recognised he was deceived by the chief priests, for he might expect Jesus would only get punished" - This seems odd given that Jesus himself told the apostles that he would be killed. (Matthew 17:22, 23) In essence, wouldn't have Judas taken a gamble that the chief priests wouldn't kill Jesus?
    – agarza
    Dec 24, 2022 at 16:48
  • @Agarza - the last time Jesus predicts His Death, was recorded in Matt 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34 and Luke 18:31-34. Luke 18:34 read "The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about" (NIV). As its meaning was hidden, Judas should not be able to knowing the outcome. Dec 25, 2022 at 1:57
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Matt 27:3 has occasioned much speculation about what was going through the mind of Judas.

The Cambridge commentary has this:

  1. when he saw that he was condemned. It has been argued from these words that Judas had not expected this result of his treachery. He had hoped that Jesus would by a mighty manifestation of His divine power usher in at once the Kingdom whose coming was too long delayed.

That is, Judas may have reasoned that his actions might finally reveal Jesus' true identity and force Him to immediately set up the earthly kingdom. Later, having precipitated Jesus objective for Him, Judas would be thanked and given a high position. However, not anticipating Jesus' true humility, Judas was seized with remorse.

This is all speculation and the above Cambridge commentary correctly observes:

The whole tenour of the narrative, however, contradicts such an inference.

The simpler explanation is that Judas was simply greedy as per John 12:6 -

Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money bag, he used to take from what was put into it.

His avarice nature had blinded him to the full consequences of his action which were revealed when Jesus was arrested without resistance. Indeed, the Bible explicitly discusses this effect of greed and money clouding the judgement of those involved:

  • Ex 23:8 - Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.
  • Deut 16:19 - Do not deny justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.
  • Eccl 7:7 - Surely extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
  • Isa 33:15 - He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, who refuses gain from extortion, whose hand never takes a bribe, who stops his ears against murderous plots and shuts his eyes tightly against evil—
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  • @DanFefferman - many thanks - fixed.
    – Dottard
    Dec 19, 2022 at 3:13
  • I can see how greed was one of his motivations, but I am more curious about the catalyst of his remorse.
    – Lance
    Dec 20, 2022 at 1:29
  • @Lance - that is the point - the greed blinded him to the consequences and when he saw them was filled with remorse.
    – Dottard
    Dec 20, 2022 at 2:01
  • Ah, I see. Thanks.
    – Lance
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:49
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I see three main indications related to Judas' state of mind in Matthew.

Apostolic Poverty

First, Matthew tells us that Jesus emphasized the importance of renouncing worldly goods and giving to the poor.

You received without paying, give without pay.Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. (Mt. 10:8-10)

Later, in the story of the Rich Young Man:

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Why this Waste?

In chapter 19, however, it apparently seems to the disciples, especially Judas, that Jesus does not practice what he preaches on this issue:

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.” ...Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Mt. 26:6:13)

So Matthew tells us the disciples collectively objected to the supposed waste of money that could have helped the poor, but in Judas' case he was particularly offended by it. This resulted in his decision to sell out Jesus and betray him.

The Last Supper

Matthew provides further information on Judas' state of mind when, at the Last Supper, Jesus declares "Woe unto him by whom the Son of Man is betrayed." Judas alone asks "Lord, is it I?" (26:24-25) Judas proceeds with his plan to betray Jesus, but Matthew has hinted that he is already plagued with a guilty conscience.

Putting these hints together without speculation beyond the text, I conclude that Matthew's account tells us Judas' original motivation was based on a feeling that Jesus hypocritically used worldly goods in contradiction to his teaching of apostolic poverty. This led him to betray Jesus, but once his former master had been condemned to death Judas felt remorse because he did not mean to bring a capital charge against Jesus. If we stick to Matthew's account alone, this is probably what accounted for Judas' remorse over betraying "innocent blood."


Addendum: information from other accounts

  • Luke 22:3-4 tells us that prior to the Last Supper, "Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them." We can speculate that after Jesus was condemned, Satan left Judas, leaving him conscience-stricken with deep remorse. However, Luke does not mention this, and his report in Acts indicates that Judas kept the money and used it to buy land. (see below)

  • In John 12 we are told that is was not that Judas cared for the poor but "because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it." This makes greed his motivation, as opposed to Matthew's implication that he was offended by Jesus' hypocrisy related to the teaching of apostolic poverty.

  • John 13:2 agrees with Luke that it was "the devil [who] had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him." Once again we can speculate that if the devil left Judas eventually, he would return to his normal state and thus feel remorse for betraying Jesus.

  • Acts 1:11 says that, rather than returning the blood money to the Temple, Judas "bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out." Although some interpret this to mean that Judas fell into the field after hanging himself, the fact that he used the money to buy the field calls into question whether felt remorse after learning that Jesus had been condemned.

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  • What would you say is a bridge (or bridges) between your initial answer and your addendum?
    – Lance
    Dec 20, 2022 at 1:27
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    I created the addendum because the OP asked two questions: 1. what are the inferences from Matthew and 2. what light do other biblical sources shed? I posted the answer from Matthew first and then realized the OP was looking for more. It's quite interesting/revealing IMO to look at the Gospels distinctly as well as to think about what does "the Gospel" teach. The exercise shows that the devil doesn't play a role in Matthew's account here but he does in Luke and John, for example. Mt. has all of the disciples objecting to the waste but Luke does not. John adds that Judas was a thief etc. Dec 21, 2022 at 16:50
  • Thank you Dan Fefferman, that was very helpful. Great insights; thank you for taking the time and care to address my question!
    – Lance
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:39

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