“Emmanuel’s Effect” – Matthew 27:1-10

September 18th, 2016 

Matthew 27:1-10 (see also Zechariah 18 & 19; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71)

“Emmanuel’s Effect”

Auxiliary Text: Zechariah 11:4-17

Call to Worship from: Psalm 51

 

Service Orientation: True repentance leads to salvation and life. Worldly repentance brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).   A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

 

Bible Memory Verse #1 for the Week:  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. — 2 Corinthians 7:10

 

Bible Memory Verse #2 for the Week:  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. —  Psalm 51:17

 

Background Information:

  • Throughout chapter 26 Jesus is in charge. He is “the active protagonist.”  However, with the start of chapter 27, “Jesus becomes the passive victim,” who in God’s providence is delivered up first by Judas, second by the Jewish leaders, third by Pontus Pilate, but finally or ultimately by God.  As Rom 8:32 (NKJV) puts it, “He who did not spare His own Son. . . delivered Him up for us all,” and as Rom 4:26 clarifies the nature of this delivering up, Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 834-5)
  • (v. 1) The Jewish leaders had arrested Jesus on theological grounds–blasphemy; because this charge would be thrown out of a Roman court, however, they had to come up with a political reason for Jesus’ death. Their strategy was to show Jesus as a rebel who claimed to be a king and thus a threat to Caesar.  The charge against Jesus in the Roman court was treason.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 541)
  • (v. 2) There was no reason for Jesus’ captors to fear that He would try to escape. Yet they could not resist one more opportunity to humiliate Him and remind him that they at last had the upper hand.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 784)
  • (v. 2) Extrabiblical sources portray Pilate as a cruel, imperious, and insensitive ruler who hated his Jewish subjects and took few pains to understand them (e.g., Jos. Antiq. XVIII, 35 [ii.2], 55-62 [iii.1-2], 177-78 [vi.5]; War II, 169-77 [ix.2-4]; Philo, ad Gaium 38; cf. Hoehner, Herod Anitpas, 172-83). He stole korban (see note on15:5) money to build an aqueduct; and when the population of Jerusalem rioted in protest, he sent in soldiers who killed many.  He defiled Jerusalem more than once (cf. Lk 13:1).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 559)
  • (v. 2) In Hoehner’s view Pilate appears weak in the Gospels because he has just been severely rebuked by Caesar and fears that the Jews’ threat (Jn 19:12) could lead to another rebuke. By A.D. 33 Pilate’s administration had become so bad that in A.D. 36 he was recalled and finally banished.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 560)
  • (v. 2) The Sanhedrin had to get permission from Pilate, the Roman governor, in order to carry out the death penalty. The Romans had taken away the Jews’ right to inflict capital punishment; so in order for Jesus to be condemned to death, he had to be sentenced by a Roman official.  The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus executed on a cross, a method of death that they believed brought a curse from God (see Dt 21:23).  They wanted the death to appear Roman-sponsored so that the crowds wouldn’t blame them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 541)
  • (v. 4) What Judas did should have meant something to them. If Judas had sinned against innocent blood, as he claimed, so had they.  They had condemned to death one whom Judas was now declaring to be innocent.  They were even guiltier than he was.  Besides, according to Jewish law, the person arranging for the arrest of an offender had to be the one to make the formal legal accusation.  Judas should have been the one to do that.  He had not, of course.  The Sanhedrin lost many hours trying to find a sustainable accusation.  Judas had not made an accusation, and he was now doing the precise opposite, declaring that the one whose arrest he had brought about was not guilty.  “What is that to us?” they replied.  It should have meant everything to them.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 602)
  • (v. 4) Cold, hard as stone are these spiritual leaders of the Jews. A soul in travail means absolutely nothing to them, in fact, not even a soul they themselves have helped to get into this desperate travail.  They are busy even now in taking the victim of Judas’ sin to be murdered on the cross.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1079)
  • (v. 5) Then he went off and hanged himself. Why this should be regarded as in conflict with Luke’s account:  “Falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out” (Acts 1:18) is not clear.  If he hanged himself from a tree located on a high cliff, above a valley, and if then the rope broke and the traitor fell on rocky ground, the result could very well have been as pictured in the book of Acts.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 944-5)
  • (v. 5) Suicide is not the unpardonable sin–we must take into account mental illnesses (chemical imbalances), perceived military necessities (Saul’s suicide in 1 Sm 31:4, 5) and heroic self-sacrifices (Samson’s suicide in Jdg 16:28-30). However, suicide is always sinful.  It breaks the sixth commandment–“You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 833)
  • (v. 5) So this explanation of his puts into a vivid shape, which may help it to stick in our memories and hearts this thought–what an awful difference there is in the look of a sin before we do it and afterwards! Before we do it the thing to be gained seems so attractive, and the transgression that gains it seems so comparatively insignificant.  Yes! and when we have done it the two change places; the thing that we win by it seems so contemptible–thirty pieces of silver! pitch them over the Temple enclosure and get rid of them!–and the thing that we did to win them dilates into such awful magnitude!  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 302)
  • (v. 5) The two words “he went off and hanged himself” echo the LXX of 2 Sm 17:23, where that was the fate of Ahithophel, who had betrayed King David by siding with his rebellious son Absalom. Judas, by turning against the Son of David, has thus joined the ranks of the great traitors.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 1041)
  • (v. 6) 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?  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 271)
  • (v. 7) The best explanation is probably that Matthew was pulling together a number of passages that seemed to add significance to the death of Jesus’ false but well-known disciple Judas. The reference to Jeremiah 19 seemed appropriate because it refers to “innocent blood” and because the place where the prophet broke the jar would eventually be used as a burial ground for those who were to die in the siege of Jerusalem.  The reference to Zechariah and his role as a shepherd of the people adds the ideas of the rejection of Jesus as the true shepherd of the flock, his being valued at the price of a mere slave, and the betrayal money being cast into the temple.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 601)
  • (v. 7) “Blood Field” (Akeldama, Acts 1:19) has traditionally been located near the foot of the valley of Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem on the south. See above on 5:22 for the unsavory reputation of this valley as a place of blood, death, and destruction.  This, too, will feed into Matthew’s creative scriptural mosaic in vv. 9-10, particularly as a place already scripturally associated with potters, and lying just outside the Potsherd Gate (Jer 19:1-2).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 1042)
  • (v. 7) They decide to use this money for a cause not directly connected with the temple and its maintenance or with any other strictly religious project. Instead, they used it for the purchase of “the Potter’s Field,” “the Acre of Ceramics.”  This term probably indicates a field from which potters (or a potter) used to obtain their (his) clay, but which had become depleted as a source of further supplies, and had therefore been offered for sale.  The priests, then, intend to transform this plot into a burial place for strangers.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 945)
  • (v. 7) In the prophecy God does this, in the fulfillment the high priests do it. But this is not a difference, for God so guided the action of the high priests that they made this astonishing disposition of the silver.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1084)
  • (v. 8) The meaning here is evidently that the place was called “the Field of Blood” because it was purchased with blood money. The name of the field would then be a continuing testimony against Judas, the priests, and all who had agreed with them.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 945-6)
  • (v. 9) If an ancient author weaves together two quotes from two prophets, it was acceptable to name only the more famous of the two. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 832)
  • (v. 9) In summary: Matthew combines some words from Zechariah and themes from Jeremiah to show how the chief priest and elders’ actions “fulfill” this pattern or typological parallel found in the prophets and played out in the drama of Jesus, the drama of God’s people rejecting the Lord. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 832)
  • (v. 9) There is evidence that the Jews maintained their copies of the OT in several scrolls, and each of the scrolls contained several books of prophecy, of both the major prophets and the minor prophets, with the scroll being identified by the name of the prophet whose book was first in the scroll. In this case, the scroll of Jeremiah might have contained not only Jeremiah’s prophecies but also Zechariah’s.  There is no textual problem here.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 787)
  • (v. 9) One of the older ways of dividing the Scriptures was to begin with the law and to call this part “The Law.” Next the section commencing with the Psalms was called “The Psalms” although it contained other writings.  The third part began with Jeremiah and included all the other prophets, and yet the whole was called “Jeremiah.”  Lightfoot cites the Baba Bathra and Rabbi David Kimchi’s Preface to the prophet Jeremias as his authorities.  Horn, Introduction, 7th ed. II, 290.  Thus any passage taken from this third section of the OT would be quoted as coming from “Jeremiah.”  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1082-3)
  • (v. 9) The reference to Jeremiah 19 provides equally telling parallels. The rulers have forsaken Yahweh and made Jerusalem a place of foreign gods (19:4); so the day is coming when this valley, where the prophecy is given and the potter’s jar smashed, will be called the Valley of Slaughter, symbolic of the ruin of Judah and Jerusalem (19:6-7).  Similarly in Matthew the rejection of Jesus (Yahweh; see on 2:6; 3:3; 13:37-39) leads to a polluted field, a symbol of death and the destruction of the nation about to be buried as “foreigners.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 564)
  • (v.9) One solution of the difficulty I only mention in order to enter my protest against it. That solution is adopted by many modern theologians.  It is that Matthew simply forgot what he was doing, and made a blunder–that he quoted from memory, inaccurately, putting Jeremiah when he meant Zechariah.  I can only say that at this rate we must give up the inspiration of Scripture altogether!  If writers of the Bible could make blunders like this, we never know where we are in quoting a text.  To use such an argument is giving the Arians and Socinians a weapon which they well know how to use.  Once give up the verbal inspiration of Scripture, we stand on a quicksand.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 274-5)
  • (v. 9) My own solution, to the extent in which I deem a solution to be possible, is as follows. First of all, the close connection of Mt 27:9, 10 with the prophecy of Zech 11:12, 13 cannot be denied.  Secondly, Zechariah’s prophecy, taken by itself, does not fully satisfy the requirements of Matthew’s fulfillment passage.  One might ask, “Where in the OT prophecy is there mention of a plot of ground, used for burial purposes, which became known as ‘the Field of Blood,’ because innocent blood had been shed?”  It is such a plot to which Matthew, according to the context, is clearly referring.  Yet nothing of the kind is mentioned in Zechariah.  It is described, however, in Jeremiah, chapter 19.  Note all the resemblances; Judah and Jerusalem have shed innocent blood (Jer 19:4; Mt 27:4).  Chief priests and elders are mentioned prominently (Jer 19:1; Mt 27:3, 6, 7).  A potter is mentioned (Jer 19:1, 11; Mt 27:7, 10).  Topheth, that is, the valley of Hinnom–the very valley where, according to tradition, the Potter’s Field was located–has its name changed to “the Valley of Slaughter,” which is about the same as “the Field of Blood” (Jer 19:6; Mt 27:8; cf. Acts 1:19).  And this valley becomes a well-known “burial place” (Jer 19:11; Mt 27:7).

As has already been implied, the solution is not complete.  That Jeremiah actually bought a potter’s field (Mt 27:10) is not stated in Jer 19 nor anywhere else in the OT.  Did Matthew derive this bit of information from oral tradition?  It is clear, however, that in many other respects Matthew’s passage reflects Jer 19.

What Matthew does, therefore is this:  he combines two prophecies, one from Zechariah and one from Jeremiah.  Then he mentions not the minor prophet but the major prophet as the source of the reference.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 947-8)

  • (v. 10) Matthew sees in Jeremiah 19 and Zechariah 11 not merely a number of verbal and thematic parallels to Jesus’ betrayal but a pattern of apostasy and rejection that must find its ultimate fulfillment in the rejection of Jesus, who was cheaply valued, rejected by the Jews, and whose betrayal money was put to a purpose that pointed to the destruction of the nation (see on 15:7-9; 21:42). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 566)
  • The main point to bear in mind, however, is that also in the suicide of the traitor and the purchase of a field with his blood money prophecy is again being fulfilled, and God’s plan is being carried out. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 948)
  • Matthew’s prime interest in this pericope is to continue the fulfillment theme–that not only Jesus’ death but the major events surrounding it were prophesied in Scripture. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 561)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What questions does Matthew beg us to ask ourselves to insure we do not end up becoming like Judas or the religious leaders?

 

Answer:  Do you know where and how to find forgiveness?  Do you know the source of your forgiveness?  Do you know the consequences of your failing to secure true forgiveness?

 

The context and OT references that Matthew uses compels me to believe that knowing what it means to repent and where to find it is Matthew’s intended message in Matthew 27:1-10.

 

His Judas looks a bit like you and me–a guilt-ridden sinner in need of serious help.  He serves as a mirror in which we can and should look into our own souls to see if our dark sides resemble his and to see if there is any traitorous inclination that would lead us to “leave the God [we] love.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 828)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Repent

 

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “repent (Matthew 4:17), he willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.’  (the first of Martin Luther’s ninety-five thesis nailed to the Wittenberg church door in 1517)

 

Criminals cannot be forced to change.  They must reach a point in their lives when they are becoming fed up with themselves and desire to change.  There are only three paths—crime, change, or suicide.  Many offenders have believed that there is a fourth—that is, to appear responsible but get away with violations on the side.  Partial participation in this program is analogous to being a little bit pregnant.  It is not a viable option.  A person either shuts the door completely on crime or he does not.  No middle ground exists.  There is a parallel to Alcoholics Anonymous in that AA calls for total abstinence.  (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 225)

 

Four questions Matthew begs us to ask from this text:

I-  Do you know what it means to repent?   Repent means to turn around with a complete change of heart because you know you have broken the heart of Jesus.  Repentance does not mean being sorry you got caught or were bad. (Isa 57:15; 66:1-2; Zech 1:1-6; Mt 5:3-6; 2 Cor 7:8-10; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Pt 1:10-11)

 

“Gospel repentance is not a little hanging down of the head.  It’s a working of the heart until your sin becomes more odious to you than any punishment for it.” — Richard Sibbes

 

He felt terrible remorse, even a profound self-loathing.  But remorse, even accompanied by self-loathing, is not biblical repentance leading to true faith and salvation.  Matthew may have indicated this by dropping the word usually employed for repentance (metanoeo), using metamelomai instead.  Even without this change of words, however, it is clear that Judas’ repentance was utterly unlike Peter’s.  Peter’s was a true repentance.  Peter was crushed and wept shameful, bitter tears.  Judas did not weep.  He knew that he had done wrong and regretted his mistake, but his remorse did not drive him to repentance.  Repentance would have turned him to Jesus.  His sense of unatoned guilt only drove him farther away.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 598)

 

Natural repentance is that natural feeling of sorrow and self-condemnation, of which a man is conscious for having done that which he sees he ought not to have done, and which arises from a discovery of the impropriety of it, or from reflecting on the disagreeable consequences of it to others, and especially to himself .  (Dr. John Colquhoun; Repentance, 9)

 

Legal repentance is a feeling of regret produced in a legalist by the fear that his violations of the Divine law and especially his gross sins do expose him to external punishment.  This regret is increased by his desire to be exempted on the ground of it from the dreadful punishment to which he knows he is condemned for them.  He is extremely sorry, not that he has transgressed the law, but that the law and the justice of God are so very strict that they cannot leave him at liberty to sin with impunity.  (Dr. John Colquhoun; Repentance, 9)

 

Evangelical repentance is altogether different from either of these.  It is a gracious principle and habit implanted in the soul by the Spirit of Christ, in the exercise of which a regenerate and believing sinner, deeply sensible of the exceeding sinfulness and just demerit of his innumerable sins is truly humbled and grieved before the Lord, on account of the sinfulness and hurtfulness of them.  He feels bitter remorse, unfeigned sorrow, and deep self-abhorrence for the aggravated transgressions of his life, and the deep depravity of his nature; chiefly, because by all his innumerable provocations he has dishonoured an infinitely holy and gracious God, transgressed a law which is ‘holy, and just, and good’, and defiled, deformed, and even destroyed his own precious soul.  This godly sorrow for sin and this holy abhorrence of it arise from a spiritual discovery of pardoning mercy with God in Christ, and from the exercise of trusting in His mercy.   And these feelings and exercises are always accompanied by an unfeigned love of universal holiness, and by fixed resolutions and endeavors to turn from all iniquity to God and to walk before him in newness of life.  Such, in general is the nature of that evangelical repentance, to the habit and exercise of which the Lord Jesus calls sinners who hear the Gospel.   (Dr. John Colquhoun; Repentance, 10)

 

Much of our problem in continuing fellowship with a holy God is that many Christians repent only for what they do, rather than for what they are.  (A. W. Tozer; Whatever Happened to Worship?, 72)

 

A basic change of heart and mind he (Judas) did not experience.  But the feeling of guilt and fear of what might be the result for himself made it impossible for him to face the future.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 943)

 

The word “remorse” (metamelomai) is different from the normal word for “repentance” (metanoeo).  “Repentance” means a change of heart either generally or in respect of a specific sin, whereas “remorse” means to experience feelings of regret.  The terms can overlap, because a person who repents and chooses a different pattern of behavior will also often experience regret.  However, “remorse” here indicates that Judas’ pain of guilt produces an act of restitution but does not produce true repentance (cf. 2 Cor 7:8-10).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 869)

 

Judas repented of the consequences not of the sin itself.  Already that shows the spurious nature of his repentance.  Many a criminal is exceedingly sorry when the consequences of his sin catch up with him, but the sin itself does not frighten him.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1077-8)

 

“I have sinned,” he said.  The words did not save him, because they were uttered from an unrepentant heart.  But this is not the only place those words are spoken in the Bible.  According to my count, seven individuals uttered these exact words:  Pharaoh, Balaam, Achan, Saul, Shimei, David, and Judas, plus the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable.  In most of those cases the words do not denote a true repentance.  But David repented; he confessed his sin openly, sought cleansing by the blood of the sacrifice, and pled for a restoration of God’s favor.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 603)

 

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.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 269)

 

One evidence of true repentance and a true believer in Christ is ongoing repentance.

 

True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. Jam 1:22, 26; 1 Jn 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin  (Cf. Jn 16:8).    (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 123-4)

 

Regeneration and conversion are only the first stages of the sanctification process. Frequently in the church it is not followed up with very searching instruction on the depth of the problem of residual indwelling sin, the subtlety of involvement in corporate patterns of sin and the grace of God available for the conquest of the flesh.   It is therefore not surprising that many congregations which are full of regenerate people are nevertheless not very alive spiritually, since spiritual life demands metanoia, a new mind of repentance, and this requires more than an initial setting of the heart against the shallow expressions of sin which the believer is aware of at the time of his conversion.  The full development of metanoia in the process of sanctification involves the breaking up of every area of conformity to the world’s pattern of corporate flesh and the increasing transformation of our lives by the Holy Spirit’s renewing work in our minds (Rom 12:2).  As John Owen says, “the vigor and power of spiritual life is dependent on mortification of sin.  (Richard Lovelace; Dynamics of Spiritual Life, (108-9)

 

Remorse for sin does have a place in the Christian life, but we should be very sure what function it serves.  Guilt should drive us to the cross, but grace must lead us from it.  Guilt makes us seek Christ, but gratitude should make us serve him.  Guilt should lead to confession, but without a response of love as the motive of renewed obedience, true repentance never matures.  (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 192)

 

False repentance is less concerned with the spiritual contamination of sin than it is with the personal consequences of sin.  True repentance is chiefly concerned with the wrong we have done to our Savior and to others.  Repentance of the first kind is self-preoccupied; true repentance is a selfless seeking of spiritual fellowship and renewal.  False repentance flees correction; true repentance seeks it.  (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 79-80)

 

It is a common saying that “it is never too late to repent.”  The saying, no doubt, is true, if repentance be true; but unhappily, late repentance is often not genuine.  It is possible for a man to feel his sins, and be sorry for them–to be under strong conviction of guilt, and express deep remorse–to be pricked in conscience, and exhibit much distress of mind–and yet, for all this, not repent with his heart.  Present danger, or the fear of death, may account for all his feelings, and the Holy Spirit may have done no work whatever on his soul.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 273)

 

Let us never forget that no sinners are so sinful as sinners against light and knowledge.  None are so provoking to God:  none, if we look at Scripture, have been so often removed from this world by sudden and fearful visitations.  Let us remember Lot’s wife, Pharaoh, Korah, Dathan, Abiram and Saul, King of Israel:  they are all cases in point.  It is a solemn saying of Bunyan that “none fall so deep into the pit, as those who fall backward.”  It is written in Proverbs, “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy” (Prv 29:1).  May we all strive to live up to our light.  There is such a thing as sin against the Holy Spirit:  clear knowledge of truth in the head, combined with deliberate love of sin in the heart, go a long way towards it.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 275-6)

 

(The Holy Spirit reminded Tim) “Don’t you dare look at any good thing in your life as anything other than a sheer act of (God’s ) grace, . . . undeserved grace.   And as you meditate on these good things as a sheer act of undeserved grace then turn to Jesus and say, ‘Lord, I can’t believe your grace.  Your grace is so great, that I want to adore you, not these things.  I want your smile, your honor, your pleasure should be my joy and crown, and my worth and my significance’.

Because if I put my heart down for anything else when the trouble free stretch is over, and inevitably it will be over, I will perish.  Therefore, Jesus Christ says, “That there is no more important time to repent than when everything is going very well.”

You see and now we know what repentance is.   You say, “How can I repent if I have not done anything wrong?”

Repentance is not so much for doing bad things as for over trusting good things.   Because breaking rules is just a symptom of sin.  But, the disease of sin is being your own savior by trusting in something besides Jesus Christ for your righteousness, your wisdom, . . . your sanctification, and your redemption.  And as my wife likes to say, “The default mode of the human heart is self-salvation.”

And there is no more time for it to happen, no more time for that to go into overdrive, then during the calm times, the safe times, the comfortable times, the prosperous times. (Tim Keller message The Falling Tower)

 

I was amazed to learn from  the seventeenth-century Puritan, Thomas Watson, the priority our Lord had towards our need for repentance.  Watson states:

Repentance is a grace required under the gospel.  Some think it legal; but the first sermon that Christ preached, indeed, the first word of his sermon, was “Repent” (Mt 4:17).  And his farewell that he left when he was going to ascend was that “repentance should be preached in his name” (Lk 24.47).  The apostles did all beat upon this string:  “They went out and preached that men should repent” (Mk 6.12)  (Thomas Watson; The Doctrine of Repentance, 13)

 

Indeed even the early church understood that one of their main objectives in spreading the Gospel to every nation was to tell them that God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).  Christ himself said, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Lk 13:5).  God requires everyone to repent.  To deny the need for repentance is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture that states in many places, and in many ways, that we are naturally sinners and can never do anything pleasing to God without a complete overhaul of our nature and our hearts and our minds.  In other words, we desperately need repentance and allow his Spirit to work in our lives (Rom 3; 5:12; Isa 53:6; 64:6; Jer 17:9; Jn 3:3-5).  A moment of honest contemplation will make it readily apparent that if a person has it in his heart and mind to do one thing (that is opposed to the will of God), then it follows that it must take some outside force—some act by someone from outside that sinner—to bring about the change and the renewal to which we are referring.  Otherwise, that sinner would be completely ignorant and satisfied with his present course; thus, the need for the Holy Spirit.  It is the job of the Holy Spirit to initiate, provoke, encourage, and secure repentance in the heart of believers (Jn 16). (Keith Porter; doctoral dissertation: FACILITATING RENEWAL IN ESTABLISHED CHURCHES THROUGH CORPORATE REPENTANCE BY OVERCOMING CULTURAL OBSTACLES, 28)

 

If the criminal is later held accountable, he blames the victim for the violence because he interfered in the successful execution of the crime.  Exclaimed one man who shot his victim during a robbery, “That man must have been nuts!  It wasn’t my fault that he was crazy enough to risk his life over the fifty bucks in his wallet.”…If I started feeling bad, I’d say to myself ‘tough rocks for him.  He should have had his house locked better and the alarm on.’” (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 115)

 

True evangelical contrition, true repentance, must be preceded by a falling in love with God.

 

II-  Do you know the source of where and how to find forgiveness and salvation?   Judas looked to himself.   The chief priests look to the Law.  Peter realized salvation and forgiveness comes through Jesus. (Mt 9:5-6; 26:28; Mk 2:1-12; Lk 19:10; 24:47; Jn 3:16; 14:6; Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; Rom 5:8-10; 6:23; 10:9-10; Eph 4:32; Col 1:10-14; 3:13; Ti 3:5; Heb chps 7-10; 1 Jn 1:8-10)

 

The priests’ job was to teach people about God and act as intercessors for them, helping them turn from sin and find forgiveness.  Judas returned to the priests, exclaiming that he had sinned.  Rather than helping him find forgiveness, however, the priests answered, “That’s your responsibility.”  Not only had they rejected the Messiah, they had also rejected their role as priests.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 543)

 

Much like Isaiah in Isa 6:5 . . .

“The more we encounter the holy God in our worship, the more we will recognize our utter sinfulness and be driven to repentance.  This, too, is an essential part of our praise.”  (Marva Dawn; Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 90)

 

The sobering truth is that the greatest hindrance to the growth of Christianity in today’s world is the absence of the manifest presence of God from the church.  (Richard Owen Roberts; Repentance, 16)

 

When a man is humbled by the law, and brought to the knowledge of himself, then follows true repentance (for true repentance begins at the fear and judgment of God), and he sees himself to be so great a sinner that he can find no means how he may be delivered from his sin by his own strength, endeavor and works.   (Martin Luther; Commentary on Galatians, 94)

 

Proof that Judas’ sorrow was ungodly and selfish is seen in the fact that he made no effort to defend or rescue Jesus.  He had no desire to vindicate or save Jesus but only to salve his own conscience, which he attempted to do by returning the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 226)

 

By acknowledging his sin and seeking to make amends, Judas got off the train going the wrong way.  But that was all he did.  He next needed to get on another train going the right way.  That right way was back to Jesus for forgiveness.  He went to the chief priests in the temple but not to the true High Priest who is the temple.  Judas should have gone to Jesus who is sympathetic to our weaknesses and ready to forgive all our transgressions.  He should have run to the tree of Calvary for life.  Instead he ran to another tree for death.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 833)

 

If I were to use one word to describe the role of the priests under the Levitical system, it would be the word mercy.  Through sacrifices they mediated God’s mercy to sinners.  So here comes a self-professed sinner–Judas–who tries to return the blood money and says to them, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (v. 4).  Betraying innocent blood is an awful crime according the the OT (cf. Dt 27:25).  Judas knows that.  They know that.  Yet how do these senior pastors counsel this suffering sinner?  They say, “What is that to us?  See to it yourself.”  Put differently, “What do we care?  That’s your problem” (v. 4, NLT).  Hey, the guy wants to atone for his sin.  Let him.  At least be nice to him.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 829-30)

 

There is also a link between repentance and the knowledge of the truth, without which none can be saved.  Paul advised Timothy to be “kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tm 2:24-25).      (Richard Owen Roberts; Repentance, 70)

 

Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged.  A truly humble view of self, is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit:  it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind.  That ear of corn which is the most full of grain, hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit, bends the nearest to the ground.  It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self, and high thoughts of Jesus, mark the state of his soul.  “Who hath despised the day of small things?”–not Jesus.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 163)

 

Strangely and perversely, the chief priests and elders had no compunction about taking the money out of the Temple treasury to pay Judas for the betrayal, but now they had qualms about putting it back.  In doing so, they testified before the world to their guilt and hypocrisy.  It is interesting to note how callous and unfeeling they were about their crime, in contrast to the overwhelming agony of Judas that drove him to kill himself in a vain attempt to relieve his guilt.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 229)

 

The very thought of “blood money” is repugnant to these “holy” (?) men.  The fact that they themselves had in a sense “created” this kind of money did not seem to bother them in the least.  When it came to meticulous fulfillment of the law in matters, even rather minor matters, that did no harm to what they regarded as their own personal interests, these men could be very conscientious.  On matters far more important, such as “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (23:23), they were not nearly as scrupulous.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 945)

 

The money that was at one time greedily grasped becomes intolerable to him.  His conscience will not let him keep it; it seeks at least the easement that riddance of this money will bring.  From start to finish these were the same thirty pieces of silver, and in themselves underwent no change whatever; and yet they were completely changed:  once so attractive, they are now so utterly abhorrent.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1079)

 

Multitudes of pastors are under regular distress because so many of their people have no inner fire or drive.  They grow weary trying to prod their people to fruitfulness in the Christian life.  Rather than wearing yourself out trying to make the dead act like they are alive, why not face the sober truth that there is no life in death?  Unless God Himself raises them up and grants them evangelical repentance, they will be forever dead, and you cannot change that.  (Richard Owen Roberts; Repentance, 121)

 

“When we call sin “not sin” we burn the bridge back to God because we can’t repent of something we don’t think is wrong.”   (Steve Brown)

 

Just as pain is an intrinsic and automatic warning of physical danger, guilt is an intrinsic and automatic warning of spiritual danger.  It was not that Judas suddenly became afraid of God, else he would have turned in desperation to the One he knew could forgive him.  Nor was he afraid of men.  Although he was now discarded and despised by the Jewish leaders, they had no reason to harm him.  It was rather that Judas suddenly realized the horrible wrongness of what he had done.  An innate awareness of right and wrong is divinely built into every human being and cannot be totally erased, no matter how deep a person may fall into depravity or how consciously and rebelliously he may turn against God.  This is intensified by the convicting pressure of the Spirit of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 226)

 

But Judas’ remorse was not prompted by God to lead to repentance but only to guilt and despair.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 226)

 

There is no unpardonable sin except that of refusing the pardon that avails for all sin.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 304)

 

III-  Do you know the consequences of your failing to secure true forgiveness? The Bible tells us that Judas and the Chief Priests are condemned forever to hell because of their looking to their effort and performance for their forgiveness rather than looking to Jesus.  They had developed hard hearts and stiff necks. (Nm 32:23; Jer chps 18-19; Zech 1:1-6; Mt 23:23; Jn 17:12; Rom 6:21; 1 Tm 4:1-2; 2 Pt 1:10; 3:17)

 

Beware lest you delay repentance so long that your heart become hardened to that point where your conscience ceases to function and the voice of God is unheard in your soul.    (Richard Owen Roberts; Repentance, 240)

 

Sin God can deal with.  That is what the cross is all about.  It is stiff-necked, hard-hearted, unrepentant religious, pious, do-gooders who are lost and without hope.  (Steve Brown)

 

Judas is not a good guy.  He is a hardened sinner somewhat softened by his horrific sin. But these men are calloused head to toe.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 830)

 

Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell.  (Thomas Watson; The Doctrine of Repentance, 77)

 

Of all hard hearted men, the hardest are those who have been hardened by the fire of the Gospel.  If you want to find a heart that is hard as steel you must look for one that has passed through the furnace of divine love and has been made aware of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus but has rejected the truth that has been made known to it.  (C. H. Spurgeon; from a sermon entitled: “Ploughing the Rock”)

 

It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent:  it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion.  They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance.  But more than any of that, these are the people who appreciate His goodness:  they are parading into the kingdom before you:  for they have what you lack—a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy. (Brennan Manning; Ragamuffin Gospel, 103)

 

 

The discussion in Acts 1:15-25 of Judas’ replacement among the apostles includes the comment, “which Judas left to go where he belongs” (1:25; cf. Jn 6:64).  This is ominous language, which suggests that Peter knows Judas’ final outcome–being consigned to the place of eternal judgment for which he was responsible.  The act of suicide itself is not the focus of condemnation but rather the act of turning away from Jesus and betraying him.  He was controlled by the devil himself (Lk 22:3; Jn 6:71; 13:26-27).  He was a unbeliever who chose suicide in order to escape the daily horror of facing his actions, for which he would not repent.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 870)

 

“A sinner can repent, but stupid is forever.”  (Billy Sunday)

 

Pride in his good deeds, rather than remorse over his bad deeds, was keeping the older son out of the feast of salvation.  The elder brother’s problem is his self-righteousness, the way he uses his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them and get them to do what he wants.  His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so he must endlessly prop up his sense of righteousness by putting others down and finding fault.  As one of my teachers in seminary put it, the main barrier between Pharisees and God is “not their sins, but their damnable good works.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 77)

 

“Men know their course is evil and such as God condemns.  They know that this and that and the other practices which they indulge in are sinful.  They dare not justify them, but they still their consciences with the thought that they intend to repent later.  They reckon upon no great difficulty in this, assuming the repenting is theirs, under their control, and all will be well.   They do not seem to realize that these purposes to repent in the future abundantly harden and make them bold to continue in sin against all counsel and reproof.  But alas, repentance is not so easy a work.  The heart that is now so much in love with sin and so full of enmity against holiness will not be easily changed.  A deceitful heart will find other excuses when the present ones are answered.  The old man will struggle hard before it is subdued.  Perhaps they do not know that repentance is a grace of God’s giving.  The heart of stone is too hard for any created power to break.  Repentance is a gift that only God can give and fortunately when He gives it He does so freely.  Because men can only repent when God enables, Paul said to Timothy, “God peradventure will give them repentance” (2 Tm 2:25).  Many that presume upon having repentance at leisure find themselves disappointed.  Either a sudden death arrests them or a hard heart and a sleepy conscience seizes upon them.  It is a very bold adventure to reject God’s gracious offers, presuming upon future time of grace.”  (Richard Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; 131)

 

Worship Point:  If you cannot worship Jesus in light of the comprehensive forgiveness He provides as a result of His work on the cross; then one or more perspectives are true:  You don’t see the absolute holiness of God.  You fail to understand the magnitude of your debt from your sin.  You have not concluded the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin.  And therefore you are clueless as to the utter hopelessness of your present status without the forgiveness of sins. (al a Tim Keller)

 

If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying! — Tim Keller

 

When you have pursued God in repentant helplessness, you will have worshiped.  And every time you sense his embrace, your soul will shine the slightest bit brighter with his reflected glory, and you will be the slightest bit more ready to face what his life has in store for you.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 122)

 

A heart resistant to repentance is going to find heaven hell.  (Pastor Keith)

 

Gospel Application:  The only requirement that God places on our forgiveness is that we come to Jesus with a broken and contrite heart in light of our sin; and we look to Him alone for forgiveness and renewal because He alone can save.

 

Let us not forget that it is broken and contrite hearts which God will not despise; therefore, any ministry which fails to produce them, no matter how acceptable, is nevertheless in the sight of God a failure.  (John D. Drysdale; The Price of Revival, 33)

 

Good news, you’re a sinner!  Sin is the best news there is. . . because with sin, there’s a way out. . . you can’t repent of confusion or psychological flaws inflicted by your parent— you’re stuck with them.  But you can repent of sin.  Sin and repentance are the only grounds for hope and joy, the grounds for reconciled, joyful relationships. (John Alexander, The Other Side)

 

The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own.  I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate.  I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God.  But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, “God, have mercy.” Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people.  In Jesus’ own words, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” ( Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 54)

 

The life of repentance:  The way up is the way down.  God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.  God’s grace and God’s power, like water, always flow to the lowest place.  So go low.

 

Sin is not the problem.  Our lack of repentance because we really don’t think we need Jesus is the main problem today.

 

I cannot pray, except I sin; I cannot preach, but I sin; I cannot administer, nor receive the holy sacraments, but I sin.  My very repentance needs to be repented of; and the tears I shed need washing in the blood of Christ.  —William Beveridge  (Kent Hughes; Preaching the Word: John, 151)

 

…all the traditional rehabilitative programs in the world will be of no use unless the criminal changes his thinking.  (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 6)

 

God repeatedly expresses his pleasure with and delight in those who do exactly what he says.  In Is 66:1-4 true religion (“the life of God in the soul of man”) is characterized by one “who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” in contrast to these who choose their own way.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 58)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Look to Jesus and no one else for forgiveness and salvation.  (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; Heb 12:2)

 

Listen, everyone is guilty.  The Jews are guilty.  The Gentiles are guilty.  Judas and Peter are guilty.  You and I are guilty.  There is only one man who is “innocent” (27:4)–the one who was lifted up so that he might draw all men to himself (Jn 12:32).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 835)

 

My dear friend, there is no penitence or remorse which is deep enough for the smallest transgression but there is no transgression which is so great but that forgiveness for it may come.  And we may have it for the asking, if we will go to that dear Christ that died for us.  The consciousness of sinfulness is a wholesome consciousness.  I would that every man and woman listening to me now had it deep in their consciences and then I would that it might lead us all to that one Lord in whom there is forgiveness and peace.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 303-4)

 

I pray you to learn this lesson–you cannot think too much, too blackly, of your own sins, but you may think too exclusively of them, and if you do they will drive you to madness of despair.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 303)

 

Growth in holiness cannot continue where repenting from the heart has stopped. ( J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 139)

 

So What?:  Jesus, Matthew and Pastor Keith want to keep you out of hell.   The only way that can happen is for you to always and continually look to Jesus for your salvation.   If you fail to have a broken or contrite heart in light of your sin (and we all sin) BEWARE!  (Ps 14:1-3; Prv 20:6-9; Eccl 7:20; 9:3; Isa 53:6; 64:6; Jer 17:9; Jn 3:19; Rom 3:10-23, 1 Cor 2:14; Gal 3:22; Jam 3:2; 1 Jn 1:8-10)  Beg Jesus to give you a contrite and broken heart that desires to follow Him completely.   (Dt 4:29; Jer 29:13; 31:31-34; Ez 18:31; 36:26; Mt 5:3-6; 7:7; Heb 10:15-17)

 

Are you happy about yourself?  Are you happy about the state of the Church?  Is all well?  Can we go jogging along?  Meetings, services, activities—wonderful!  Is it?  Where is the knowledge of God?  Is he in the midst?  Is he in the life?  What is our relationship to him?   Face that question, and it will lead to this true godly sorrow and repentance, which will manifest itself in a practical manner.  May God have mercy upon us, open our eyes to the situation, and give us honest minds, and truth in our inward parts.  (Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 160)

 

…Criminals choose to commit crimes.  Crime resides within the person and is “caused” by the way he thinks, not by his environment.  Criminals think differently from responsible people.  What must change is how the offender views himself and the world.  Focusing on forces outside the criminal is futile.  (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D., Inside the Criminal Mind , xiv)

 

A group of adult inmates in a Minnesota prison brain stormed 77 ideas in response to being questioned about how schools could help eliminate crime.  Their suggestions revealed a perspective unchanged from childhood, namely that school should cater to the student and make few demands of him.  Among the inmates’ suggestions were “more spontaneity,” “dump dress codes,” “more rap sessions,” “supervise kids and not teach them,” “let kids teach some classes,” “let students choose teachers.”  Additional proposals were offered, but most were directed toward giving students free reign while requiring little personal responsibility. (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 72)

 

For many criminals, work means to sell your soul, to be a slave.  (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 87)

 

Criminals cause crime—not bad neighborhoods, inadequate parents, television, schools, drugs, or unemployment.  Crime resides within the minds of human beings and is not caused by social conditions.  Once we as a society recognize this simple fact, we shall take measures radically different from current ones. (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 6)

 

The sentimentality, art, and music, the isolated acts of kindness all support the criminal’s inherent view that he is a good person.  He sincerely believes that any sin he might have committed is more than compensated for by the good that he has done.  When others praise him for a good deed or for a talent or skill, he assumes that they are voicing their unqualified approval of him as a human being.

Some criminals are religious, and this figures prominently in their good opinion of themselves.

…As with everything else, the criminal exploits religion to serve his own purposes.  He not only presents God with his list of wants, but he also asks God to be an accessory to his crimes.  (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 168-9)

 

CHRIST:

FORGIVER

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