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Repentance Is More Than Regret

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Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
(Matthew 27:3-10 ESV)


Matthew interrupts the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate in today’s passage to tell us what happened to Judas. Isn’t it interesting that Judas was not present at any of Jesus’ trials? One would think that the man who spent three years with Jesus and who turned him over to the authorities would have been called upon to provide evidence as to Jesus’ crimes.

The fact that Judas was not at these trials tells us that he had no such evidence. In fact, Judas knew all along that Jesus was innocent.

As we learned previously, Judas acted based on his emotions. He didn’t like being rebuked by Jesus and his erroneous expectations of Jesus were not being met. So he betrayed Jesus. Rather than correcting his outlook, he acted selfishly based on false data.

Apparently he also didn’t think the situation through and was surprised when Jesus was sentenced to death. For it was only when he saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind. Apparently any other outcome would not have affected Him.

The Greek word for “changed his mind” is very telling. The word is μεταμελλομαι (pronounced: met-am-el’-lom-ahee) and it means “to have regrets”.

This is not the same word the Bible normally uses for “repentance”. That word is μετανοεο (pronounced: met-an-o-eh’-o) which is related to “metamorphosis” – to undergo a radical change. True repentance is accompanied by, and evidenced by, change.

People often regret their actions when they witness or experience the consequences of those actions. But repentance goes further. Repentance includes a change in attitude towards oneself and our capacity to sin.

True repentance realizes that our behavior is more than a mistake. It admits that the problem wasn’t a temporary lapse in judgment but an innate, faulty character that has a propensity to sin. True repentance agrees with what God says about our sinful nature: that it is inherent [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Mark 7:21-22; Romans 3:10 et. al].

Judas was filled with remorse, not repentance. He was only sorry because things ended up the way they did. Notice that he only changed his mind “when” he saw that Jesus was condemned. It was the outcome that affected Judas, not his own actions.

Notice, too, that Judas addressed his sin with more sin: he committed suicide. Suicide is murder – it is self-murder and is just as much a sin as taking someone else’s life. He didn’t do the one thing he should have done when he sinned: turn to God in prayer seeking His forgiveness. Instead he turned to himself and his own “solution” to his problem.

When we sin the first place we should turn to is God because all sin is ultimately committed against Him. What we do when we sin is a good indication of where we are spiritually. Turning to self-pity, or friends, or a psychiatrist, or substance abuse is an indication that our relationship with God is not right or even non-existent.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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