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As a little girl, whenever my family went on vacation, I loved to collect the Souvineour pennies that you get out of penny pressers. By inserting a penny and usually two Quarters, you received one flattened penny for the price of fifty-one cents.
Even though I knew I was receiving less for my money monetary-wise, I collected an entire box of those pennies from all over the United States. Today, I still have them and look at them often. It is something I have placed value on though the item itself has little actual value.
In Matthew Chapter 26, Judas was someone who also liked coins but took it a little too far.
Judas the Betrayer
Known as Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Disciples who would later betray Jesus, it is well-known that he was most likely the treasurer of the group. John 12:4-6 briefly mentions this account when Jesus’ anointing at Bethany occurs shortly before His betrayal.
“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He 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 help himself to what was put into it” ( John 12:4-6, New International Version).
From the beginning, Judas was all about the money. He criticized others for how they spent it, sought to possess more himself, and ridiculed those who devalued it. But those who value earthly things more than heavenly treasures will be the ones to truly become bankrupt.
In Matthew 26, a plot against Jesus unfolds with Judas as the lead scoundrel. Shortly after criticizing the woman who poured oil on Jesus rather than selling it, it is clear that Judas did not care about the heart but his wallet. With an obsession for money, our text reveals his willingness to trade in a person for a few coins:
“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 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. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over” (Matthew 26: 14-16, New International Version).
But was Jesus or Judas the one to go bankrupt?
What’s Your Price?
By the middle of Matthew’s Gospel, Judas has traded Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver.
While it is impossible to say exactly how much money this was, it is estimated that Judas’ bargain was anywhere from $90-$3,000 in today’s currency. However, many scholars will argue that by tracing the term “thirty pieces of silver,” throughout Scripture, it is most likely the same amount paid for the wages of a Shepherd or the cost of a slave who was killed.
Zechariah 11:12-13 and Exodus 21:32 best support these views:
” I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12-13, English Standard Version).
“But if the ox gores a slave, either male or female, the animal’s owner must pay the slave’s owner thirty silver coins, (Hebrew 30 shekels of silver, about 12 ounces or 342 grams in weight) and the ox must be stoned” (Exodus 21:32, New Living Translation).
I find it no coincidence that after Judas handed Jesus over for thirty coins, the money was used to buy a potter’s field, a burial ground for foreigners. And implied through the historical context, this was a field once owned by a potter, used for making clay vessels.
“The chief priests, picking up the pieces of silver, said, “We can’t keep this, for it’s unlawful to put blood money into the temple treasury.” So after some deliberation, they decided to purchase the potter’s field of clay, to use as a cemetery for burying strangers. That’s why that land has been called “The Field of Blood.” This fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah: They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel, the price of a precious man, And they bought the potter’s field, as the Lord directed” (Matthew 27:6-10, The Passion Translation).
Did they not know that the money used to buy a potter’s field for an innocent man’s death was a man whose hands formed creation? Did they not know that the blood money traded for the crucifixion of an innocent man would later save their souls?
What Are You Willing to Trade?
Almost immediately after Judas betrayed Jesus for some coins, he regretted his decision. Running to the religious leaders who had condemned and beaten Jesus, Judas told them he had sinned and backstabbed an innocent man, his friend:
“Before dawn that morning, all the chief priests and religious leaders resolved to take action against Jesus and decided that he should be executed. So they bound him and led him away to Pilate, the Roman governor. Now, when Judas, the betrayer, saw that Jesus had been sentenced to death, remorse filled his heart. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and religious leaders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying an innocent man.” They replied, “Why are you bothering us? That’s your problem.” Then Judas flung the silver coins inside the temple and went out and hanged himself. The chief priests, picking up the pieces of silver, said, “We can’t keep this, for it’s unlawful to put blood money into the temple treasury” (Matthew 27:1-17, The Passion Translation).
Today, I think we all look at this story and think we would never do what Judas did. We assume that we would never trade Jesus in for thirty pieces of silver. We declare we are not as bad as Judas.
But the fact of the matter is this: We are all Judas, and we trade Jesus in for thirty pieces of silver all the time. But our thirty pieces of silver may not look like they did to Judas.
To us, thirty pieces of silver might look like a new car when our old one would have done just fine.
To us, thirty pieces of silver might look like hours on that hobby we fantasize about more than anything else when we should have been reading our Bibles.
Thirty coins might be daydreaming about engagement and marriage more than daydreaming about how I can serve the Lord as His hands and feet to a hurting world.
And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently sinful about new cars, hobbies, marriage, or money. But when we are willing to trade Jesus for them, that is when it becomes a larger issue.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6, for where your heart is, there your treasure is also. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21, King James Version).
Jesus Is Worth More
As a Christian, I would like to think, hope, and pray, that my treasure is not in thirty pieces of silver per se, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who gave His life for me.
I would like to assume that I have never traded Jesus in for things of less value than He is to me.
But at the end of the day, I remind myself time and time again that I must continually humble myself before the Lord. I must not bow to the people, hobbies, or fantasies that stand in the way of my intimate and personal relationship with the Lord.
Jesus is worth more than thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus is worth more than a new car, hours binging Netflix, sinful obsessions, marriage, and money.
Jesus is worth more than the price of a slave or the payment of a Shepherd.
Is He worth more to you?