In the final days of his life, Jesus was betrayed by a good friend. This breach of trust by Judas was a mere subplot in a much grander story, but it certainly added to the irony of the last few days of Jesus' life. How could our sinless Savior be treated with such indignity? Why did Jesus provoke so much ire among religious leaders and politicians? Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll invites us to follow along as the dramatic story of Jesus unfolds.
He titled today's message, Thoroughly Innocent, Totally Guilty. If you have a copy of the scriptures with you, please turn to the first book in the New Testament, the Gospel by Matthew. We're looking at the first 10 verses in Matthew 27. We're working our way through the Gospel by Matthew, and we come today to our 82nd message. Not that that matters, except it lets you know we're getting near the end. And our desire is to help you be acquainted with the truths of the scriptures, and even more importantly, allowing those truths to come in and alter the way you live your life.
So it is not simply a fact-gathering study. It is a life evaluating study where the mirror of the word reveals the truth regarding ourselves. We come to Matthew 27. We come to a crucial change in the trials of Jesus. I placed in your worship folder a chart.
On each side is a different kind of chart that I will get into explaining when I get into my message. I just want you to have it handy. Keep it folded and place it here after we finished our reading so that you can mark your place and hold on to it. I think you will need it in the days and even years to come as you seek to keep the events clarified in your mind as well as the time in which these things occurred, the last day Jesus spent on this earth, the day of his death. Once you find Matthew 27, you'll notice I'm reading from another version, the New Living translation. You may now use that version, perhaps. If not, yours will be very similar.
But if there's a difference, that will explain it. Matthew 27, very early in the morning, the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the 30 pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. I have sinned, he declared, for I have betrayed an innocent man. What do we care, they retorted.
That's your problem. Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the temple and went out and hanged himself. The leading priests picked up the coins. It wouldn't be right to put this money in the temple treasury, they said, since it was payment for murder.
After some discussion, they finally decided to buy the potter's field and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. It's a sad note on which to stop the reading, but it does give us the tone of this passage. Not all settings in the scriptures are pleasant and easy to imagine. I always urge those I'm teaching to do your best to put yourself in this original setting as you imagine the scene transpiring. You're listening to Insight for Living.
To study the book of Matthew with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled, Thoroughly Innocent, Totally Guilty. The venerable A.W. Tozer grabbed my attention when I read these words. May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridor of the kingdom like children in the marketplace, always chattering about everything, but pausing to learn the true value of nothing.
Those words were convicting then and they are convicting now. Skipping through the corridors of the kingdom like children. Reading this, but not really paying attention to that, going from what is fascinating, intriguing, curious, to something that stands out as important all the while missing the deep things of God. The things that are tucked away in the folds of the details can happen so easily, for example, in the life of Jesus. How easy to skip from Gethsemane to Golgotha, from the prayer where he asked that the Lord allow the cup to pass from him to it is finished as he hangs and dies on the cross.
But what about in between? The scenes in the garden and death on the cross. One man is honest enough to write, the church I grew up in skipped past the events of Holy Week in a rush to hear the symbol sounds of Easter. Said very well, isn't it? It's likely you have not taken the time in your own study, your own reading, to probe the depths of what our Savior endured between Gethsemane and Golgotha.
If that's true, let me acquaint you briefly with what you have missed. There wasn't one trial, there were six. Three of them Jewish, three of them Roman, and that plays a special part in why the trials unfolded as they did. A few of those trials weren't illegal, all six were illegal, and those who conducted them knew it. And the charge was switched from blasphemy among the Jews to treason or sedition among the Romans.
There was a reason for that. You see, the Jews did not put people on the cross, Romans did. In order for there to be capital punishment, the Romans must agree to capital punishment, which required the Jews to take him from their chamber and their council called the Sanhedrin and to bring him before the governor named Pilate. By the way, the ultimate verdict of guilty was declared but never proven. Never once did the accusers prove Jesus guilty.
They found him guilty, they declared him guilty, but it was a prejudicial decision, not a factual one. And the final judgment, which was done by Pilate the governor, was a reluctant one. He never believed Jesus was guilty. He had nothing to gain or lose in the trial. So as he met with Jesus, he was just another instigator of difficulties among the Jews and how Pilate hated the Jews. So he wasn't there to cooperate with the Jewish leaders. The more he interviewed Jesus, the less convinced he was of his guilt, which caused him to say ultimately, I find no fault in this man.
And yet he agreed to put him on a cross. That too is more than intriguing. There are so many things that you will miss if you skip like children in the marketplace, chattering about what seems significant and missing the details that add the color and the shading to the story. For that reason, I prepared the chart. I would like for you to look at it for a moment. I don't want to be pedantic about this, but I do want you to understand what you have in your possession. I've never seen charts like this, so I drew one up thinking it would help.
First is one that you will read vertically. I call it a time chart or a chronology of events. And I put the events on the left and I put the approximate time as best we can determine on the right. I've moved us from the prayer and agony at Gethsemane all the way down to the death of Jesus on the cross. It was quite a day that began at 1 a.m. in the garden and ended with Jesus having died, having given up his spirit at the ninth hour, as John writes it, at 3 p.m., the timing of it.
By the way, in case you're interested, we are today right about the center of that chart. The first interrogation by Pilate, you will see that's where we are, Matthew 27, 1 and 2, followed by the rest of that trial, 11 to 14. By the way, he went before Pilate twice. In between was Herod, who saw Jesus as something of a clown.
We'll get to that in our study later. Now turn the chart over and you'll see the one that we've written horizontally. This covers the trials of Jesus from the first to the sixth, top to bottom.
Then you read from left to right. The first trial, you'll read of the officiating authority, and if you read down the page, you'll see each trial who officiated at that trial. Then you'll find the scripture where that's located in God's Word. You'll see the charges or the accusation trumped up against him in the little fourth section on the chart. Then you'll see why the trials were illegal. In each case, they were. You'll see the type of trial, whether it was Jewish and religious or whether it was Roman and civil. And finally, you'll see the result where he was found or declared guilty but never once proven guilty, I repeat. And in case you wonder where we are in this chart, we're at trial number four.
We have seen Jesus before Annas, the high priest or ex-high priest, and then Caiaphas, Annas' son-in-law, and then the Sanhedrin, and then now we bring him, as we see from the scriptures, before the governor. Keep those charts handy. You'll refer to them from time to time, and I think they will help you. I want them to.
I hope they will. Now, into the scriptures. Turn, please, to Matthew 27. Very early in the morning, as best we can tell, it was about 6 30 in the morning, also an illegal time because no trial was to be held at night.
The elders of the people and the leading priests met again. Notice the reason. Not to determine the outcome, but to put Jesus to death.
You see, the prejudice immediately. Their purpose in bringing him to Pilate was to point a finger to Pilate and to say, in effect, you make sure you put him on a cross. We want him dead.
We don't want a long, lingering, needless bunch of details. You make sure you nail him to a cross, to put it in raw terms. So they bound him, and they led him away, and they took him to Pilate. It's the first time we've met Pilate in our journey, so if you will allow me just a few words in on his life. This man is a notorious, corrupt character, Pontius Pilate, who lives in Caesarea by the sea, but is in Jerusalem during Passover because of the crowds, and he was there to keep down any possibility of mob violence.
That's important, by the way. Later on, we'll explain why. One man writes that he is an anti-Semite, a Roman to the core, an absolute wolf for Jewish blood. He had zero interest in cooperating with the Jewish authorities, who demanded the guilty verdict. We'll come back to him later on, but Pilate is the only one who gave Jesus something of a fair trial because he sought to find whether he was guilty or not. The scene quickly changes, so we will change because of Scripture, and we'll come back to Pilate next time.
Verse 11, you read, Jesus is standing before Pilate, so that fourth trial continues, and we'll get into that next time. But now we meet a man, and we will study him a little more in depth, though we've referred to him on a number of occasions, whose name is Judas. Notice how Matthew enters Judas into the scene. When Judas, who had betrayed him, understand when Matthew wrote his story, all of this has transpired. Of course, he could not have written the gospel had it still been going on.
He's looking back. John looks back farther than anyone else, as we've learned earlier in our time together, but Matthew writes rather soon on the heels, only a few years after the events, and he is now catching us up on the scene as he brings Judas into the story. When he walked alongside Judas, he never thought of him as a traitor, nor would you, had you been one of the twelve. Had they done photography back in those ancient days, and pictures had been taken of the disciples, you would have never been able to tell by looking which one was Judas. Artists attempt to make you aware by certain facial expressions, but Judas was a master hypocrite. In fact, he did not begin with plans to be a hypocrite.
That became a part of his lifestyle over the passing of those three, three and a half years. But here is Judas, who has betrayed Jesus. You remember, he took the thirty pieces of silver. He came up to him in the garden and kissed him to identify him, for the soldiers would not have known who Jesus was, and Judas was there to point him out. Then he steps aside, and we don't know anything more about Judas till now. We don't know where he went. We don't know what he did. Probably stood at a distance, maybe near Peter in the courtyard, watching the events transpire as his stomach began to churn, and he became aware of the terror of his act.
I want you to think about Judas before the act of betrayal. He heard all the teachings. He witnessed as many miracles as any disciple witnessed. He was there alongside Jesus. He heard him breathe at night.
He ate alongside him. He watched the crippled healed. He watched the dead raised to life. He watched the storm stilled.
He watched the sea calmed. He saw the second member of the Trinity at work in human flesh. He was aware of all of it. Then why in the world would he betray him? Then why in the world would he betray him? Most likely, though we are never given verses on this, when you piece them together and you see Judas emerge from place to place, most likely Judas was more a political zealot than a religious disciple. Judas wanted Jesus to become the king over the Romans.
He lived for the day that Jesus would accept his kingdom, make those disciples a part of his kingship, and overthrow Rome. When Jesus turned down the kingdom, Judas was terribly disillusioned. He began to rethink his role and why he was following Jesus. He began to see Jesus in a different light. If you will, Jesus let him down. He didn't do what he thought he would do. Judas kept that in mind and kept waiting for the moment which never came because Jesus came in his first mission to die.
He will come in his second return to reign. But Judas wants him to reign now and to overthrow those Roman swine who were dominating the Jews at that time. Jesus did not cooperate with Judas's desire and dreams. And so in light of that disillusionment, Judas begins to change. Now he comes to the ultimate moment, the result of his betrayal, as he witnesses firsthand something he had never thought would happen.
I believe that Judas thought somehow Jesus would be whisked through the trials, removed and relieved and taken away, done away with some other way. Never thought what he would witness would become a reality, which is why we read what we do. Here is Judas who realized that Jesus had been condemned to die.
The way it's written is like a light goes on. He sees it for the first time. He realizes that he's going to die.
He has probably seen some of the torturing that is a part of the scourging. And the result is he is filled with remorse, not repentance. Remorse. He feels shame for what he has done, but he is not repenting from his actions. I've left out something very, very important. The night of the Last Supper before Judas leaves to go into the night to kill Judas, before Judas leaves to go into the night to carry out his plan to betray him, we read that Satan entered Judas.
He's still there. We never read where Satan left Judas. So he's still a Satan-inspired and influenced and possessed man.
He is evil to the core. But even though that's true, he is confused when he sees what is happening and the result of his betrayal. One expositor puts it in these words, as Judas watched Jesus being carried away to Pilate, the full enormity of his treachery finally began to dawn on him as he realized the Jewish leaders did indeed intend to put Jesus to death.
The one last obstacle was the permission of Pilate, which Judas had no reason to believe would be denied. The sight was devastating to Judas, more than even his money-hungry mind, his sordid soul, and his seared conscience could deal with. He felt remorse as he began to experience the excruciating pain that is unique to profound guilt. He feels this pain of remorse, this shame, this deep and abiding sense of regret. So he takes the 30 pieces of silver back to the leading priests and he treats them as though they are his priests, and he says, I've sinned. I've betrayed an innocent man.
Trapped in his own sinfulness, Judas regretted his betrayal, and his actions certainly brought him to a place he didn't want to go. Well, there's much more about this story Chuck Swindoll wants to tell us. He's teaching from Matthew chapter 27, and Chuck titled this message, Thoroughly Innocent, Totally Guilty.
To learn more about this ministry, please visit us online at insightworld.org. Now, I'll remind you that whenever we come to a pause in Chuck's teaching, it doesn't mean your learning needs to stop. Insight for Living provides a variety of resources designed to help you. For instance, every sermon Chuck delivers in the book of the Bible is complemented by Searching the Scriptures study notes. These are online, and they're free.
The study notes are interactive, meaning you can type your thoughts into the document online, or print them out and keep them at your desk. To access the Searching the Scriptures guide, go to insight.org slash studies. And then maybe you're looking for a creative way to teach biblical theology to young kids. Well, Insight for Living Ministries produces a popular children's program called Paws and Tails. The story's main character, Papa Chuck, lives in the community of Wildwood, along with a cast of lovable creatures. Each story is complemented with catchy musical tunes, and each drama drives home a theological truth. To access these stories for your family, go to insight.org slash Paws and Tails.
And Tails is spelled T-A-L-E-S. These free resources are made available in part through the voluntary contributions of people like you. And your generosity is truly making a difference in people from all walks of life who rely on Chuck's Bible teaching. In a recent group of incoming comments, we had an affirming note from a grateful law enforcement officer in Arizona and a podcast listener in South Africa. To give the gift of Insight for Living to others, call us if you're listening in the U.S., dial 1-800-772-8888 or give online at insight.org. I'm Dave Spiker, inviting you to join us again Tuesday to hear Insight for Living with Chuck Swindoll.
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