Matthewby Mike Raiter
Few things anger us more than the miscarriage of justice-when the guilty escape punishment, or the innocent are condemned. The innocence of Jesus is an important theme in these final chapters of Matthew's gospel.
First, Judas, His betrayer, affirms Jesus' innocence (vv. 1-4). Overcome with remorse, he returns the money of his betrayal to the religious leaders. Judas confesses his guilt in betraying an innocent man, but the leaders' response is callous: ″What is that to us?″ Jesus' legal innocence or guilt is irrelevant to them; they want Him dead. As Jesus said about these men: ″Woe to you . . . you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness″ (Matthew 23:23).
Matthew now completes the story of Judas. Matthew has presented us with two men who betrayed Jesus: Judas, who handed Jesus over (26:47-50); and Peter, who denied Him (26:69-75). Both are deeply sorrowful (26:75; 27:3). One commits suicide (v. 5), while the other is restored (John 21:15-17). What is the difference?
In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul writes, ″Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death″. Godly sorrow does not drive you to the hangman's noose but to the Saviour and the cross, the place of repentance and forgiveness.
Matthew then briefly describes Jesus' formal trial before the Gentile governor, Pontius Pilate (vv. 11-26). Again we see the determination of the chief priests and elders to have Jesus killed. Pilate offers the Jews a choice: the blatantly guilty Jesus Barabbas (Barabbas literally means ″son of the father″), or the innocent Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. They cry for the guilty to be released and the innocent to be executed. Pilate's wife affirms Jesus' righteousness (v. 19). Then Pilate himself affirms that Jesus has done nothing wrong (v. 23-24).
The innocent is punished while the guilty goes free. However, the good news is that through this terrible miscarriage of justice, God has worked to set us all free. It has been suggested that the cross Jesus died on was intended for Barabbas, but he was released. In a sense, the cross was intended for us. We deserved to die there, but in His love for us Jesus died in our place. We have walked free because Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath for us (Matthew 26:42; Job 21:20; Isaiah 51:17).
What can we learn about sorrow and repentance from the stories of Peter and Judas?
″Jesus died for me″. When did this great truth first become real to you? How does it affect the way you live today?