26 Jul 2020

The Torment of Guilt [Matthew 27:1-10]


Guilt. It's a torment for many. "I wish I'd never done that!. . . If only I can go back in time. . . " is the refrain of many living under the burden of guilt. So, what is guilt, really? And how do people cope with it? Why do we even have guilt? And most importantly, how can we be truly set free? This sermon takes you through the mindset of Judas, and then to the teachings through the rest of scripture to help you with the answers. Do not be tormented by guilt, but may it lead you to God and His gospel. Discover how the guilty may be truly guiltless today!


Sermon Transcript

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A very good morning to all of you, welcome to Gospel Light and our Sunday morning worship service this week. We are so glad you can join us and we hope that you will be blessed as we look into God's Word together.

We are on a journey through the book of Matthew. And today we turn a page to Matthew, chapter 27. So in a sense it's part two of our series here at “48”. A look at the last two days of the life of Jesus before He will go to the cross.

This is a picture of a very special goat. The goat that is right in front of the rest of the goats. It's a special goat because this is the goat that the shepherds would use to lead the rest of the flock of the goats to the slaughterhouse.

You see, this goat is trained to lead the rest of the goats, to the slaughterhouse, and it itself will be spared from the slaughter. And that's why shepherds call this special goat, ‘The Judas Goat’. It is trained to betray its comrades, as it were.

Of course, you know that the name, ‘Judas Goat’ is taken from the apostle of Jesus Christ, Judas. Judas was a traitor. He was a betrayer. He sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver. And today, Matthew is going to bring us back to a look at Judas' life.

We see in Matthew 27, and verses 1 to 5, “When the morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death. And they bound Him and led Him away and delivered Him over to Pilate, the governor.” [v1-2]

Now I hope you remember that Jesus has been tried very unfairly before the Jewish courts. And now He's going to be sent over to the Roman courts, because the Jews have no right to give anyone the capital sentence or to execute anyone. They were a state ruled by Rome. And so they have to send Jesus now to Pilate the governor.

And in verse 3, we read that, “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've sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Then, and 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.” [v3-5]

Now, that's a tragic story, the life of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus.

In today's message, I'd like us to have this angle of guilt. And we’ll like to see how Judas was a man who was tormented with guilt. Guilt is something we all experience in life, isn't it? Now, what is guilt really?

I think guilt is the emotional pain or agony when you realize you have done wrong. It's an emotional feeling. It's a feeling of agony, of pain within, when we realized that we have sinned or when we have committed a crime. Guilt is something we all have to wrestle with.

Now, to be clear, the Bible does not speak only about the feeling of guilt, but also about the fact of guilt. In other words, we have the subjective feeling of being guilty, but we also have the objective state of actually being guilty before God. Whether you feel it or not, you are guilty before God because the Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We do not honor Him. We go our own ways. We sinned against God.

However, though we have that objective state of being guilty before God, we also subjectively feel guilty before God. And I think that's what's happening to Judas here. He felt the agony. He realized his wrong and he was reeling in pain from this turmoil within him.

The Bible says, “Judas changed his mind.” [v3] Now, that's in English text. As you know the Bible, a lot of it is written in the Greek. And in the Greek, this is the word, ‘metamellomai’. What does it mean? Well, it's a word that actually means to regret, to feel sorry, to remorse.

So we read that Judas actually felt that regret, that remorse. He was feeling sorry about what he has done. Why would he feel sorry? Why would you feel sorry? Why would you feel guilty about things that you've done wrong?

Well, the Bible tells us that in Romans, chapter 2:15, that “God's law is actually written in our hearts.” This is what we call the conscience bearing witness. And there are conflicting thoughts accuse or even accuse them.

So God is saying, built into every human being today is this system, is this alarm system called, conscience. And when we sin, when we go against God's laws that were originally written in our hearts, this alarm system goes off. It rings! It is so deafening sometimes, it is so painful sometimes. But that's what the conscience it's for, it’s to accuse you, it's to excuse you, it’s to tell you whether you have sinned or not.

And I think this is a universal human experience. You feel bad when you lie. You feel bad when you cheat someone. You feel bad when you shout at your parents. Or when you scream at your kids unfairly. You feel guilty when you indulge in pornography. You feel guilty when you lust after a woman.

Now, you may have the sensation of pleasure in sin, but there after or in the midst of it, there is also that alarm that goes off - that's wrong! And some people feel a great burden of guilt upon their lives because of some sin, or something that they have done amiss in their lives.

That's the feeling you get when everything is quiet and nobody is around you, there's an uneasiness in your soul. You say to yourself, “I wish I've never done that. I wish I could go back in time and not do what I have just done.” That's guilt speaking to you. That's your conscience crying out to you.

See, this all began in the Garden of Eden. Remember? When God made Adam and Eve, when God made man and woman, they were very good. There was no sin. There was no problem. There was no pain. There was no misery. There was no agony. There was no shame. Nothing! It was bliss in the garden with God.

But the moment Adam and Eve took that fruit and sinned against God, what happened to them? The Bible tells us that they began to hide from God. They were filled with guilt and shame and fear. They sew for themselves fig leaves in order to cover themselves up. Why? They feel guilty.

The conscience that God has built into them is now screaming out, and had to silence it. They wanted to hide. And you know, ever since then, because we are born in sin, man, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, we now are ruined in sin and we all suffer from guilt and shame and fear because sin has corrupted our lives.

And this guilt can be very unbearable. We read, for example, David. He wrote in this song, he wrote in this psalm, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” [Psalm 51:2-4]

So David is pleading, “Oh! Please wash me. Please cleanse me. Please take this away from me.” Why? He says in verse 8, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” He's saying, “I'm really, really suffering, like fractures all over.” That's the emotional pain and agony David experienced.

And I can only imagine the monstrosity of guilt that Judas must have felt. When he realized that he had sinned against his Master, the innocent man, the Son of God, when he realized that he is the one who betrayed Jesus to be now sentenced before Pilate, the governor. Oh! He must be reeling in terrible agony.

So we read that Judas, seeing that Jesus was being sent to Pilate, “Seeing that Jesus was to be condemned …”, he regretted, he felt sorry, he was filled with remorse. What did he do then? He got to the temple, “… and he brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests.” [v3-4]

Why? I mean, that's what he was betraying Jesus for – money! And he brought, all that money, not a single coin less. He brought all that money to return it. Why? Because he wanted to get rid of the guilt in his life. He wanted to unload that guilt. He's saying to himself, “I know I've done wrong, but I cannot keep this money. Because if I do, I'll be absolutely miserable. I must give this back, even though I've done wrong.”

Well, the priests say to him, “Nope! You settle it yourself.” And Judas didn't just say, “Alright, I'll keep it.” His guilt was so great that, he decided to throw “down the pieces of silver into the temple.” [v4] He just threw it right there and then. Doesn't matter if they will take it or not. He says, “I just got to get rid of this money. I've just got to get rid of this guilt.”

By the way, it's interesting that the word, ‘temple’ here is a special word in the Greek. Now, there are two Greek words commonly used to refer to the temple. One to the temple in general, one to the temple in its holy place. And the Bible is saying, Judas went right into the holy place. The place reserved only for priests.

You see, he's so desperate, he's not going to throw the money in the outer courts of the temple. He's going to go right in, meet the priest and throw it right there and says, “This be your problem now. I want to rid myself of this guilt.” Now, it is wrong for any man to go into the holy place. It is sin! But it just shows how desperate Judas was that he will barge into the temple, throw it there and says, “I want to unload this all.”

What do you do when you feel guilty? How do you handle guilt in life? What do you do with guilt and shame? Some people, when they have done wrong, they want to make recompense. They want to make restitution. If they have wronged someone, they pay them back. They give back what they have gained. That's one way of coping with guilt.

But there are other people who cope with guilt in other ways. For example, when you're struggling with guilt, you may tend to blame another person for it. You know how it is. In a husband and wife relationship, something goes wrong, and the husband blames the wife, or the wife blames the husband. We don't want to feel so guilty, so we want to divert some of that blame to someone else, we blame the others.

And this is so original. Isn't it? When Adam sinned against God, you know who he blamed? He blamed the woman, “The woman gave me the fruit.” But not only did he blame the woman, he actually blamed God. He said, “The woman whom you gave me.” Wow! But you see, that's one of the coping mechanisms of a sinful man. We want to deflect the blame to someone else. We blame others. That's a coping mechanism.

Another coping mechanism may be to find many excuses. We don't want to admit we're wrong. We feel guilty, but we try to find excuses in life, try to ameliorate some of that blame upon ourselves. Or maybe for some, it will be drowning our sorrows. So when you've done something wrong, you may go to substance abuse, you may go to alcoholism, you may want to drink your sorrows away.

Or maybe you may swing to the other extreme, where you want to do good to make up for the wrong you've done. You give to charity. You involve yourself in community service or even in church work. Not really because you love God, not really because you want to serve Him but because you just want to make recompense for the guilt that is within.

So this is what Judas did - he wanted to give the money back. He wanted to cope with his guilt that way. That was what he knew. Well, did it work? Did it help him? Was his guilt relieved? No. Because the Bible tells us, after he threw the money away, he did not feel better. It was not like a load off his shoulders. He was still miserable and if I may say, maybe even more miserable. That … that return of money did not help him whatsoever. And the Bible tells us, “He went and hanged himself.” [v5]

Can you imagine the scene? This man - probably disheveled, teary, angry, miserable in his face. He would care less than barged in, into the temple, throw the money there and just walk away, still feeling miserable.

The voice in his head is getting so loud. The guilt is getting so intense. He says, “I've just got to end this all! I can't live on any longer!” He gets a rope, finds a tree, ties that rope as secure as he can. And goes with tears in his eyes, hanging himself, wanting to end that voice in his head by ending his life, there and then.

It was a tragic death! Because he was not just suffocated to death. In Acts 1, verse 18, we are told that, Judas fell headlong. “he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.” He probably hung himself at a very high point. Maybe the rope gave way. Maybe the branch gave way. I do not know. But he fell, and his bowels all gushed out. A tragic death!

But is that the end of his story? No! I think from Scripture, this was not the end of Judas' suffering. I think today, he is probably, very likely and I think actually certainly according to Scripture, suffering in a place of torment. You say, “Isn't he Jesus' disciple? Didn't he repent?” No! He did not repent. I'm sure he did not repent.

He was remorseful but he was not repenting. He was sorry for his sins, but he did not bring it to Christ. He did not bring it to God. He did not come back to God. He settled, he wanted to settle guilt his own way, his own style. He never came back to Christ.

I think he's a man who is damned forever. Why? Because Jesus already said, “[sic: Did not], did I not choose you the 12 and yet one of you is a devil and He's speaking about Judas Iscariot.” [John 6:70-71]

And then we read in John 17:12, “I've guarded them and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction.” Judas is the son of destruction. He will be damned.

And Matthew 26:24, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

So Judas thought that he would resolve his guilt problem that way. I think today, he's suffering.

The question is why? Why does God give men guilt? Why is this emotion, built into our system? To some people guilt is a bad thing. To some people guilt is an unnecessary thing. To some people guilt is like a bad side effect of sin. They say, “Guilt is a waste of time. Don't feel guilty about yourself. Forget about guilt. Numb yourself. Don't feel it.”

But really, I want you to think of it this way. Guilt is not a burden. Guilt is not a problem. Guilt is not a bad thing. I want you to see that guilt is actually and could be and should be the gift of God for your life. Guilt is not a waste of time. Guilt is a means of grace.

You say, “Why? How do you reason that out?” Well, let me ask you, “Itch, you know itch and pain, are they good things?” Now, if you are itching all day, and if you are suffering pain all day, you may say, “This is a bad thing! This is terrible!”

But I want you to know, from a medical perspective, from a doctor's point of view, I think, itch and pain, these sensory systems, they are a blessing. Because if you do not have the sensation of itch and pain, your life will not be quite the same.

I give you a picture of someone whose hands are absolutely deformed. Looks ugly! Looks terrible! What can one do with a hand like this, ulcers and deformation all over? You know why a person has these hands? Let me tell you why. This is a picture of someone who has been stricken with leprosy.

Leprosy is a kind of infection that affects the nerves. It makes your nerves inactive, it doesn't work. So when you are stricken with leprosy, it may be that you lose the sense of pain, you lose the sense of touch. So you injure yourself without you knowing it!

You see, it's a blessing that when something goes wrong, God, through the body sends a signal to you. It's painful, because it's bad. It's painful, because it's injured. Don't do it again. And I think guilt, is like that spiritual equivalent of pain and itch in your skin. Guilt is meant to show you that something is wrong in your life. Something is not quite right between you and God. There is something that is going amiss and you've got to rectify it.

Now, instead of trying to take Panadol and just numb the pain, you should solve the problem. So you see, guilt is to help you be sin conscious that you may be God conscious. If I may say it in our Gospel Light jargon term, you should have guilt because guilt leads you to be sin conscious, so that you may be Gospel conscious. So that you may realize your need for Jesus Christ, and what He has done for you, to save you from your sin, and to free you from your guilt.

So guilt is a good thing! It's a warning system. I think God wanted this guilt, to be a wonderful system to bring people to Himself. Throughout the Old Testament, we read about animal sacrifices. And the Bible tells us that the sacrifices are done every year, indeed every day, so that there is a remembrance of sin. So that people are reminded about their guilt.

So God wants people to see their sin, to see their guilt. Because otherwise, we will carry on life without an acknowledgment that we need God, and we are cut off from our Creator God. Besides that, God says that, “These animal sacrifices that you bring to Me every day is meant to show you that there is an ultimate sacrifice and Savior for your sin.”

Now, of course, I believe all these animal sacrifices are to point people to the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus Christ. So you see, guilt from sin is a means of grace to remind people about their sin, to remind people about their need for the Savior, that they might truly be saved.

So when you have guilt, it's not to numb it or to excuse it or to blame it on someone else. But it's for you to recognize - I am guilty before God. This feeling of guilt is so that I may be reminded about the fact of my guilt. And that I may see that God has provided His Son, Jesus Christ, who is that ultimate Lamb, that sacrifice, to save me from my sin.

Now that's the story, we read in Isaiah 6. Isaiah had caught a glimpse of God. And when a man who is sinful comes before the Holy God, He would now be stricken with guilt. He would now be stricken with a sense of utter unworthiness before the Supreme One.

So Isaiah immediately said, “Woe is me! Woe is me! I'm a man of unclean lips.” He's stricken with his sinfulness. Now, what does God do? God sent an angel, who picks up, using a pair of tongs, a burning coal from the altar, the altar of sacrifice. The altar where the animals are slained, where blood will be spilt, where blood would drain. And he picks up a burning coal from that altar, and he brings it and touches the lips of Isaiah and cleanses Isaiah.

What is this all about? This is saying, that Jesus, that ultimate sacrifice whose blood will be shed, He will be the One who cleanses us from our sin. Bring your guilt to Him, let Jesus cleanse you from sin. I think that's the picture there, that God will provide that cleansing, God will be the One that would solve sin and solve the problem of guilt.

So over and over again, we read in the Bible, God says, “Come. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” [Isaiah 1:18]

God is saying, “Come to Me. It's good that you have guilt. But don't live your life, bearing that guilt or live your life trying to solve the guilt by yourself. Come now! Let's reason together and I'll cleanse you absolutely.”

He says in Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” See! God's will is not for you to live on bearing your own guilt or solving it your own way, but come to Him. Come to Him for mercy. Come for Him for grace.

What is mercy and grace? It's God's undeserved favor for us. We don't deserve it. We are guilty. But God is gracious and generous and good to the guilty. So come to Him, He says. “That's why I gave you My Son, Jesus Christ, that He is that ultimate sacrifice, who would lay down His life and give you His perfect righteousness, to cleanse you from all sin, and to free you from all guilt.”

Hebrews 8, verse 12, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” That's God's promise! That's God's promise in Jesus Christ! Come to this Lamb. Come to the Lamb of God. “Behold the Lamb of God, Jesus who takes away the sin of the world.”

Today, if you're listening in, I'm so thankful you are. But I'm praying for you that you will come to Jesus. With a life filled with guilt and shame and fear, plunge yourself in to the blood of Christ. There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Jesus' veins. And sinners, would lose all their guilty stains. My friends, would you come to Jesus Christ?

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Romans 5:1] A man is saved, a man is justified, he's no more guilty. How? By his own works? By his own religious activity? Oh no! Justified by faith - by believing in what Jesus Christ has done on the cross for sinful men and women. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 8:1]

Amazing! This is that beautiful Gospel, Good News of Jesus Christ. That guilty people will no more be condemned, because Jesus was condemned for them. Jesus suffered for them. Jesus was punished like a guilty sinner, for them.

So, we sing this song, “In Christ Alone.” No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me: From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.” Oh! The only way you should deal with your guilt today is to bring them to Jesus. The only way you should deal with your guilt today is to bring them to Jesus.

Don't be like Judas. He was guilty, but he tried to solve it his way. He tried to end his life. That's folly! That doesn't work! Because right up to today, he's suffering and for all eternity he will suffer. But learn that God has given you guilt, so that you may be sin conscious, so that you may then be God conscious, so that you may be Christ conscious, so that you may be Gospel conscious, so that you will humble yourself, repent and believe in what Jesus has done for your life.

I end with this similar, familiar thought I've been saying through the book of Matthew. Yes, we're looking at Judas' life. But again, the book of Matthew is not about Peter, it's not about Judas, but it's about Jesus Christ.

And I believe this offers us a wonderful contrast, that here is a man filled with guilt and he suffered and died for it. But there is another man who was absolutely guiltless, but He also suffered and died. Why? Because Jesus went to the cross to take on your guilt. The sinless Son of God was made sin for you and for me.

This text actually proves the absolute innocence of Jesus. You know that? Judas is portrayed as absolutely guilty. But in this story, Jesus is portrayed as absolutely guilt free and indeed He is. How do we know this? Well, if you look at verse 6, the chief priests themselves admit that this is “blood money”.

You know what's blood money? It's money that is earned by sacrificing and killing someone. They admit this is blood money. This is money used to buy His blood, the blood of Jesus. “He's innocent! We can't find any fault in Him, but we want to kill Him. So we spend this money, we pay this money, this is blood money.”

You know we are, we are getting the admission. We are getting the acknowledgement that Jesus is absolutely innocent, not from His friends, but from His foes. From the very people who want to kill Jesus. They admit Jesus is innocent. This is blood money.

And even the field that was bought with this money is called, ‘The Field of Blood”. Why? Because everybody in those days understood. They knew Jesus was innocent, but He was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. It was blood money. And blood money was spent to buy this field of blood. And that field of blood stands as a testimony for all times that Jesus was wrongly murdered.

But this is not an accident. Verse 9 and 10 tells us, “[sic:This was fulfilled what had been] … this was fulfilled, what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah,” so on and so forth. In other words, Matthew is very cleverly telling you about the life of Judas, how he betrayed Jesus. But at the same time, telling you actually, everybody knew Jesus was innocent.

And this was exactly the plan of God, who He spoke about, who He prophesied centuries before this. The point is this, whilst everybody was trying to incriminate Jesus, all they did was to vindicate Jesus. All they did was to just show the utter peerlessness, the utter impeccability, the utter perfection of Jesus Christ.

And don't you see, this is the process by which Jesus, the Son of God will be inspected like a lamb, and now proven once again, to be spotless. Why does He have to be spotless? Why does He have to be without blemish? So that He can lay down that righteousness of His on the cross for you. Judas was guilty. Jesus was not. But Jesus was willing to be punished, like the guilty, so that you will not.

May God help you today to turn to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. May you learn today to bring your guilt to the … to the cross. To my brothers and sisters in Christ, again, there's no better text than first John 1:9. Isn't it? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This is a God of amazing grace and mercy and generosity. May we worship Him. May we trust Him. May we serve Him. Let's pray.

Father, we are so thankful this morning. Whilst we are saddened by a life like Judas, we are so grateful for the perfection in Your Son, Jesus. Thank You that He is the Lamb who will take away all our sin. Thank You for Your promise in Him, that You will remember our sins no more.

Oh! I thank You that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. So we plead today that men and women would turn from their sin. Your Spirit will work in their hearts, that they might humble themselves, they might turn from sin and believe in Jesus Christ, Your Son. May the wind of the Spirit move in their hearts.

I pray for Your Church. Some today are living in guilt and shame and fear. Some feel like a David, whose bones are crushed. Cause us to rejoice in You again. Cause us to trust in your justice. To trust in your faithfulness, that we might confess our sins, knowing that You're faithful and just and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Bring Your people back to Yourself, O God.

So we thank You today we worship You, not just a wise and powerful and infinite God but a God of amazing grace. Thank You. We pray all this in Jesus’ Name, Amen. God bless.

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