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.”
Yesterday we looked at the first part of Judas’ confession. Today we’ll look at part two.
2. Judas confessed that Jesus was innocent. “I have betrayed innocent blood.” was his testimony. Once again, a true statement. It was a powerful testimony to Jesus’ flawless character and a harsh indictment of the wicked character of the men who had condemned Jesus and to whom Judas spoke, But confessing the innocence of Jesus by itself never saved a single soul. Pilate did the same. In fact, he confessed Jesus to be innocent three times over during the course of the Roman trial: “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38); “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:4); “I find no basis for a charge against him” (v. 6). But Pilate still turned him over to be crucified, just as Judas had betrayed him. Even the crowds that stood by and witnessed the crucifixion exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). But it is not recorded that any of them passed from spiritual death to spiritual life through faith in Christ.
What Judas was trying to do is what many people try to do in one way or another; he was trying to make atonement for his sin. But he could not do it for the simple reason that no mere man can do it. There is only one person in the entire universe who can do it, and that is Jesus Christ, who though he is man is also more than man. He is the Godman, and it is only by his shed blood that atonement is made for any sin.
Let me give you two contrasting illustrations. The first is the picture Shakespeare has given us of Lady Macbeth washing her hands after she and her husband had murdered Duncan, Scotland’s king. She had gotten blood on her hands on the night of the murder, and though she and Macbeth had blamed the deed on their servants, in her imagination she saw the incriminating blood whenever she looked at her hands. She washed and washed them, but washing didn’t get the stains out. “What, will these hands ne’er be clean” she asks. The answer is, they will not. “Here’s the smell of blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand,” she confesses weakly (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1). Even her husband asks,
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/ Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green run red (Act 2, Scene 2).
Nothing Macbeth or Lady Macbeth could do could make atonement for their sin. The guilt of their crime clung to them. But there is one who can make atonement for sin, freeing us from guilt, and did. That one is Jesus, and that is precisely what he was doing even at the moment when Judas was turning from him to his own despairing act.
That brings me to the second illustration. It is from a poem by Robert Herrick, who wrote half a generation or so after Shakespeare, Herrick was a Christian, and he thought of his salvation in comparison with a task set for the ancient mythical hero Hercules, to clean out the enormous, filthy stables of King Augeias, which Hercules did only by diverting a large river into the horses’ stable cave. Herrick compared that stable to his heart, saying,
Lord, I confess that thou alone art able to purify this Augean stable. Be the seas all water and the land all soap, yet if thy blood not wash me, theres no hope.
That is it exactly. Apart from Jesus’ death for us, paying the penalty for our sin, there is no hope for anyone. But Jesus died. He did pay that penalty, and there is salvation now for all who will come to him. Augustus Toplady wrote rightly,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee;Let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowedBe of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Because he had turned his back on Jesus, who was his only hope, Judas plunged into the dark pit of terminal despair and died by his own foul hand.