Men and brothers, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled…
We know not a more remarkable expression than "The wrath of man shall praise Thee, the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain." The manner in which God overrules wickedness, and by which crime is as much an instrument in His hands as obedience, evidences our Maker's greatness as well as His unlimited dominion. God is able to reckon with thorough certainty upon the commission of a crime, and yet leave men quite free in the commission. We are so accustomed to denounce the traitor for his crime, that we are apt to overlook the important ends which are eventually subserved. It will be our object to exhibit generally the testimony to Christianity which is furnished by the treason of Judas.
I. LET US PREMISE ONE OR TWO OBSERVATIONS UPON THE CHARACTER OF JUDAS; for bad as this was, it may by possibility be misrepresented. We see no reason to believe that Judas had any design on the life of his Master, for, seeing the consequences of his treachery, he was tern with mortification and remorse. He might have supposed it highly improbable that, by placing Christ in the hands of His enemies, he would have been instrumental in His death; for the Jews had then no legal power of putting to death; and it was not likely that the Romans would pay attention to their accusations. Judas then may have calculated that all that could be done to Christ would be putting some restraint upon His person, and preventing Him from further propagating the religion, by whose precepts he himself was condemned.
II. We shall proceed, on this supposition, in TRACING THE ENDS WHICH THE TREACHERY SUBSERVED. You may imagine that the traitor seized a favourable opportunity of indulging his avarice, and of stopping the diffusion of a religion, which, as a money-grasping man, he must have cordially disliked, Now, if he had been possessed of any information which at all tended to invalidate its truth, how eagerly would he have adduced it, and the chief priests have received it! The mere putting to death was as nothing compared with the proving Him a deceiver. And yet Judas, eager as he was for money, and anxious to crush the new religion, has no intelligence to give which may disprove Christ's pretensions. This is amongst the strongest of proofs that Christ was "a teacher sent from God."
1. Our Lord's pretensions rested chiefly on His miracles, so that to show deceit in the one would have over. thrown the other. Infidelity will sometimes argue that there might have been collusion in the miracles. Now, had this been the case, Judas must have known it, and if Judas must have known, this would have been a fine piece of intelligence to have sold to the chief priests, and by communicating it he would at once have enriched himself and destroyed Christianity. Nay, he would have done a righteous deed; and while gratifying his avarice, he would have laid up no food for remorse.
2. The infant religion might have been assailed with at least equal power through the moral character of its Founder. And one of the most beautiful arguments by which we may defend Christianity is derived from the more than human purity of Christ. And if it were possible to invalidate in the least degree the truth that Christ "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth," the whole system would fall to the ground. Mark, that "the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death; and they found none." Yet they were bargaining with Judas, one of His intimate associates, who must have been accurately acquainted with all the flaws, if such there were, in His character. In the silence of this traitor in selling his Master, we find irresistible attestation to the fact that Christ Jesus was indeed "a lamb without blemish and without spot."
3. The prophecies might have been frustrated. It had been declared, in Zechariah, that the Messiah should be sold for thirty pieces of silver, and this price be given to the potter. Now had the chief priest and scribes offered more than thirty pieces, or had Judas been contented with fewer, or had the price of blood, when returned by the traitor, been spent on the land of any but a potter, there would have been a defect in the evidence that Jesus was the Christ. And the infatuated rulers could not see this. Perhaps they drove a hard bargain with Judas, beating him down till they reached the exact sum which prophecy specified as the number of the pieces of metal. They never thought, when exulting that they had bought Jesus at the price of a slave, that they had completed the evidence of His being their king. The like may be said of the potter's field. With all their profligacy, they were scrupulous in touching the money; and therefore will they use it in proving Jesus the Christ. It shall buy the potter's field — the only purpose to which it can be turned; and after being the price of His blood it shall serve to prove His commission. The only prophecies with which infidelity could be successfully pressed are those in which it is impossible that the parties professedly interested should have planned or procured the accomplishment. Nothing can more directly answer this commission than those which have reference to the compact with Judas. Conclusion: This is our consolation whilst "the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing" — we know that the will of our Creator shall take effect. Hostility and malice and treachery shall prevail nothing against the Lord and His Christ. They shall but defend and consolidate the Church. Judas Iscariot vindicates the Master he betrayed, and sustains the cause from which he apostatised. Therefore need we be nothing dismayed if the wicked combine to oppose Christianity. There is one that sits above the tempest, and so directs it, that its fury shall be spent on those by whom it has been raised.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.