There are a number of things John did not include in his recounting of that terrible night. He did not describe Caiaphas’s cruel and brutal mocking of Jesus. John also did not speak of Judas’s end.
Mocking of Jesus
Caiaphas had again swept his robe around him in a grand, theatrical arc as he turned his back on Jesus, and raised his hands heavenward as though to indicate, So we have said, from the Almighty through us, so let it be done.
Having turned away, Caiaphas had also given tacit permission to the guards to do what they willed to the condemned man in their capture. The thrill of savagery filled them with a glut of pleasure, glossed with the approval of the Sanhedrin. They dragged Jesus towards the back of the room, where the sound of fists pummeling flesh caused the bile to rise into John’s throat. Every so often, John would hear the muffled sound of Jesus’s voice moan, or his breath explode at the impact.
Some of the men reared back and made loud guttural noises as the spat on Jesus, finally one tore a piece of cloth from Jesus’s robe and tied it tightly over his eyes.
“Prophesy!” he said, laughing loudly, besotted with his own barbary, and soon the others joined in, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” John heard them slap and hit Jesus, again and again, and others joined in, calling out ever more loathsome insults and sordid conjectures.
John found himself flinching at every blow. His legs gave way beneath him, and slowly he slipped down the cool marble wall to the floor, his face in his hands. The room had once again grown close and hot, the air thick with the stench of smoke and sweat, and the sharp, warm smell of blood. John crouched over, trying not to be sick.
Grief of Peter
Outside, Peter also crouched, sitting beyond the high priest’s palace complex, having run blindly away from the courtyard, his eyes full of tears, and his heart constricted in anguish. In his mind, he kept seeing Jesus’s look filled with love and sorrow, and hearing Jesus’s words, “Before the rooster crows again, three times you will deny me.” It had wounded him that Jesus would say such a thing. Cut him to the quick.
He had not been prepared for the devastation he would feel, now knowing what he was capable of. He had failed his beloved friend and revered rabbi. He had spoken out of turn, he had refused Jesus’s ministry of washing his feet, out of a misplaced sense of propriety, he had misunderstood every cue, slept when he should have prayed, struck his enemy rather than follow Jesus’s example and teaching. And now . . . Peter could not think past the moment. John was with the Master, and Peter was here, far from the Master.
[Story taken from Mark 14:65, 72; Luke 22:62-65]
As John suffered the trauma of witnessing, as Jesus endured the ordeal of his hour and the Father’s cup, as Peter wept bitterly, Judas also underwent internal agony. Matthew alone would tell his story.
Agony of Judas
Judas had sold Jesus for the price of a slave, then spent the night agonizing over what he had done. By early morning he had returned to the temple in time to see the official trial and sentencing of Jesus. Once Judas realized that Jesus was condemned to die,
he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”Matthew 27:3-4 (NRSV)
He had wanted to undo what he had done. But the terrible thing about sin is that you and I cannot turn the clock back. We cannot undo what we have said or done. We can only move forward, we cannot go back.
And Judas discovered something about the nature of sin, the nature that James would write about so eloquently. The very thing he thought he would gain, from handing Jesus over, now disgusted and revolted him.
Sin poisons whatever it touches
[the chief priests and elders] said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”
Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, [Judas] departedMatthew 27:4-5 (NRSV)
Judas had grown more and more disappointed in the kind of Messiah Jesus was turning out to be. Judas had wanted to see Israel established as a world power, Jesus on his throne, and Judas right next to him with wealth and a crown. In his disappointment, he had begun to embezzle from the disciples’ communal purse. Jesus’s rebuke over Judas’s condemnation of Mary of Bethany for pouring a fortune’s worth of nard over Jesus had stung his pride. The several gospel accounts which record this incident say it was right around then that he had fallen under the sway of Satan’s influence.
But, Judas knew, now, what a horrific wrong he had done. It led him to a despair he could find no way out of.
and he went and hanged himselfMatthew 27:5 (NRSV)
This sort of suicidal despair may feel familiar to some of you. I, too, know what it is like to feel suicidal, it is an anguish of the soul so acute it seems only death can relieve the pain. God rescued me when I came that close, but not everyone experiences rescue in the way I did.
To everyone who has lost someone beloved, my heart aches with you. It was not your fault. In the words of Martin Luther, they died by the devil’s hand, who has been a murderer and a liar from the beginning.
To everyone who knows that pain of despair, my heart aches with you. There are no words to express how deep that valley goes. If you are there right now, please talk with someone. Call this number, 800-273-8255, or click on this link, talk with someone who cares and who wants to walk with you right now, to help get you safely through the dark valley.
There was no one there for Judas. His betrayal and his regret on the night of Jesus’s arrest left him bereft.
There is, perhaps, something we can know from the first century writers who knew about Judas, and what happened to him, that can help us not only make some sense of his tragedy, but also put distance between his experience and our own. The first writer to turn to is Apostle Paul, who made an oblique reference to Judas by teaching the difference between a certain kind of emotional response to wrongdoing that leads to an awful endpoint, and the healthy cleansing repentance can bring.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 7:10
Distress that drives us to God turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We should never regret that kind of pain. But when distress drives us away from God, you and I need someone to talk to, someone who can help us find the way back to God.
Next, we turn to Luke, in his account of the first few years after Jesus’s resurrection. When the 120 followers of Jesus gathered together to pray and wait, as Jesus had instructed them, Peter asked that a new twelfth disciple be chosen. Peter reminded them scripture had to be fulfilled in what happened with Judas, then Luke added in details of Judas’s death, which had become known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem.
Last, we listen in on Jesus’s prayer, recorded by John,
not one of them was utterly lost and destroyed except the son of loss and destruction, in order that the writings would be fulfilled.
Jesus praying for the twelve disciples and concerning Judas, John 17:12
The chief priests recognized they now held tainted money, and according to Deuteronomy, they could not put it back into the temple treasury, so they tried to make amends, too. Without realizing they were fulfilling prophecy, they used the money to buy a field to bury indigent foreigners (such as pilgrims) who happened to die in Jerusalem. It also ended up being the same field where Judas had died.
Matthew referred to two prophets (Jeremiah and Zechariah) when he concluded this sad account,
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”Matthew 27:9-10 (NRSV)
[Judas returns the silver | By Simó Gómez – Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21643288%5D