A homily preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Lent, 2003: “Thirty Pieces of Silver”
Text: Matthew 26:14-16
Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tonight we consider the thirty pieces of silver that Judas was paid to betray Jesus utterly and turn him over to the authorities. The image of the thirty pieces is powerful on its own, but it is our task tonight to meditate upon its meaning for us.
Being a child of the eighties, I was immediately reminded of Ted DiBiase. If you ever happened to catch the World Wrestling Federation while flipping through the channels on a Saturday morning some ten years or so ago, then you probably saw the “Million Dollar Man” wrestle. He was one of the WWF’s superstars of that generation.
Ted DiBiase was a bad guy, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. No black spandex. No death-mask makeup. No wild and dangerous look about him at all, in fact. What made the Million Dollar Man a bad guy was his shtick: He was supposedly a millionaire who had decided to own the WWF title by hook or by crook, even if it meant using his fortune to buy his way to the top. His motto was “Everyone has a price.” The Million Dollar Man was a cheater, and he tempted others to cheat by dangling wads of cash before their eyes.
Unfortunately, the Million Dollar Man was right: Everyone has a price. Tonight we are faced with the cold, hard question—What’s your price? What’s mine?
Assume for a minute that I’m making a lot more money than I am. What if I said I was prepared to write a check right here and right now, for the sum of $100 million dollars, to the first person to hand over their neighbor to my custody. What if I told you there were very unpleasant things planned for your neighbor, quite likely including a horrible death? That check is right here, in my hand. Consider in your hearts: Would I have any takers tonight?
What if we change the terms a little? How about I lower my offer by half, but you can choose anyone you want to hand over to me. Would there be anyone willing to turn in a complete stranger, or even an enemy, for a cool $50 million, I wonder?
How about $10 million just to stand up here and say, “Jesus means nothing to me”?
Everyone has a price, said Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man, and he was right on the money.
Truth be told, we’re not really much different from Judas Iscariot when it comes right down to it. Each and every day we betray Jesus for quite a bit less than thirty pieces of silver, and never look back or think twice about it. Whenever we cheat, lie, steal, lust or commit any of the hundreds of other sins we do each day, we are betraying Jesus. Any time we make plans to do something wrong, knowing that we can always run to God for forgiveness after we’ve had our fun, we are betraying Jesus. Every time we act as though Jesus doesn’t matter, even for a minute, we are betraying him through and through.
But wait a minute, you say! It’s not even remotely the same thing to tell a little white lie or to fudge a bit on my taxes as it was for Judas to take that blood money for Jesus’ life! Jesus died because of Judas’ betrayal, for Pete’s sake. Let’s have a little perspective here.
The problem is that Jesus did die precisely because of all the petty little wrongs you and I do each day. And he died because of the big ones, too. Jesus died because we’re stuck in the boggy mire of our sin, and his death was what it took to make us free, and to give us life.
And so the thirty pieces of silver tell us of two prices. First of all, they clearly show how little it took to buy Judas. The Million Dollar Man would have gotten a bargain here…those thirty pieces of silver are scarcely $8,000 today. Everyone’s got a price, and Judas sold out for cheap.
But in a way that Judas—or Ted DiBiase—could never have imagined, that silver also revealed how much it took to buy Judas. It’s easy to remember that the authorities bought him for a little coinage, but we forget that Jesus bought him with his own life, body and blood. In that one horrible, magnificent moment on the cross, Jesus paid the price that no amount of silver could ever achieve: He bought us for himself, to set us free and to give us life.
Everybody has a price. Your price was the life of Jesus Christ. He has purchased you and set you free. May you live this Lent as the precious, bought-and-paid-for child of God you are. Amen.