Day 128: An implosion of guilt

Day 128: Matthew 27:3-10 (spring AD 30, Friday of Passion Week)

Remorse is not the same as repentance, regret is not genuine sorrow for sin, and merely feeling bad achieves nothing.

Judas Iscariot, a greedy thief during Jesus’ ministry, did what came naturally to him: made money any way he could, no matter the cost to other people. He knew when he betrayed Jesus that the Pharisees wanted to arrest Jesus purely so that they could kill him.

And yet when Jesus’ death sentence was confirmed, Judas Iscariot was overcome with regret. This wasn’t a slow-burning dawning of the truth that festered, it was a spontaneous and catastrophic collapse of his mind and will. I have known many people struggle with guilt, and struggled with it myself. Some struggled because they did nothing about their sin, others struggled even though they did do something, but none of those struggles came close to looking like this in its speed and devastation.

The first thing he did was, in a way, seek to offer ‘restitution’*. To assuage his guilt he wanted to make things right, so went to priests, as was appropriate. Except they were the ones plotting to murder Jesus so he got no sympathy from them, and when the “chief priests and elders” didn’t care about his confession, he just threw the blood money at them and left.

At that point, having not reached out to God, his guilt had nowhere to go but inwards. His sorrow was not for the sin itself or the man he’d sinned against, but for how bad it made him feel, and that’s an enormous difference. There was no desire to restore his relationship with God, merely to silence his screaming conscience. His guilt – piled up like the Red Sea that flanked the Egyptian army, ominous and looming – suddenly came crashing down on him.

What he experienced at that point was worse than death, so that death became his only hope and death was where he went.

What do you do to rid yourself of guilt?

Do you tell yourself that guilt itself is bad and that your sin isn’t really sin but merely something outside of God’s best plan?

Do you know that guilt is from God but try to numb its pain with distractions, denial or alcohol?

Do you know that guilt is from God and try, fruitlessly, to make restitution through being good?

Or do you know that guilt is from God for your benefit? Do you run to his loving, fatherly arms, seeking to be reconciled with him and forgiven by him, trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus?

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).


*’restitution’[‘the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner or original state’ – Oxford English Dictionary] is the English translation of several different Hebrew words used in conjunction with sacrifices in the Old Testament. For example, it is the word used for: ‘natan’ (given/dedicated), ‘salem’ (make peace’ and ‘sub’ (return/restore). Typically they refer to what Jews were to do when they had wronged someone directly, e.g. theft/

2 thoughts on “Day 128: An implosion of guilt

    1. It’s a bit of a mindbender isn’t it? On one hand I think there’s a big difference between actively betraying someone into the hands of people who want them dead, and ‘merely’ pretending not to know them. But it’s the difference Paul highlights in 2 Cor 7 between worldly regret and guilt that leads to repentance (and hence life) that’s properly exciting.


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