Day 78: Thirty Silver Coins

Today’s reading: Matthew 19-28; Psalm 119

For those of us who profess the Christian faith, the value of Jesus’ self-giving love–offered through his life, death, and resurrection–is immeasurable. Our deep gratitude makes the scene surrounding his passion and death in today’s Scripture almost unimaginable and certainly difficult to hear. The participants in his crucifixion and others looking on appear to be not only unmoved by the dramatic events but casually dismissive of Jesus’ life. Soldiers rolling dice, public dignitaries spewing sarcasm, bystanders taunting him in his agony, thugs laughing in the background–for many of those present, it’s just another day at Golgotha, where crowds gather to get their cheap thrills by watching the suffering of others. And the price that it cost the religious authorities to be able to give the crowd today’s macabre show? Thirty silver coins.

This is the amount Judas agrees to accept in exchange for providing the window of opportunity when they can arrest Jesus under the cloak of darkness. The specific amount is mentioned three times, suggesting that Matthew wants to make sure we hear it. . .and with good reason. This same amount showed up just three days ago in our reading of the prophet Zechariah. Do you remember? After delivering God’s message, Zechariah instructs the leaders to pay him whatever they think he is worth. They settle on thirty silver coins–a trivial amount, we are told, that Zechariah deposits into the Temple offering box for the poor.

Sold out for little more than pocket change–a decision that hours later haunts Judas to the point that he cannot bear to live with its burden. So, thirty silver coins show up in the Temple again, thrown in self-disgust. The high priests gather them up and, ironically, get them out of the Temple as quickly as they can, knowing that blood money is on their hands.

At the end of the gospel, there is a grim reminder of Judas’ absence: “Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee. . .” All for thirty silver coins.

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