At the beginning of the summer, I asked people to recommend
Psalms for me to preach on, anticipating doing a sermon series “A Summer
of Psalms.” However I only received 2 Psalms and a few questions about
some Scripture passages. Two of those questions I addressed in sermons,
however, the other two questions I received had answers that were too
short for a whole sermon. So here are my answers to the last two
Question #1. In John 19:23-42, Jesus announces that because he was
dying, John should take his mother into his home and care for her as he
would his own mother. What happened to Joseph?
The short answer is that neither the Bible nor reliable history tell us the
answer to that question. Most scholars believe that Joseph died sometime
between the time when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem by his parents
when he was 12 years old (Luke 2:41 – 52) and the time when Jesus
begins his ministry at 30 years old (Luke 4:14-15) because he is not
mentioned after Luke 2.
I find it interesting that the Roman Catholic church considers St. Joseph to
be the Patron Saint of a happy or peaceful death. Concluding that his
family, including Jesus, were with him when he died.
Question #2. In Mathew 27:3-8 we’re told that Judas saw that Jesus
was condemned to death, he changed his mind about the betrayal and
took the 30 pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders, saying “I
have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Judas then went out and
hanged himself. Since it was “blood money” the priest said it wasn’t
lawful to put the money back in the treasury, so they took the money
(that in their minds still belonged to Judas) and bought a field as a
burying place for strangers.
In Acts 1:15-20, Luke tells us that Judas “acquired a field with the
reward of his wickedness and falling headlong he burst open in the
middle and all his bowels gushed out.” Which is true?
Luke obviously knew that Judas returned the money to the priests who
used it to buy a field in Judas’ name for the burial of foreigners, possibly the
same plot of land that Judas had hanged himself on, which would be
considered to have polluted the land, making it unclean for any other
We can better understand how all this fits together by knowing that hanging
by a rope was not common in ancient times. The two common methods of
hanging were crucifixion and impalement through the middle of the body
with a sharp wooden stake. Since Judas couldn’t crucify himself, he
apparently set a sharp wooden stake in the ground and threw himself on it,
thereby hanging himself by impalement.
The Greek used here seems to include that when he fell on the stake, his
body swelled up and burst open. So the answer to which is true is that
both stories are true. We often make assumptions about biblical things by
interpreting them according to more contemporary terms and that’s why we
automatically assume that Judas hanged himself with a rope on a tree,
which would make synthesizing the two stories impossible. But when we
understand the way things commonly happened in ancient times, some of
the confusion clears up.