The Potter’s Field

By Sarah Cornwell

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 27:1-10

1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” 7After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then 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, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”


In today’s gospel, Judas attempts to return to the authorities the thirty pieces of silver he was paid to betray Jesus. The chief priests and elders refuse to take back the money, and in despair, Judas departs and hangs himself. The chief priests and elders (apparently unmoved by the tragic death) turn to discuss the budget: they agree they can’t return blood money to the treasury, so they use it to buy a potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.

Maximus of Turin takes this passage and sees foreshadowed, even here, the redemptive work of Christ. He interprets “foreigners” as “travelers.” The “potter” is the one who fashions vessels out of clay, pointing to God, who fashioned our own bodies out of the clay of the earth. The “potter’s field” points, not to a place of human doom, but to a place of rest: the place God dwells, his “field.”

The spilled blood of Judas is hastily covered over to make a place to put foreigners, separate from the people of God. It is a field of alienation. But the blood of Christ covers all it touches, purchasing the final resting place of those “who were without home or country and were cast about as exiles throughout the earth,” joining them with God, making them God’s people. You and me.

Even at the best of times, this perishable body which the potter has made feels like clay that is all too easy to shatter. If you drop us too hard, we will break. Death will break us all. We may be tempted to despair. But the blood of Christ has bought a final resting place for these delicate and doomed vessels, that those of us without a home may rest in the Lord, in this life, in the next, and in the new world to come. Praise be to God!

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have five children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.

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