Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Math.27. 9-10. RSV

No-one writes without a purpose. And Matthew is no exception here. Of all the Gospel writers, he makes the most effort to link the life of Jesus with the scriptures known to contemporary Jewish Christians. In these two verses we find a link to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, and we can read the passage simply as a reference to the fulfilment of this scripture.

Everyone writes with a purpose, and here Matthew’s purpose is to show how Judas’suicide from despair at selling his Lord, all complete God’s words to the Prophets in scripture. The silver moves from Judas to the chief priests to the owner of the potter’s field because no-one wishes to bear the responsibility of Jesus’s innocent blood.

Fine, but there’s a problem? If we look at Jeremiah, we find no such quotation exists. So what is happening here?.

I cannot know the real answer, but here in a nutshell is what various writers have suggested.

Matthew writes to those who know their scripture well. He made no mistake, but referred to the spoken words of Jeremiah passed down. Jeremiah does write of a field being bought for silver as a result of God’s word (chapter 32) and in chapter 19 of a broken pot which symbolises God’s vengeance on Judah and Jerusalem for rejecting his word. Matthew pulls these ideas into the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, calling also to mind the prophesy of Zechariah (11:12-13) in which 30 pieces of silver was the paltry price to turn away the prophet and reject God’s word from Jerusalem.  These ideas are in the first century audience’s mind as they read of the rejection of Jesus, God’s word – history repeating itself.

No-one writes without a purpose.

If people want Matins, why does Matins vary? The experience of leading matins can easily become more about whether the people were pleased with the kind of Matins you led than what the BCP had to offer. We have a number of adaptations to Matins and we seem to have to follow them – why? There is a great responsibility when using these wonderful words, a sense of continued history and worship linking us through time back to Cranmer. So how can we fiddle with it? I love Common Worship too, and creating Services of the Word with a reasonable amount of freedom to respond to the congregation’s needs and the timing of the service. But that doesn’t mean there is no place for Matins and Evensong, also beautiful services. I look forward to the time when leading them is less of “were they happy with it?” and more of “where did it take us this morning?”.