It is easy to overlook the fact that Jesus chose Judas to be his disciple. We may also forget that while Judas betrayed Jesus, all the disciples abandoned him. With the other disciples, Judas shared a persistent misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission. They all expected Jesus to make the right political moves. When he kept talking about dying, they all felt varying degrees of anger, fear, and disappointment. They didn’t understand why they had been chosen if Jesus’ mission was doomed to fail.
We do not know the exact motivation behind Judas’ betrayal. What is clear is that Judas allowed his desires to place him in a position where Satan could manipulate him. Judas accepted payment to set Jesus up for the religious leaders. He identified Jesus for the guards in the dimly lit Garden of Gethsemane. It is possible that he was trying to force Jesus’ hand – would Jesus or would Jesus not rebel against Rome and set up a new political government?
Whatever his plan, though, at some point Judas realised he didn’t like the way things were turning out. He tried to undo the evil he had done by returning the money to the priests, but it was too late. The wheels of God’s sovereign plan had been set in motion. How sad that Judas ended his life in despair without ever experiencing the gift of reconciliation God could give even to him through Jesus Christ.
Human feelings towards Judas have always been mixed. Some have fervently hated him for his betrayal. Others have pitied him for not realising what he was doing. A few have tried to make him a hero for his part in ending Jesus’ earthly mission. Some have questioned God’s fairness in allowing one man to bear such guilt. While there are many feelings about Judas, there are some facts to consider as well. He, by his own choice, betrayed God’s Son into the hands of soldiers (Luke 22:48). He was a thief (John 12:6). Jesus knew that Judas’ life of evil would not change (John 6:70). Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was part of God’s sovereign plan (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12, 13; Matthew 20:18; 26:20-25; Acts 1:16, 20).
In betraying Jesus, Judas made the greatest mistake in history. But the fact that Jesus knew Judas would betray him doesn’t mean that Judas was a puppet for God’s will. Judas made the choice. God knew what that choice would be and confirmed it. Judas didn’t lose his relationship with Jesus; rather, he never found Jesus in the first place. He is called “doomed to destruction” (John 17:12) because he was never saved.
Judas does us a favour if he makes us think a second time about our commitment to God and the presence of God’s Spirit within us. Are we true disciples and followers, or uncommitted pretenders? We can choose despair and death, or we can choose repentance, forgiveness, hope, and eternal life. Judas’ betrayal sent Jesus to the cross to guarantee that second choice, our only chance. Will we accept Jesus’ free gift, or, like Judas, betray him?
Strengths and accomplishments:
- He was chosen as one of the 12 disciples; the only non-Galilean
- He kept the money bag for the expenses of the group
- He was able to recognise the evil in his betrayal of Jesus
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- He was greedy (John 12:6)
- He betrayed Jesus
- He committed suicide instead of seeking forgiveness
Lessons from his life:
- Evil plans and motives leave us open to being used by Satan for even greater evil
- The consequences of evil are so devastating that even small lies and little wrongdoings have serious results
- God’s plan and his purposes are worked out even in the worst possible events
- Where: Possibly from the town of Kerioth
- Occupation: Disciple of Jesus
- Relative: Father: Simon
- Contemporaries: Jesus, Pilate, Herod, the other 11 disciples
Key verses: “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priest and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus” (Luke 22:3, 4).
Judas’ story is told in the Gospels. He is also mentioned in Acts 1:18, 19.