Category: Why did Judas betray Jesus?


Matthew  27:5-8 says, “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he  went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said,  ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’  So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for  foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.” Acts 1:18-19 says, “With  the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell  headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in  Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language  Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.” Which is correct? Did Judas hang himself or  did he fall? Did Judas buy the field or did the priests buy the field?

Judas hanged himself in the potter’s field (Matthew  27:5), and then, after his body decayed and bloated, evidently the rope  broke, and he burst into pieces on the land of the potter’s field (Acts 1:18-19). The Acts  passage presumes Judas’ hanging, as a man falling down in a field does not  result in his body bursting open. Only decomposition and a fall from a height  could cause a body to burst open. When Judas threw the thirty pieces of silver  down, the priests took the money and used it to buy the potter’s field (Matthew 27:7), not knowing  that Judas was going to hang himself there. Judas may not have purchased the  field himself, but it was the money Judas received for betraying Jesus that  purchased the field.

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While we cannot be absolutely certain why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are  certain. First, although Judas was chosen to be one of the Twelve (John 6:64), all scriptural evidence points to the fact  that he never believed Jesus to be God. He even may not have been convinced that  Jesus was the Messiah (as Judas understood it). Unlike the other disciples that  called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called  him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While  other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty (John 6:68; 11:16), Judas  never did so and appears to have remained silent. This lack of faith in Jesus is  the foundation for all other considerations listed below. The same holds true  for us. If we fail to recognize Jesus as God incarnate, and therefore the only  One who can provide forgiveness for our sins—and the eternal salvation that  comes with it—we will be subject to numerous other problems that stem from a  wrong view of God.

Second, Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he  also had little or no personal relationship with Jesus. When the synoptic  gospels list the Twelve, they are always listed in the same general order with  slight variations (Matthew  10:2-4; Mark  3:16-19; Luke  6:14-16). The general order is believed to indicate the relative closeness  of their personal relationship with Jesus. Despite the variations, Peter and the  brothers James and John are always listed first, which is consistent with their  relationships with Jesus. Judas is always listed last, which may indicate his  relative lack of a personal relationship with Christ. Additionally, the only  documented dialogue between Jesus and Judas involves Judas being rebuked by  Jesus after his greed-motivated remark to Mary (John  12:1-8), Judas’ denial of his betrayal (Matthew  26:25), and the betrayal itself (Luke 22:48).

Third, Judas was consumed with greed to the point of betraying the  trust of not only Jesus, but also his fellow disciples, as we see in John 12:5-6. Judas may have desired to follow Jesus  simply because he saw the great following and believed he could profit from  collections taken for the group. The fact that Judas was in charge of the  moneybag for the group would indicate his interest in money (John 13:29).

Additionally, Judas, like most  people at the time, believed the Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation  and take a position of power ruling over the nation of Israel. Judas may have  followed Jesus hoping to benefit from association with Him as the new reigning  political power. No doubt he expected to be among the ruling elite after the  revolution. By the time of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus had made it clear that He  planned to die, not start a rebellion against Rome. So Judas may have  assumed—just as the Pharisees did—that since He would not overthrow the Romans,  He must not be the Messiah they were expecting.

There are a few Old  Testament verses that point to the betrayal, some more specifically than others.  Here are two:

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my  bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9,  see fulfillment in Matthew  26:14, 48-49).  Also, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’  So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to  the potter’—the handsome price at which they priced me!’ So I took the thirty  pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter” (Zechariah  11:12-13; see Matthew  27:3-5 for the fulfillment of the Zechariah prophecy). These Old Testament  prophecies indicate that Judas’ betrayal was known to God and that it was  sovereignly planned beforehand as the means by which Jesus would be  killed.

But if Judas’ betrayal was known to God, did Judas have a  choice, and is he held responsible for his part in the betrayal? It is difficult  for many to reconcile the concept of “free will” (as most people understand it)  with God’s foreknowledge of future events, and this is largely due to our  limited experience of going through time in a linear fashion. If we see God as  existing outside of time, since He created everything before “time” began, then  we can understand that God sees every moment in time as the present. We  experience time in a linear way—we see time as a straight line, and we pass from  one point gradually to another, remembering the past we have already traveled  through, but unable to see the future we are approaching. However, God, being  the eternal Creator of the construct of time, is not “in time” or on the  timeline, but outside of it. It might help to think of time (in relation to God)  as a circle with God being the center and therefore equally close to all  points.

In any case, Judas had the full capacity of making his choice—at  least up to the point where “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27)—and God’s foreknowledge (John 13:10, 18, 21) in no way supersedes Judas’ ability to make any given  choice. Rather, what Judas would choose eventually, God saw as if it was a  present observation, and Jesus made it clear that Judas was responsible for his  choice and would be held accountable for it. “I tell you the truth, one of you  will betray me—one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18).  Notice that Jesus characterizes Judas’ participation as a betrayal. And  regarding accountability for this betrayal Jesus said, “Woe to that man who  betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mark 14:21). Satan, too, had  a part in this, as we see in John  13:26-27, and he, too, will be held accountable for his deeds. God in His  wisdom was able, as always, to manipulate even Satan’s rebellion for the benefit  of mankind. Satan helped send Jesus to the cross, and on the cross sin and death  were defeated, and now God’s provision of salvation is freely available to all  who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.

The Bible clearly indicates that Judas was not saved. Jesus Himself said of  Judas, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that  man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been  born” (Matthew  26:24). Here is a clear picture of the sovereignty of God and the will of  man working together. God had, from ages past, determined that Christ would be  betrayed by Judas, die on the cross for our sins, and be resurrected. This is  what Jesus meant when He said He would “go just as it is written about him.”  Nothing would stop the plan of God to provide salvation for mankind.

However, the fact that it was all foreordained does not excuse Judas or absolve  him from the punishment he would suffer for his part in the drama. Judas made  his own choices, and they were the source of his own damnation. Yet the choices  fit perfectly into the sovereign plan of God. God controls not only the good,  but also the evil of man to accomplish His own ends. Here we see Jesus  condemning Judas, but considering that Judas travelled with Jesus for nearly  three years, we know He also gave Judas ample opportunity for salvation and  repentance. Even after his dreadful deed, Judas could have fallen on his knees  to beg God’s forgiveness. But he did not. He may have felt some remorse born of  fear, which caused him to return the money to the Pharisees, but he never  repented, preferring instead to commit suicide, the ultimate act of selfishness  (Matthew  27:5-8).

In John 17:12,  Jesus prays concerning His disciples, “While I was with them, I protected them  and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one  doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” At one time,  though, Judas believed that Jesus was a prophet, or possibly even believed He  was the Messiah. Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim the gospel and perform  miracles (Luke 9:1-6).  Judas was included in this group. Judas had faith, but it was not a true saving  faith. Judas was never “saved,” but for a time he was a follower of  Christ.