Why Judas Betrayed Jesus

Marie-Claire De Villiers
By Marie-Claire De Villiers
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published February 10, 2022.

A hammer, nail and crown of thorns lie on the ground

Judas is one of the most important figures in the story of Jesus, and we know that Jesus trusted him from several bible passages. For hundreds of years, theologists have debated why the betrayal took place, with some even arguing that it was part of the destiny of Christ; an important one at that.

The theme of freedom will also arise in the discussion due to the passage, "Satan entered into him." We take a closer look at the story.

What We Know About Judas

Judas was one of Jesus' twelve disciples. In Hebrew, "Judah" translates roughly from Greek as "Praise," "Let God be praised," or "God is thanked." This was a common name in the first century AD, used to honor Judas Maccabeus, and was used for other characters in the New Testament.

He came from Iscariot and used the town as his surname. Interestingly enough, he is the only apostle who identifies by his origin: A town believed to be located in Judea, south of Jerusalem. Some records claim that he was Jesus's most trusted disciple, and yet there is also evidence that Jesus knew one of his disciples would betray him.

The Betrayal of Jesus

In the Gospel of John, during the famous Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him:

Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish. -John 6:70

Jesus then dipped a piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas. The Bible then states that "Satan entered into him" (John 13:21-27).

Several other passages in the Bible indicate the coming betrayal, including Matthew 26:21:

Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.

How Judas Betrayed Jesus

While Jesus was in the Jerusalem-Bethany area for Passover, Satan entered into Judas, according to Luke 22:3-5:

Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.

As told by the New Testament, the betrayal began with Judas planting a kiss on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in order to identify him to the Romans. This put into motion the series of events later referred to as the Passion of the Christ (his arrest, trial, death by crucifixion, and resurrection).

Why Judas Betrayed Jesus

According to John 12:6:

Judas was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

However, he was the trusted treasurer and thus in a unique position to take advantage of the situation.

Other researchers, scholars, and holy people have argued for a more political motive. Judas wanted to form a rebellion against the Romans and reestablish an independent Israel. Jesus didn't show interest in this idea - a possible reason Judas decided to hand him to the authorities.

Some writers have toyed with the concept that Jesus didn't fit the particular idea of what or who an ideal Messiah should be.

Some people feel that the passage stating that Satan entered into him would indicate that he did not betray Jesus of his own free will.

Why Did Jesus Forgive and Pray for Peter and Not Judas?

Peter also betrayed Jesus, but the situation was a little different. He disobeyed Jesus' instruction to watch and pray on the last night in Gethsemane. However, he repented immediately (Matthew 26:75). Later, he showed enormous faith and dedication by speaking to the crowds after the resurrection (Acts 2:14), gaining around 3000 new followers for the church. He suffered imprisonment, beatings, and ultimately death in the name of Christ.

Judas, however, never asked forgiveness of Jesus or God. He showed guilt, perhaps. According to Matthew 27:3, he "was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders," meaning that he returned the reward he received for betraying Jesus. He eventually killed himself, but he never repented. He also carried out his betrayal in a brazenly disrespectful manner: a kiss.

Significance of Judas’ Betrayal

God allowed Judas to betray Jesus as, without Judas, there would be no Resurrection. Theories relating to the betrayal indicate a different underlying story about Judas' and Jesus' relationship.

The Gospel of Judas (discovered by the National Geographic Society in 2006) paints an interesting picture, whereby Jesus asked Judas to betray him so that he could carry out his fate and save humanity.

What is your take?