“And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come? Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him” (Matt 26:47-50).
Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, has always intrigued Bible students. Why did Judas choose to follow Jesus? Why did Jesus choose Judas to be one of His apostles? Was Judas foreordained to betray Jesus and had no choice in the matter? At what point did Judas turn from the Lord? Did Judas really repent when he returned the blood money? Could Judas have been forgiven if he had truly repented? What does the Bible tell us about the man Judas?
Judas was a Jew from Kerioth (Iscariot) which means he was the only apostle who was not a Galilean (Josh 15:20-25). His father’s name was Simon (Jn 12:4). He was chosen, along with eleven other disciples, to be an apostle (Lk 6:12-16). He is named last in the lists of apostles and the phrase “who also betrayed Him” follows his name (Matt. 10:4 ff; Mk 3:19; Lk 6:16).
WHY DID JUDAS CHOOSE TO FOLLOW JESUS?
We can only surmise because the Bible does not tell us why Judas followed our Lord and Savior. Perhaps Judas was looking for a Messiah who would lead the Jews in a revolt to overthrow Roman rule? Perhaps Judas was impressed by the miracles he saw Jesus work? Perhaps he really and truly believed in Jesus at the first? Jesus’ treatment of Judas indicates that Judas was once a faithful and accepted apostle. He was sent out to preach “the kingdom is at hand” along with the other apostles (Matt. 10:5). He was given the same power to work miracles as the other apostles (Matt. 10:8). Judas’ example shows that even an apostle could fall from grace (1 Cor. 10:12 f; Gal. 5:4).
WHY DID JESUS CHOOSE JUDAS TO BE AN APOSTLE?
Did not Jesus know that Judas would betray Him? There were some things Jesus did not know when He was in the flesh (Mk 13:32). Jesus did know the nature of men (Jn 2:24, 25). He could also read men’s thoughts (Jn 3:3,4 f; Mk 2:8). Judas must have been a good man when Jesus first chose him.
DID JUDAS HAVE A CHOICE IN THE
MATTER OF BETRAYING JESUS?
Judas’ treachery was prophesied in the Scriptures, but he was not mentioned by name in the prophecies (Jn 17:12). The Psalmist David foretold Jesus’ betrayal by a friend: “Even My own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate My bread, has lifted up his heel against Me” (Ps. 41:9 f; Jn 13:21-30). Zechariah foretold Jesus would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12,13 f; Matt. 27:3-10).
The prophets simply foretold what God knew would happen. God did not will it to happen, but He worked through Judas. Judas had free will and ultimately it was His choice. God can know what will happen in the future if He chooses. However, He does not force men to do His will. He knows what men are, who will likely serve Him, and who will serve Satan. Judas was the kind of individual who gives in to Satan. He could have resisted the Devil at any point if he had wished to do so (Jam 4:7).
AT WHAT POINT DID JUDAS TURN FROM THE LORD?
The first time a flaw is seen in Judas was in Bethany (Jn 12:1-8). Jesus and His apostles were guests in a home where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were also present. Mary took a pound of a very costly oil and anointed Jesus’ feet.
Judas demanded: “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He was the treasurer of the apostles, but he was also a thief and stole from the money box. Would he have been chosen treasurer if it was known he was already a thief? People who have a weakness should not be put in a position of temptation if their weakness is known.
After this, Judas made his bargain with the priests to betray Jesus. At the Last Supper, the Devil “had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (Jn 13:2). He had already arranged with the priests to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-17). When Jesus gave Judas the sop at the Last Supper, “Satan entered him,” and he did not resist him (Jam 4:7).
DID JUDAS REALLY REPENT?
When he saw Jesus was going to be crucified, he tried to return the price paid for the betrayal (Matt. 27:3-10). He “was remorseful”. True repentance is not simply being sorry for sin. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin which results in a change of life: “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).
Contrast the difference between Peter and Judas. Judas regretted his sin and hanged himself. Peter wept bitterly for denying His Lord but served Him for the rest of His life. Peter repented, but Judas did not!
Conclusion: Jesus called Judas “Friend” even when He betrayed Him with a kiss. Judas could have been forgiven even then if he had repented. We too can be forgiven if we truly repent and obey (Acts 2:38 cf; 8:22).