Judas The Betrayer
Judas in the Gospels
Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon (Jhn13:2), was one of the twelve disciples chosen by the Lord Christ. He was called “Iscariot”, which means “a man from Kerioth” referring to his city (Josh15:25) or it may means “a murderer”. This name is used to differentiate him from Judas, one of the Lord’s brothers (Matt13:55; MK6:3) who was one of the disciples, and was called “Judas, not Iscariot” (Jhn14:22) and “Judas the brother of James” (Lk16:6). Judas Iscariot witnessed the marvelous miracles of Christ, which proves His divinity, heard His spiritual teachings, and listened to His responses to the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Lawyers who tried to entangle Christ in His talk. Judas watched the way Christ dealt with His beloved and enemies, followers and disbelievers, repentant sinners and those who trusted in themselves that they are righteous. It was clear to Judas the meekness and humbleness of Christ, beside all other virtues in its perfection.
The Good Master chose Judas to be one of His disciples, in spite of His previous knowledge about Judas’ wicked nature, as Christ said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve” (Jhn6:70,71). Like the other disciples, He sent Judas to preach; Jesus gave him the authority to cast out demons and to heal the sick (Matt 10:1). Jesus also gave him the special responsibility of carrying the donation box, spending from it for the needy, and buying the disciples’ necessities as for the Passover feast (Jhn13:29). Although Jesus knew that Judas did not care about the needy because he was a thief (Jhn12:6), Jesus tried to let Judas get rid of his greed and love of money. Christ also did not reveal Judas’ crimes; He didn’t expose him before the other disciples, He didn’t withdraw the box from him or cancel his responsibility, but he kept this responsibility till his death. Jesus did not reject Judas’ discipleship even after agreeing to betray Him, but He let him to attend their gatherings, and to know His news as one of the near by. It was obvious that Judas was very near to Christ on the table that he was able to dip his hand with Him in the same dish (Matt26:23). Out of His humility, the Lord washed Judas’ feet in love, equitable to the other disciples.
The Lord allowed all those special treatments of love, which could have lead Judas to feel ashamed and return, but Judas gained nothing and sold his Master, his spiritual Father and guide, and friend who lived with for three years while listening to His teachings and seeing His miracles which had led many to believe. Non of these affected Judas or prevented his betrayal from happening. Thus the prophecy in the Psalm which says, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Ps41:9) was fulfilled.
What made the situation worse was that the High Priests did not seek to seduce Judas, but Judas tried to convince and sell his Master to the High Priests. They didn’t think for a moment that one of Christ’s disciples, this familiar friend to Him, could betray Him! So he went to them asking, “What are you willing to give me, if I delivered Him to you?” (Matt 26:14-16). Judas sold his Master as a slave for thirty pieces of silver, a very cheap price. The reason Judas was given this cheap price is because he offered the trade asking for a price. If Judas was offered millions, we could say that he was tempted by the love of money, but this little amount indicates that Christ was very cheap in his sight.
Here, we should mention with pride the women who poured the very expensive fragrant oil on Christ’s body on different occasions. Judas valued the oil at more than three hundred denarii (Jhn12:1-6; Matt26:6-13; Lk7:36-50). In contrary, this expensive oil didn’t seduce the women into changing their sacred desires.
Judas continued his betrayal, for two days, without any rebuke from his conscious. If it happened suddenly, we can say that he had no opportunity to judge himself and return. However, instead of returning, he was thinking how to implement his idea “Then he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them” (Lk22:6) in spite of all the warnings of the Lord given to him, and beside what was written about him in the prophecies. Out of love, Christ tried to stimulate Judas’ heart by some warnings; so, he would not be alone at his trial.
- After washing the disciples’ feet, He warned him that he lost the purity of his heart saying, “You are clean, but not all of you. For He knew who would betray Him” (Jhn13:10,11). But Judas did not care.
- During the Passover supper, He said, “The Son of Man goes as it written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:24). But Judas was not afraid.
- The Lord became more specific, when He said, “One of you will betray me” to “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me” (Matt26:21,23). But Judas’ heart did not move.
- Jesus identified Judas when He said, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it. And having dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot” (Jhn13:26). But Judas did not return.
- Finally, Judas asked Jesus, “Rabbi, is it I?” and the Lord replied, “You have said it” (Matt 26:25). But Judas did not repent, and then Satan entered him (Jhn13:27) as he entered Judas earlier leading him to agree on betraying Christ.
- Then Jesus said to him rebuking, “What you do, do quickly” (Jhn13:27). It was an opportunity to lay himself down at Jesus’ feet to say, “Forgive me, I will not do anything”… But Judas did not repent, and he had gone out to fulfill his plan. Thus, Judas separated himself, by this act, from the Lord and His disciples forever.
- The last personal expression of love by the Lord, was while Judas was betraying Him, He said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” This was the last sentence he had heard from Christ’s mouth, and it was the last time Judas would ever accompany Jesus.
Finally, after condemning Christ, Judas’ conscious was awakened, which might have been because of these warnings from Jesus. Judas returned the silver to the chief priest saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matt27:3,4). Being remorseful did not protect him from watching the consequences of his betrayal, for which he suffered deeply. Satan didn’t leave Judas to rebuke his sins which could have lead him to repent and gain forgiveness, so he continued his work with Judas, in particular to prevent him from being affected by the words of Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”. Although Judas knew what he was doing; because Christ warned him of the danger of his act. Thus, Satan led him to desperation, and accordingly to death. His tragedy ended with Judas hanging himself (Matt27:5) as Jesus mentioning, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born”.
We may ask, what is the difference between Peter and Judas? Peter denied Christ out of weakness and fear, while his heart loved Him (Jhn21:17). But Judas’ heart had no such love but had the love of money which “is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1Tim6:10). There was no danger for Judas to fear, as Peter did, but he planned by himself the betrayal of Christ. In addition, St. Peter didn’t loose hope in his salvation, but rather he repented with precious and bitter tears before God, while Judas ended his life by himself out of desperation, forgetting the words of the Lord, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk13:5,7).
Loss is the end of betrayal; as Judas lost everything. He lost Christ, his apostleship, his silver, the chief priest, the heaven and earth, his eternity, and his reputation since he became the shameful symbol of betrayal in all of humankind’s history.
Judas: a betrayal or faithful
The main core of one of the Gnostic writings, called “Gospel of Judas”, a Coptic manuscript from the 3rd or 4th century recently discovered in Egypt, is to show Judas as the faithful disciple for his Master; who did well by fulfilling Christ’s desire and obeying His commands. The writer of this book proclaims tat the Lord Christ asked Judas to deliver Him to fulfill His heavenly objective through His death upon the cross for the salvation of mankind. Thus, it shows Judas as the most faithful disciple than any of the others, that the Lord entrusted him with this mission, while giving him the mysteries of the kingdom, and foretold him that he will be cursed from many!
The “Gospel of Judas” was rejected by all the early and current churches, since the 3rd century till now, to be one of the inspired Gospels by the Holy Spirit. Let us discuss these allegations through the divine truth, received from our fathers the apostles who lived, witnessed and wrote their Gospels to us by the Holy Spirit (2Pet1:21), which were canonized and agreed upon in all the Christian world.
- It was possible that the plan of salvation could be fulfilled without Judas’ role, or any one else, to deliver Christ. Many times, they demanded to catch Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not come (Jhn7:30, 44; 8:20). Therefore, the Lord Christ, at the time of betrayal, said, “When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me, but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk22:53). Thus, they were not able to seize Him because His hour didn’t come; but when it comes, they were able to do so, and without the need of Judas’ role. So, what is the reason behind the proclaimed agreement between Jesus and Judas to seize Him, at the time that salvation could be fulfilled without Judas help?! And what is the reason that the Lord choose one of His beloved disciples (Jhn13:1) to be a symbol of betrayal?
- Is Judas’ role, to deliver his Master, a source of pride or shame? Suppose it is a source of pride, specially if he was fulfilling his Master’s order, so what is the reason for him to receive from the Lord woefulness instead of blessedness, who said, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt26:24). Is woefulness the reward for him who obeyed and did well?!
- Let us assume that Judas was the most faithful among the disciples, the obedient for his Master and the trusted person on His secrets. So, for what reason the Lord didn’t consider him to be pure like the other disciples, by saying, “You are clean, but not all of you”. St. John commented by saying, “For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean’” (Jhn13:10,11)… For what reason did the Lord praise His disciples, excluding Judas, by saying, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen, but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me’” (Jhn13:17,18)… For what reason the Lord called him “the son of perdition” by saying, “Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled” (Jhn17:12)… For what reason did the Lord not count Judas among His believers, by saying, “But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him” (Jhn6:64)… What is the reason for Christ to rebuke Judas for his act by saying, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk22:48)… Why did He consider that a great sin, if Judas was fulfilling his Master’s desire for a heavenly purpose, by saying to Pilate, “Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (Jhn19:11).
- It is impossible that the Lord Christ could entrust him, from among the rest of the disciples, with the mysteries of the kingdom, while he was not faithful on the fund of the poor! If he was not faithful in what is least, he will not be faithful also in much; and if he had not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give him what is his own (Lk16:10-12)? It is not logical that the Lord rewards an unrepentant thief, preferring him over the rest of the disciples to reveal His mysteries to him! What was the reason that He entrusted only Judas for the mysteries of the kingdom, while He knew that Judas’ life will be ended by committing suicide without having a chance to preach the Gospel to every creature?! It was right that mysteries of the kingdom should be revealed to those who will preach them. This really happened during the forty days after Christ’s resurrection; when He talked with His disciples (without Judas) about the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Act1:3).
- The Lord prophesied about Judas’ betrayal during the Passover, by saying to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me. And they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Matt26:21). If such proclaimed agreement between Jesus and Judas had happened, thus, talking later about it is not considered a prophecy! And if such agreement happened secretly between Jesus and Judas, how could Jesus reveal that secret by those words about Judas?! Why had he not relieved His disciples from their sorrow to comfort them by revealing the details of that agreement, especially after talking about the person who will accomplish it?! Since such agreement became public, why did the four Evangelists not mention anything about this agreement? In contrary, the evangelists talked about Judas, being the traitor, and not the honored hero, who was planning to betray Him (Jhn12:4; Matt10:4; Mk3:19; Lk6:16).
- Delivering Jesus by Judas was not Jesus idea, which they both agreed upon; but rather it was the devil’s idea who had put it into Judas’ heart, as it was said, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (Jhn13:2), and Satan entered him after he took the peace of bread (Jhn13:27), pushing him to do what he did. “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So Judas went his own way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Jesus to them. And they were glad” (Lk22:3-5). This fact was emphasized by the Lord as He said about Judas, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve” (Jhn6:70,71).
- This agreement to deliver Jesus happened between Judas and the chief priests, not between Jesus and Judas. So, Judas went by himself to them, asking about the price of delivering Jesus to them. After he agreed with them, he sought an opportunity to betray Him (Matt26:14-16; Mk14:10,11; Lk22:6). His motive was for the love of money, which was obvious during the anointing of the Lord with the fragrant oil, and was proved by the Evangelist who depicted him to be a thief and not trust worthy to keep the box. Considering that his objective was to accomplish the divine plan for the salvation of mankind, he could had been able to achieve it without looking for a materialistic reward, and it could also had been done openly without seeking opportunity, especially if he was fulfilling his Master’s desire.
- We may wonder why did Christ keep the place in which He will eat the Passover with His disciples a secret from Judas, the trusted one for the mysteries of the kingdom as it was proclaimed (Matt26:17,28; Mk14:14-16; Lk22:10-12)? Christ intended to keep it secret so that Judas could not know it, leading to catch Him before fulfilling the Passover and establishing the Eucharist. Suppose there was a previous agreement between them, then Christ would have been able to settle the time of being delivered after establishing the Eucharist.
- Why was Judas remorseful when he saw Jesus had been condemned? Fulfilling the desire of the Lord Christ shouldn’t request any remorse at all, but rather joy and pride!! Also, why did he bring back the thirty pieces of silver, confessing his sinful act by saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matt27:3,4)? Bringing back the silver was an attempt to undo his action and release his Master. Judas thought that he was able to let Christ go free, but he failed. This makes us wonder, why did he change his mind trying to save his Master, if he foreknew his Master’s desire, which he had fulfilled, according to their previous agreement, to please Him?!
- Why did Judas end his life with desperation that led him to sin by killing himself; which is a sin leading to death, for which we shouldn’t pray (1Jhn5:16)? Is this the honorary end for the life of a faithful disciple, who accomplished his Master’s desire playing an extremely great role for the salvation of mankind?! And why didn’t he repent like Peter with bitter tears, instead of turning desperate?! Didn’t he listen to the saying of his Master, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk13:5)?
- If Judas played a glorious role, why was he not praised by St. Peter, who, in contrary, quoted the Psalm prophesied about Judas future, “Let his habitation be desolate, and let no one live in it, and let another take his office” (Act1:20)!!
Judas in the prophecies:
There are many prophecies from the Old Testament that warned Judas against his act. They mention its details accurately, and declared its serious consequences, hundreds of years before it’s occurrence. Among them:
- “Whoever teaches a fool is like one who glues potsherds together, or who rouses a sleeper from deep slumber… Weep less bitterly for the dead, for he is at rest; but the life of the fool is worse than death. Mourning for the dead lasts seven days, but for the foolish or the ungodly it lasts all the days of their lives” (Sirach22:7,8). This prophecy pictured him as a foolish person for his act. Therefore, his life became worse than his death.
- “Keep your heart with all diligence. For out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you” (Prov4:23,24). Judas was shown through this prophecy, as being the unfaithful person with a deceitful mouth. The prophecy also declares that his ailing heart was the source of his betray.
- “Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov27:6). It fits perfectly on Judas with his deceitful kiss by which he betrayed Christ.
- “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; Cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse’- My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood” (Prov1:10-16). This was a warning for Judas to avoid plotting for the shedding of innocent blood for a gain.
- “The wicked plots against the just, and gnashing at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming” (Ps37:12,13). This prophecy pictured him as the wicked that plotted against the Just, and it declares that his punishment surely is coming.
- “He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Ps55:20,21). The accuracy of this prophecy is clear. Judas is the person with smooth and soft words, saying, “Greetings, Rabbi”, and gave the deceitful kiss which pierced the peaceful Christ, the King of peace, from His back in complete unfaithfulness and obvious betrayal.
- “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has magnified himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together” (Ps55:12,13). It was difficult because betrayal came, not from an enemy, but from a friend, a disciple, who had sweet counsel with He who loved him to the end.
- “If he comes to see me, he speaks vain words. His heart gathers iniquity to itself; when he goes out, he tells it. All who hate me whisper together against me; against me devise my hurt. ‘An evil disease’, they say, ‘clings to him. And now that he lies down he will rise up no more.’ Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps41:6-9). It is Judas’ mouth filled with vain words and his heart which gathered iniquity to itself against He who dealt with him in peace and love, who ate and drank with him on the same table.
- “For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful have opened against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause. In return for my love are my accusers. But I give myself to prayer. Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Set a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him be found guilty. And let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, and let another take his office... As he loved cursing, so let it come to him; as he did not delight in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, so let it enter his body like water, and like oil into his bones” (Ps109:2-18). These words described him being a man who was wicked, deceitful, guilty, lover of cursing, rejecter of blessing, and loser of his apostolic ministry. How harsh and accurate are these words. These are the same words quoted by St. Peter about Judas.
- “An enemy speaks sweetly with his lips, but in his heart he plans to throw you into a pit; an enemy may have tears in his eyes, but if he finds an opportunity he will never have enough of your blood” (Sirach12:13). According to this prophecy, Judas is hypocrite in his speech, a planner of slander and a bloody man.
- “Even if he should gather silver as dust, and prepare gold as clay… His house is gone like moths, and like a spider’s web” (Job27:16,18). He lost his life and eternity as he lost his silver and possessions.
- “Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’- that pricely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter” (Zach11:12,13). The prophecy reached its utmost clarity by mentioning the details of the betrayal agreement, the exact amount of silver pieces, and the name of the farm they bought.
Judas in the early church writings
The writings of the early church fathers (2nd - 4th centuries) turn down the ideas from the “Gospel of Judas”. They described Judas as a betrayer, greedy person, and a loser of his apostleship. Here are some examples:
- “They (i.e. the chief priests and leaders of the people), however, would have had no strength against Him unless He had permitted it. Yet this did not deliver Judas from unspeakable punishment. He even more exceedingly condemns himself by the manner of his betrayal, by the Lord’s meekness and leniency and gentleness” St. John Chrysostom.
- “O with what depravity had the traitor’s soul been inflamed! With what kind of eyes did he then look at his Master! With what mouth did he kiss Him! O accursed purpose! What sign did he devise? What did he dare? What source of clue of betrayal did he give? Whoever I kiss! He was emboldened by his Master’s gentleness. Yet it by itself was sufficient to shame him. The kiss deprived him of all excuse, for he was betraying One incomparably meek” St. John Chrysostom.
- “The disciples were indignant for the sake of the poor, but Judas for the sake of his own gain” St. Jerome concerning the indignation of both Judas and the disciples on pouring the fragrant oil.
- “And see how great is the wickedness of Judas, in that he comes unto them of his own accord, in that he does this for money, and for such a sum of money. Oh madness! How did covetousness altogether blind him! ... So great an evil is covetousness, this made him both a traitor, and a sacrilegious robber” St. John Chrysostom.
- “As for Judas, he is reproached by Christ for his false friendship. “Friend, why are you here!” We hear of no one who is good called by that name in the Scriptures. Moreover, to the wicked (Matt22:12; 20:13,14)” Origen.
- “To hang himself, this again was unpardonable and a work of an evil spirit” St. John Chrysostom
- “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” This was a charge against him” St. John Chrysostom.
Clearly, Judas had a wicked and corrupted nature. He had unfaithfulness which was not a temporary characteristic in his life. He had a deceitful heart (Jer17:9) which gathered iniquity to itself. Do not wonder when you see him betraying his Master because he already opened his heart for wickedness and became disloyal and a thief.
Truly, one neglected sin can lead to others since it is like yeast in the heart that it could end by betraying the Lord if the sin is not followed by pure repentance.