Question: Why Was Jesus Betrayed By Judas Iscariot?
Answer: One of the darkest moments in all of recorded history is the betrayal of Jesus Christ by one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot. There are a number of lessons to be learned from this hideous deed of Judas.

Jesus Predicted His Death

When the disciples came to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus made it clear that His death would be occurring in a few days. Matthew writes.

When Jesus had finished saying all this, He told His disciples, “You know that the Passover takes place after two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matthew 26:1-2 HCSB).

Here we have the specific prediction of Jesus Christ that His death would be during the time of the Passover; not before, not afterward.

Realizing this, Judas went to the chief priests for the purpose of betraying Jesus to them. Matthew records the following.

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him (Matthew 26:14-16 NRSV).
Judas has agreed to betray Jesus for a certain amount of money. Consequently, he was looking for a time in which he could fulfill his agreement.

On the night when Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Last Supper, Judas plotted with the religious rulers to take them to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there in the garden that Jesus was betrayed and arrested.

Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?

The question which always comes up concerns “why.” Why did he do it? If Jesus clearly demonstrated that He was the Son of God, then why did one of His own disciples betray Him? There have been a number of views put forth to explain why Judas did this.

1. It Was Foreordained: But Judas Still Had Choice

One view says that Judas was foreordained as a traitor, and could do nothing about it. The Bible says that Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him. He said to His disciples.

Yet there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him (John 6:64 NIV).

Though Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas would betray Him, it does not mean He caused Judas to do it. Judas acted on his own accord. He was not just a pawn, or puppet, in God’s hands. Judas chose to betray Jesus.

2. Was Judas A Fanatical Believer?

Another view argues that Judas was a fanatical believer in Jesus who wanted to force His hand by betraying Him. Handing Jesus over to the religious leaders would supposedly force Jesus to set up His Messianic kingdom. But this view does not square with the facts. Judas asked the chief priests for money for the betrayal, which is hardly in keeping with such “pure” spiritual motives. Moreover, the Gospels refer to Judas as a thief and a betrayer. Hardly the designation one would expect for a fanatical believer.

3. Was Judas A Superpatriot?

Others have considered Judas a superpatriot who wanted to use Jesus as a means to revolt against their Roman oppressors. But this does not fit the facts for the reasons mentioned above. There is no indication that Judas had any other motive but greed.

4. He Was A Thief

This brings us to the likely explanation. Judas was a thief whose ambition was to have power and money. The gospel of John gives us some insight into his character.

Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples-- the one who would betray him-- said, “That perfume was worth a small fortune. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor-- he was a thief who was in charge of the disciples’ funds, and he often took some for his own use (John 12:3-6 NLT).

By aligning himself close to Jesus, Judas believed that He would receive a prominent place in the kingdom. When Jesus talked about dying, Judas realized the kingdom was not going to come immediately.

Therefore, he gained what he could by betraying Jesus. Judas did not ever believe in Jesus. He never referred to Jesus as Lord but rather as “master” or “teacher.” Judas is an example of one who follows Jesus for all the wrong reasons. Jesus gave Judas’ epitaph.

For I, the Son of Man, must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for my betrayer. Far better for him if he had never been born (Matthew 26:24 NLT).

Judas was indeed a tragic figure but a tragic figure of his own making. Indeed, he willingly chose to betray the One who would die for the sins of the world; including the sin of the person betraying Him. This will forever be how this person is remembered.

Summary To Question 40 Why Was Jesus Betrayed By Judas Iscariot?

One of the most well-known events in the life of Jesus Christ is His betrayal by Judas Iscariot for thirty pieces of silver. The fact of the betrayal by Judas is beyond all doubt. The question is why did Judas do something like this?

Jesus had predicted His betrayal by one of His disciples. He then specifically said that Judas would be that disciple. Different motives have been ascribed to Judas for doing this terrible deed. They include the following.

It has been contended that Judas was some fanatical believer who wanted Jesus to immediately set up His kingdom. However, there is no evidence of this whatsoever. The fact that Judas wanted money for turning Jesus over to the religious leaders refutes the idea of any pure motive.

Some have argued that he was a superpatriot who was attempting to force Jesus to revolt against the Romans. Again, we have the problem of Judas taking the money for betraying Jesus.

While people continue to make excuses for Judas to why he betrayed Jesus there are no excuses. Judas was called a thief by John in his gospel. This man who betrayed Jesus never really believed in Him as his Lord.

The truth is that the betrayal of Jesus was for Judas’ own benefit. He thought that he could profit by this horrible deed.

The fact that Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him does not remove the responsibility from Judas. He betrayed Jesus because he chose to. Jesus Himself stated that it would have been better if Judas had not been born.

This question is from my forthcoming book “The Life And Ministry Of Jesus Christ”


Don Stewart is an internationally recognized Christian apologist and speaker. He graduated cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary and the International Seminar in Theology and Law in Strasbourg, France, as well as from Biola University. Don is also a best-selling and award-winning author/co-author of over seventy books. [ read more ]


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