YOU’RE A JUDAS! What a most loathsome and unwelcome defamation. No matter how egregious the offense of which one might be accused, to bear above that the weight of being a Judas is to bear a weight too heavy to be borne. Down through history others have worn the ugly badge of traitor. Benedict Arnold betrayed Americans. Guy Fawkes committed treason against the British Crown. Brutus betrayed Julius Caesar. Ephialtes betrayed the Spartans. But to wear the name of “Judas” is to wear a name that is particularly associated with the most despicable and personal kind of treachery.
Judas, meaning “Praise,” is the Greek form of the popular Hebrew name Judah (cf. Matt. 1:2) The name of Judas was actually a very popular and common name in the first century. Six people mentioned in the New Testament wear the name Judas (Iscariot; the other apostle named Judas, or Thaddaeus – Luke 6:16; Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; the brother of Jesus – Matt. 13:55; the Galilean who led a Jewish rebellion – Acts 5:37; the Damascene, with whom the apostle Paul stayed – Acts 9:11 and Judas Barsabbas – Acts 15:22). In 2016, however, it was number 4,362 on the list of popular boy names in America. Not too many women are in a rush to name their boys Judas.
The meaning of the name Iscariot is still disputed by some. Most Biblical scholars probably associate it as identifying the location from which Judas came, namely, Kerioth in Judah (Josh. 15:25), the man of Kerioth (Ish Kerioth). Since Kerioth was in Judah, Judas was the only one of the twelve apostles to be other than Galilean (Acts 1:11; 2:7). This may have caused some isolation on his part and, consequently, resentment. Others argue that Iscariot refers to a “man of murder” or that he was part of an assassin’s group known as the Sicarii, but this group was probably too late for Judas to have been associated with it.
We are not told how or when Judas became a disciple or whether or not he was first a follower of John. In His second year, after He continued all night in prayer to God, Jesus carefully chose twelve of His disciples to be His apostles (Luke 6:12,13). He also at this time gave them power against unclean spirits and to heal all manner of sickness and disease (Matt. 10:1-15). Judas was one of those men the Lord chose and one of those to whom He gave this great power. Was Judas sincere when the Lord prayerfully chose him? It is entirely possible that Judas was sincere at first, though not necessarily the case. It is possible that a man may fall so far so fast.
Whatever else may be obscure about him, the scripture is clear as to his character after he was chosen to be an apostle. Judas was apparently enamored of money. He was the treasurer for the Lord, the one who held the bag of money which was used to support the Lord and His apostles (John 12:6) which was received at the hands of certain benefactors (Luke 8:3). John plainly says that he was a thief who had no concern for the poor. He was not moved in the least by Mary’s loving treatment of Jesus in lieu of his impending death, but was more concerned with the money he believed was being wasted (John 12:3-5). Mark said he had “indignation” at this “waste” (Mark 14:4). Jesus rebuked Him for his misplaced priorities and abuse of Mary.
Although it is entirely possible that Judas was sincere when the Lord chose him, Jesus nevertheless knew what would ultimately transpire from the beginning and who would betray Him (John 6:64). He spoke of Judas as a devil (John 6:70,71). Whether or not Judas knew what he would do from the beginning is unknown, but he did know what he would do at least two days before he did it (Mark 14:1-5). Certainly these ideas had to be building up inside of him for some time and Jesus’ rebuke of his greed must have been the tipping point. From that time on, he “sought how he might conveniently betray Him” (Mark 14:11). He intentionally “went to the chief priests to betray Him unto them all for the promise of money.
In Old Testament history, David was betrayed by his close advisor, Ahithophel (II Sam. 15:31). In writing about this incident, David wrote, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). The Lord, troubled in His spirit at the thought, quotes this passage and applies it to His own betrayal (John 13:18-21). After Jesus shared bread with Judas, fulfilling the prophecy, satan entered into Judas and he went out to betray the Lord (John 13:24-30). Jesus’ quote of this prophecy reiterates the deep sense of hurt Jesus felt at Judas’ betrayal.
We can’t know if there were any other motives beside greed that moved Judas to betray the Lord of if he had any expectations that Jesus would deliver Himself by a miracle, as many a commentator has supposed, but we do know that Judas’ betrayal did not come without some very strong feelings of guilt and remorse. When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and threw the blood money back at the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27:3-5). Apparently, Jesus’ death was not his goal. But seeing that would be the outcome, he took his own life and went unto his own place (Matt. 27:5; Acts 1:25).
While Judas acknowledged his guilt, his sorrow was not of the godly sort leading to salvation (II Cor. 7:10).
Eric L. Padgett