Judas was a thief. The Bible is plain about this (John 12:6). He did not care for the poor and apparently was afflicted with the root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). Another flaw in Judas’ character was that he was hypocritical. He appeared to be concerned about the poor, he made a big speech about how the poor might have been served, when in reality he was simply money hungry (John 12:5,6). The facade worked, for some believed the act (cf. John 13:29). But what is more, he exhibited the ultimate in hypocrisy, when he would betray his Master with an apparent act of sincere friendship (Matt. 26:48; Luke 22:47,48).
Jesus’ words concerning him show the underlying fault in his character. Jesus said that there were some with Him at that time who did not believe and then, John added, that Jesus knew who it was that would betray Him (John 6:64). Later, in the same context, Jesus said “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). Again, John adds “He spake of Judas Iscariot” (John 6:71). Later, Jesus identified Judas as the son of perdition (John 17:12). Peter would identify the character of Judas by observing that Judas would go to his own place (Acts 1:25).
His act of betrayal became notorious, apparently becoming known to all in Jerusalem (Acts 1:19). The field which was purchased with the blood money became popularly known as “the field of blood” (Acts 1:19). The seriousness of this act of betrayal is revealed by the Lord when He said that it would have been better for that man who betrayed Him if he had never been born (Matt. 26:24)!
It seems that Judas went to make arrangements for the betrayal of Jesus immediately after he, along with a few others, protested the use of the oil for the anointing of Jesus (Matt. 26:6-16). It was from this time he sought opportunity to betray the Lord (Matt. 26:16). When Jesus washed the disciples feet, He told them that they were clean, but not all, indicating that one of them would betray Him (John 13:10,11). Jesus then quotes David’s Psalm about Ahithophel, David’s close advisor who turned on him (Psalm 41:9), “He that eateth bread with Me, hath lifted up his heel against Me” (John 13:18).
Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:18). This act of betrayal did not take Jesus by surprise. He had been warning the apostles that He would be betrayed and delivered to the Jews and crucified, but perhaps they did not know how close it would be to them. When Jesus finally said to them on the night of His betrayal, “One of you shall betray Me,” they all asked, “Lord is it I?” (Matt. 26:21,22). When Judas asked privately, probably to throw off suspicion from himself, “Master, is it I,” Jesus told him “Thou hast said” and “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27). He went out immediately (John 13:30).
One would like to think that Judas had some ulterior motive, some good reason in his own mind, to do what he did. But the Bible does not give us one. Jesus chose Judas even though He knew from the beginning he would betray Him. He gave Judas every opportunity to change. His many teachings on the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matt. 12:22,23; Luke 16:11; Matt. 6:19-34; etc.) should have moved Judas, but his heart became too hardened.
But there must have been some kernel of good in Judas. There was at least enough for him to feel remorse for betraying the Lord, when he saw that He was condemned (Matt. 27:3). While he must have known the intent of the chief priests to do Jesus harm, perhaps he thought Jesus would extricate Himself from this trial as He had at other times (e.g., Luke 4:28-30). In the end, his conscience overwhelmed him and he wanted to somehow remove the guilt he felt for his crime. When he threw back the blood-money into the temple he proclaimed “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4), confessing Jesus’ innocence and his own guilt.
The Bible tells us that Judas “repented himself” (Matt. 27:3). The word used here indicates a sorrow, but not for the sin, but for the consequences, of his actions. His sorrow was not of the godly sort (II Cor. 7:8-11). He did not sorrow unto repentance. Perhaps Judas never did fully understand Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps he was just weak and took the easy way out. The harder way would have been Peter’s way, to live with a knowledge of his sin and serve his Lord and acknowledge his forgiveness.
Eric L. Padgett