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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Was Jesus Betrayed by Judas Iscariot?

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Don Stewart

One of the darkest moments in all of history is the betrayal of Jesus by one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot. When the disciples came to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus made it clear that His death would be upcoming.

You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified (Matthew 26:2).

Realizing this, Judas went to the chief priests and said.

'What are you willing to give me if I deliver him to you?' And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray him (Matthew 26:15).

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?

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?

It Was Foreordained

There have been a number of views put forth to explain why Judas did this. One view says that Judas was foreordained as a traitor and could do nothing about it. Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him. He had said to His disciples,

'But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and would betray him (John 6:64).

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.

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 Him 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.

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.

He Was A Thief

This brings us to the likely explanation. Judas was a thief whose ambition was to have power and money. 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:

The Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).


Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus had predicted his betrayal by one of his disciples. Different motives have been ascribed to Judas for doing this terrible deed. It has been contended that Judas was some fanatical believer who wanted Jesus to immediately set up his kingdom. Some have argued that he was a superpatriot who was attempting to force Jesus to revolt against the Romans. While people continue to make excuses for Judas to why he betrayed Jesus there are no excuses. Judas was called a thief who never really believed in Jesus as his Lord. The betrayal of Jesus was for Judas' own benefit. Jesus Himself stated that it would have been better if Judas had not been born. The fact that Jesus knew that Judas would betray him does not remove the responsibility from Judas. He betrayed Jesus because he chose to.

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