Judas Iscariot - Betrayer of Jesus Christ

Was Judas Iscariot a Traitor or a Necessary Pawn?

Judas Iscariot
Judas Betraying Jesus With a Kiss by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Judas Iscariot is remembered for one thing: his betrayal of Jesus Christ. Even though Judas showed remorse later, his name became a symbol for traitors and turncoats throughout history. His motive seemed to be greed, but some scholars speculate political desires lurked beneath his treachery.

Questions for Reflection

Believers can benefit from thinking about Judas Iscariot's life and considering their own commitment to the Lord. Are we true followers of Christ or secret pretenders? And if we fail, do we give up all hope, or do we accept his forgiveness and seek restoration?

Judas was a common name in first-century Judaism meaning "praise the Lord." The last name, "Iscariot," signifies "man of Kerioth," a town in the south of Judea. This means Judas was the only one of the twelve not from Galilee. Of the Synoptic Gospels, Mark's reveals the least about Judas, attributing his actions to no particular motive. Judas is simply the one who handed Jesus over to the chief priests. Matthew's account gives more detail and paints Judas as an unscrupulous man. Luke goes even further, saying that Satan entered into Judas.

Judas Iscariot's Accomplishments

One of Jesus' original 12 disciples, Judas Iscariot traveled with Jesus and studied under him for three years. Like the other 11 disciples, Judas was called and sent by Jesus to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, cast out demons, and heal the sick.

Strengths

Judas felt remorse after he betrayed Jesus. He returned the 30 pieces of silver the chief priests and elders had given him:

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders…So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5 NIV)

Weaknesses

Judas was a thief. As treasurer, he was in charge of the group's money bag and sometimes stole from it. He was disloyal. Even though the other apostles deserted Jesus and Peter denied him, Judas went so far as to lead the temple guard to Jesus at Gethsemane, and then identified Jesus by kissing him:

He (Judas) approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke: 22:47-48, NIV)

Judas turned traitor, selling the Lord to the high priests for thirty pieces of silver, the going rate for a slave in ancient times (Exodus 21:32). Some would say Judas Iscariot made the greatest error in history.

Life Lessons

An outward show of loyalty to Jesus is meaningless unless we also follow Christ in our heart. Satan and the world will try to get us to betray Jesus, so we must ask the Holy Spirit for help in resisting them.

Although Judas attempted to undo the harm he had done, he failed to seek the Lord's forgiveness. Thinking it was too late for him, Judas ended his life in suicide.

As long as we are alive and have breath, it's never too late to come to God for forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Sadly, Judas, who had been given the opportunity to walk in close fellowship with Jesus, completely missed the most important message of Christ's ministry.

Biblical Facts About Judas Iscariot

It's natural for people to have strong or mixed feelings about Judas. Some feel a sense of hatred toward him for his act of betrayal, others feel pity, and some throughout history have considered him a hero. No matter how you react to him, here are a few biblical facts about Judas Iscariot to keep in mind:

  • He made a conscious choice to betray Jesus: Luke 22:48.
  • He was a thief with greed in his heart: John 12:6.
  • Jesus knew Judas' heart was set on evil and that he would not repent: John 6:70, John 17:12.
  • Judas' act of betrayal was part of God's sovereign plan: Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 20:18 and 26:20-25, Acts 1:16,20.

Hometown

Judas Iscariot was from Kerioth. The Hebrew word Ishkeriyyoth (for Iscariot) means "man of the village of Keriyyoth." Kerioth was about 15 miles south of Hebron, in Israel.

References to Judas Iscariot in the Bible

References to Judas Iscariot in the Bible are found in Matthew 10:4, 13:55, 26:14, 16, 25, 47-49, 27:1-5; Mark 3:19, 6:3, 14:10, 43-45; Luke 6:16, 22:1-4, 47-48; John 6:71, 12:4, 13:2, 13:26-30; 14:22, 18:2-6; Acts 1:16-18, 25.

Occupation

Judas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ and the money keeper for the group.

Family Tree

Father - Simon Iscariot

Key Verses

Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas Iscariot--went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. (Matthew 26:13-15, NIV)

Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. (John 13:26-27, NIV)

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. (Mark 14:43, NIV)