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HomeSpiritual GrowthWhy It Made Sense For Judas To ‘Betray’ Jesus

Why It Made Sense For Judas To ‘Betray’ Jesus

Examining Easter - Judas had an agenda and thought he was helping Jesus accomplish his purpose

The name Judas is synonymous with traitor because he is the one who betrayed Jesus. That led to Jesus’ crucifixion and death and to Judas hanging himself in remorse. 

But there is always more to the story than meets the eye. Judas is an essential part of the Easter story, yet he may be misunderstood. 

Some things don’t make sense in the Biblical story. But when Judas is understood as a political zealot, it fits together much better. This does not mean the Bible is wrong, it’s just that it leaves some details unanswered.

What doesn’t make sense?

Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, about a week’s wages. If Judas was out for money the prize would have been much bigger. Judas would not have betrayed Jesus for some spending money.

The scriptures say Judas told the Roman soldiers where Jesus would be. However, there were all kinds of places to hide in and around Jerusalem such that He would not have been that hard to find.

Judas identifying Jesus when the soldiers came to arrest Him is another curiosity. Jesus was a very public figure. He was in public every day and speaking boldly about the Kingdom of God. Once they knew His general location, they would have recognized Him easily.

But what if Judas thought by “betraying” Jesus, he could set the wheels in motion for Jesus to lead the revolution to overthrow Rome?

The background

The Jewish nation of Israel was suffering under Roman rule. Some scriptures spoke of a Messiah who would conquer their oppressors and deliver them. Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God. He performed signs and wonders like healing the sick and bringing people back to life. It was not too much of a leap to think He could be the promised Messiah.

For most Jews, overthrowing Rome was the top priority. That was what their Messiah was supposed to do. 

Judas is believed to have been part of a group of Jewish extremists. They were itching to fight but knew they were outmanned. They needed the hand of God to get involved and thought Jesus was that hand. Perhaps things were not moving fast enough, and Judas decided to help get the war started.

Rome didn’t care that much about a person’s religion. If you kept the peace and kept the taxes coming in, they let the religious leaders keep control of the populace.

The popularity of Jesus put the Pharisees in a tight spot. If the people decided Jesus was the Messiah, it would get back to Rome that a revolution was brewing. If they arrested Jesus, the people would revolt, and that would cause Rome to have to come and restore peace. In either scenario, the leaders would be tossed out and blamed by Rome.

The scriptures tell the story but leave some room for interpretation. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This is where Judas enters the picture.

The religious leaders could not arrest Jesus to silence him because he was so popular. His outspoken preaching was dangerous to them and they had to do something. But what could they do?

Further, Jesus heals people on the Sabbath, and in the temple no less. He was thumbing his nose at the religious establishment. It was against their tradition — not against the scriptures — to heal people on the Sabbath. 

The Gospel of Judas

There is the Gospel of Judas, written not that long after all the other gospels were completed. It is a gnostic gospel and was not accepted into the canon for justified reasons. 

That gospel of Judas paints Judas as doing what Jesus wanted him to do. He thought as soon as Jesus was arrested, the revolution would begin.

When Jesus declared himself King of the Jews, the Romans would come after them. With God on their side, Rome would be destroyed in a few days, Jesus would be king of Israel and the prophesy of the Jewish Messiah would be fulfilled. 

William Barclay a Scottish theologian, has suggested that Judas’s intention was actually good; He wanted to force the hand of the Lord Jesus. He knew that the Christ must die, and if he forced Jesus’ hand then He would display His power, deliver Himself from the Romans, and establish his kingdom apart from a cross.

Judas may not have thought Jesus would be killed. Pixabay.

Laying the charge

Jesus and the disciples enter Jerusalem with all this buzzing around in Judas’ brain. There was excitement in the air. Jesus was given a hero’s welcome by the crowds when he arrived.

Religious leaders found that Judas was willing to work with them. They saw a way to get out of the jam. If one of His own accused Him, they could hand Jesus over to Rome and claim innocence.

Judas “made the charge,” that Jesus claimed to be God. This was blasphemy and punishable by death by religious law. This allowed Rome to execute the Christ, something the Jews were barred from doing.

By Judas pressing charges, they persuaded Rome to execute Jesus.

What Jesus’ death meant

Instead of becoming King, Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried. Judas was crushed. He wondered how this could have happened, saying, “I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 7:4). By committing suicide, it can be assumed that Judas did not expect Jesus to be killed. 

 The extremist Jews all wanted Jesus to overthrow Rome. That is what their Messiah was supposed to do. But Jesus came to die on the cross and rise from the grave as a payment for the sins of the world. It was the most significant event in human history.

Meaning for us today

Today people have ideas about what Jesus, or God, is supposed to be and do. It’s easy to get caught up in politics and begin to think that your agenda is God’s agenda. In our current “culture war”, both sides want to paint Jesus as being on their side. We should make sure we are following God’s agenda and not our own.


Salvation – Eternal Life in Less Than 150 Words

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AuthorJames Jordan | BCWorldview.org 

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