His name is a byword for betrayal. But it never began that way. “Judas” is the Greek form for the Hebrew name Judah—a common designation in ancient Israel.
Judas’s treacherous betrayal came as a complete shock to all who knew him. On the surface, he appeared as dedicated as all the other apostles.
- Chosen by Jesus.
- Worker of miracles.
- Even entrusted as treasurer.
So when Jesus foretold His betrayal at the Last Supper, no disciple at the table pointed and said, “Aha, Judas! I knew there was something about you!” The whole group remained clueless. Each one, in fact, asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22).
Strangely, even Judas asked. Don’t you wonder why?
A Product of Greed or of Evil Influence?
From the human perspective, Judas’s motive for betrayal may have had its roots in the love of money (John 12:6). Pure greed. But from the spiritual perspective, the inspirational source is clear: Satan influenced Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3–4).
Judas descended from the Upper Room in the blackness of night in order to guide the authorities to Jesus. They found the Master in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Judas arranged a sign to identify which man to arrest.
A kiss of greeting.
Judas approached Jesus in the dark grove and gave his falsehearted kiss of respect. “Greetings, Rabbi,” he blathered. Even his words betrayed his actions. This pretentious kiss of greeting also served as an unwitting farewell.
True, no one expected Judas’s betrayal. No one but Jesus. The Lord knew from the beginning who would betray Him (John 6:64). Jesus’s response to the disingenuous salutation exposed Judas’s intent.
Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? —Luke 22:48
Jesus’s last words to Judas would echo in his ears for eternity.
After Judas discovered that Jesus faced death, “he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’” (Matthew 27:3–4).
After hurling the lucre into the temple, Judas selected a spot and hanged himself.
Was Judas Saved?
Some have mused whether or not Judas ever truly believed in Jesus. Although God’s grace is big enough to have forgiven Judas, it seems unlikely that the betrayer’s “remorse” resulted in repentance.
Several factors make this clear.
- Jesus namelessly called Judas a “devil” (John 6:70) and said it would be better for him had he not been born (Mark 14:21). In referring to the disciples, Jesus told the Father, “not one of them perished but the son of perdition” (John 17:12).
- Jesus told the twelve apostles they would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel in Jesus’s kingdom (Matthew 19:28). After Judas’s death, the apostles had Judas’s position replaced by Matthias. However, they did not replace the apostle James after his death. What’s more, Peter implied Judas’s condemnation by saying he “turned aside to go to his own place” (Acts 1:25).
- The place Judas chose to die may indicate his expectation for eternity. He committed suicide at Hakeldama, or “Field of Blood” (1:18–19), located in the Hinnom Valley. This was the first-century landfill that Jesus had used as a metaphor for hell (Mark 9:43).
But What about Peter’s Denial?
The infamous betrayer of Jesus always appears last in the gospels’ lists of the apostles. Peter always appears first. Interestingly, on the same day that Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter committed a sin just as shocking—he denied Christ.
Judas’s regret led to suicide, but Peter’s regret just occasioned a good cry (and a changed life). What made the difference?
The apostle Paul would later write:
The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. —2 Corinthians 7:10
In Judas’s final words, “I have sinned,” he pronounced his own judgment. His betrayal played a part in Jesus’s death, which would, amazingly, pay for even Judas’s sins. How ironic. How tragic.
And What about Us?
Like Judas, like Peter, like all the disciples who deserted Jesus that night—we have a choice regarding where our sorrow will take us. As we face the raw truth of our carnal hearts, our shame and guilt will lead us in one of two directions:
- Toward sin’s penalty in death
- To sin’s remedy in grace
Thankfully, God intends the pangs of our sorrow to lead us away from our guilt and toward His grace. No sin is too great for God’s mercy.
But we must receive it.
Question: Do you think Judas could have been saved? To leave a comment, just click here.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Judas’s Sorrow,” in Famous Last Words (IFL Publishing House: Plano, TX, 2013), 57-60.