Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?

21 Sep
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Earlier I tried to show that Judas was devoted to Jesus,[1] but became increasingly drawn away to a **more important** objective.[2] I also claimed that Judas did not intend for Jesus to be killed. That was not part of his plan. He was evidently surprised with the outcome of the first trial and tried to get Jesus released. He visibly regretted what he had done, when he found he could no longer control the outcome, which he originally presumed he could.

Let’s recall a few events that had recently taken place and consider what may have been going on in Judas’ heart, and perhaps we can draw from this a lesson we can apply in our own lives. On the ninth day of the first month (cf. John 12:1) in 31 AD Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem. Judas was praising and glorifying God as he and the other disciples led Jesus through the eastern gate of the Temple (Matthew 21:9). This was the Messiah come to Jerusalem. Everything seemed to be falling into place and was now going according to Judas’ overall plan. Suddenly, however, something occurred that evening in Bethany that threatened Judas’ hopes.

Six days before the Passover Feast Day (John 12:1-3) Jesus and the disciples had dinner at Martha’s home. While Jesus sat, Mary washed Jesus’ feet, perhaps her usual task when he was their guest (cf. Luke 10:38-39). However, at this time she took expensive ointment and poured out all its contents upon Jesus’ feet! Judas protested (John 12:4-6), saying the ointment should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor, but actually he didn’t care for the poor, but for the political cause I mentioned in an earlier study.[3] Jesus defended Mary, but why did she pour the expensive ointment upon Jesus’ feet? Why did she choose this particular time and not earlier?

Jesus’ ministry had been financed in part by women of substance (Luke 8:1-3), and Mary, Martha’s sister, was one of those women.[4] It cannot be proved one way or the other, but we are looking for a reason why Judas behaved as he did, so we must consider the possibilities. One of those possibilities is Mary found out Judas was not using her love offerings properly, and what she intended for Jesus and his ministry was actually going for a Zealot uprising against Rome. This idea is accentuated in the fact that only days later this scene was repeated again in Bethany, and again Jesus defended the woman against the protests of his disciples (Matthew 26:6-13).

Perhaps Mary and several of the woman supporters complained to Judas and threatened to expose him. They would rather **waste** everything they had on Jesus alone than see what they gave out of love for him used in a Zealot cause. Judas found himself between a rock and a hard place. He had to think fast and act right away, if he were to make things right before the women exposed him. He may have even consulted one of his Zealot friends and decided to hand Jesus over to the chief priests to be held in custody (Matthew 26:14-16).

John the Baptist was held by Herod for nearly a year before he was beheaded, so Judas probably didn’t see any immediate danger to Jesus’ life. Meanwhile, Judas could gain more support for the Zealot cause and Jesus’ release, because Jesus was a very popular rabbi. Even the women who threatened to expose him would have to see him and the Zealot cause as their only hope of having Jesus returned to them. It all seemed to work out clearly in Judas’ mind, but it all too soon came apart before his very eyes.

So, is this what took place behind the scenes? We don’t know, but the Scriptures allow for such an occurrence. Judas betrayed Jesus but almost immediately regretted what he had done. Something hadn’t gone as he had anticipated. We don’t know what that was, but the above is a reasonable possibility. But, what does this mean for us today? First of all, it means that no matter what is done for or against Christ, God’s will or purpose will prevail in the end. Secondly, it makes better sense for us to **waste** our lives upon Jesus alone, than to divide our loyalties between Jesus and an attractive cause, which may be religious, political, moral or whatever.[5] At the end of the day, if any worldly loyalty causes us to act with subtly, in the end it will exposes Christ to open shame in the world’s eyes. No one who loves Jesus should be a part of doing that. Let Jesus be our only boast, as we preach his death and resurrection to a needy world.


[1] See The Secret Life of Judas

[2]  See Why Did Judas Steal from Jesus?

[3] Ibid.

[4] Mary, Martha’s sister, was actually Mary Magdalene. See my study, Mary, the Mother of Mark.

[5] Remember, Judas probably believed serving Jesus and his political agenda were really the same cause in the end, but they were not.

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Posted by on September 21, 2009 in Judas, Religion


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