Jesus’ Disciples: Judas

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 21, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Judas, also known as Judas Iscariot, is often singled out among Jesus’ twelve disciples. He is best known for being the one who betrayed Jesus so He could be crucified. But what else do we know about Judas?

Similar to the name James that we discussed previously, there are multiple men named Judas in the New Testament. Another is one of Jesus’ disciples who goes by the name of Jude that we’ll discuss soon. The names Judas and Jude are basically the same name, with Jude being similar to a nickname for Judas, which is likely why the Judas we’re talking about today goes by Judas Iscariot. Jesus had a half-brother named Judas (Matthew 13:55) who is also the writer of the book of Jude. In addition, there was a church leader and prophet named Jude in Acts 15:22-32.

Back in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:13-16 where the twelve apostles are listed, Judas is already called out as the one who betrays Jesus. Obviously, the disciples did not know that at the time, but since the gospel accounts were written after Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, the writers thought it important to mention that when looking back - spoiler alert!

The question has been raised of why Jesus would choose a betrayer as one of his twelve disciples. We do not know this, as we cannot know the mind of God, but we do know that Jesus knew this was how everything would play out. In John 6:61-64, we see that “Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him” (verse 64b).

Why did Judas, who faithfully followed Jesus for the entire 3 years of His earthly ministry, feel the desire to betray Jesus? We could place the blame on greed, which is a very powerful emotion. Perhaps that was Judas’ purpose in God’s Kingdom: to play a part in bringing about Jesus’ death that would lead to the opportunity for the salvation of all mankind. It’s definitely not a glamorous part that he played and he’s not remembered well for it, but it was also necessary for those events to happen.

But what else do we know about this Judas other than his betrayal of Jesus? John 12:4-6 says, “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Judas was the treasurer for the group of disciples, but clearly he wasn’t a very good one. It’s very likely that this fact of stealing the disciples’ money was lost on the disciples until after Judas’ death, which is another reason the authors of the gospel accounts wanted to constantly call him out as the betrayer when writing about Judas. Judas’ greed is very apparent in this passage, which is why that greed was a very likely motive for him to betray Jesus.

We read about Judas’ final downfall in John 13:27-30: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” Judas’ role as treasurer made it not unusual for him to leave to go do something, even while they were having this big meal to celebrate the Passover festival. Judas was not just greedy in this act, but we see that “Satan entered into him” as well. These events needed to happen so the Scriptures would be fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean they were good events.

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was predicted even in the Old Testament, though not by his name of course. We see this in Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” It is also alluded to in Zechariah 11:12-13: “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”

Judas meets his end by suicide as read about in Matthew 27:3-10. He realized how wrong his actions had been, he tried to return his payment of 30 pieces of silver (equivalent to around $600 today) to the chief priests and elders, then hanged himself. The chief priests and elders used the money to buy a potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners, just as was alluded to in Zechariah 11 above.

Later, in Acts 1:18 when the remaining 11 disciples were choosing who would replace Judas, we see, “With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” That’s a bit of a different story than what was recorded in Matthew, but the main idea is still the same: Judas died a terrible death which he perceived as penance for this horrible act he had committed, and the betrayal money was used to buy a field.

So what can we learn from Judas to help us as disciples of Jesus today? First of all, don’t be greedy as it can lead you to bad things. (You can read a bit more on what the Bible says about greed here.) While greed is a sin in and of itself, greed often causes us to commit additional sinful actions because of it. Greed is generally the root of theft, embezzlement, and often even murder.

We can also learn from Judas that Jesus loves us no matter what. Jesus knew that Judas would be the one to betray him, for a lousy 30 pieces of silver, and yet Jesus still spent 3 years of His life teaching Judas along with the rest of the disciples. If Jesus still loved the man He knew would betray Him to a very gruesome death, He surely still loves us in spite of all the ways we sin!

Be encouraged by Judas’ example to live in Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and to not live a life of greed but to follow Jesus in His ways.

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