Judas was one of the 12 disciples who followed and lived with Jesus for three years. Judas witnessed Jesus’ teachings, ministry, and miracles. He was the group’s treasurer and used his position to steal from their resources, as detailed in John 12:6.
Jesus knew from the start what Judas would do to Him. In John 6:70, Jesus told His disciples that one of them was a devil. At the Last Supper, Jesus foresaw His betrayal and identified His betrayer. Jesus said the betrayer was the person whom He gave the piece of bread when He dipped it in the dish. Afterward, He dipped the bread and gave it to Judas. Jesus described Judas as not “clean” since he wasn’t born again and forgiven of his sins. Judas was empowered to betray Jesus by the devil. John 13:27 says Satan entered Judas when he took the bread from Jesus. So did Jesus ever forgive Judas for His betrayal?
Why did Judas betray Jesus?
While we’ll never be sure why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are definite. Judas may have been chosen as one of Jesus’ disciples, but scriptural evidence says that Judas never believed that Jesus was God. He even may not have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Unlike the other disciples, Judas never called Him “Lord” and instead chose to call Him “Rabbi,” which recognized Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. The other disciples would typically make great professions of loyalty and faith, but Judas never did so and remained quiet.
This lack of faith is the foundation for why Judas betrayed Jesus. Not only did he lack faith in Jesus, but Judas also had little or no personal relationship with Christ. When Matthew, Mark, and Luke list out the disciples, they typically list them in the same order. The order indicated the closeness of their relationship with Jesus. Peter and the brother John and James are generally listed first, and Judas is always last, which may suggest his lack of personal relationship with Jesus. The only documented discussion between Judas and Jesus involves Jesus rebuking Judas after his greedy remark to Mary in John 12:1-8, Judas denying the betrayal and the actual betrayal.
Judas was so consumed with greed to betray the trust of not only Jesus but also the other disciples, as detailed in John 12:5-6. He might have wanted to follow Jesus because he saw Jesus’ following and believed he could profit from collections taken for the disciples. The fact that he was in charge of the money for the group indicates his interest in wealth and greed.
Like most people at the time, Judas believed the Messiah would overthrow Roman occupation, taking a position of power and ruling over Israel. Judas might have followed Jesus, hoping to reap the benefits of associating with Him as the new reigning political power. Judas may have expected to be among the ruling elite after the revolution. When Judas’ betrayal happened, Jesus clearly stated that He planned to die and not start a rebellion against Rome. So Judas likely made the same assumption as the Pharisees, that since Jesus didn’t overthrow the Romans, He couldn’t be the Messiah.
Did Jesus forgive Judas?
The Bible states that Judas wasn’t forgiven or saved. Jesus Himself said that The Son of Man would go as it was written. Still, the man who betrays Him would be better if he hadn’t been born, as explicitly detailed in Matthew 26:24. From ages past, God determined that Jesus would be betrayed by Judas, die on the cross and be resurrected. That’s what Jesus meant when He said He would go as it was written. Nothing could stop God’s plan to give salvation to humanity.
Still, the fact that this was all preordained doesn’t excuse Judas or pardon him from his punishment for his part in the drama. Judas made his choices, which were the source of his damnation, but the selections fit within God’s sovereign plan. God controls the good, but He also maintains the evil of man to meet His ends. Jesus condemned Judas, but considering that Judas traveled with Jesus for almost three years, we know that Jesus also gave Judas opportunities for repentance and salvation.
Judas could’ve fallen to his knees to beg for God’s forgiveness even after the betrayal, but he didn’t. He may have felt some remorse due to fear, which caused him to give the money back to the Pharisees, but he never repented and chose to commit suicide instead. Jesus prays for His disciples in John 17:12, but He identifies one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. At one time, Judas believed Jesus was a prophet and possibly thought He was the Messiah. Jesus sent His disciples out to the world to perform miracles and share the gospel, and Judas was included in that group, as detailed in Luke 9:1-6. Judas had faith, but it wasn’t true saving faith. Judas was never saved, but he was a Christ follower for a time.
Jesus chose Judas to fulfill a prophecy because God’s plan called for someone to betray the Son of Man. Still, none of that means that Judas and others who crucified and condemned Jesus were without fault. Judas carried the responsibility for his choices. Peter also discussed God’s sovereign plan and the guilt of sinful people in Acts 3:17-19. The Bible shows how God can use the most wicked of humankind’s actions for good. Nothing could be more evil than betraying and murdering the Son of God, yet despite that evil, God provided salvation.
God may not create evil, but He does control it. He doesn’t take part in sin, but in His wisdom and power, God can and sometimes does use the existing sin in the world to fulfill His purpose. Judas was chosen with the foresight of God that he would betray Jesus. For his betrayal, instead of stopping God’s plan for salvation, he actually advanced it. Though they were preordained, Judas met his demise due to his choices. He could’ve asked for forgiveness or to be saved, but he didn’t.