The story of Judas Iscariot may be the most unsettling cautionary talk in all of Scripture. For three years Judas spent practically every day in the presence of the Son of God-experiencing his miracles, listening to his teachings, and watching him change lives and give hope to multitudes.
Yet even with such enviable access and spiritual training, Judas proved himself capable of committing perhaps the most heinous act of betrayal in human history. He secured his place in the pantheon of villainy by turning Jesus over to his enemies for 30 pieces of silver.
With that one act, he forever made his name synonymous with treachery and betrayal. Some two thousand years after the man’s death, it’s still considered a vile insult to be called a “Judas”
The origin of the name Iscariot, on the other hand, is a subject of debate among Bible scholars. Some believe it comes form Kerioth, which may have been a region in Judea. Others believe it identifies Judas with the sicarii, a group of assassins who wanted to drive the Romans from their Jewish homeland.
In addition to his betrayal of Jesus, Judas Iscariot plays a prominent role in another Gospel story, one found in John 12:1-8. Jesus and his disciples were dining in Bethany. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, carried in a jar of nard, an expensive perfume. She used the perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet and then used her hair to wipe off the excess oil.
Here was an extraordinary act of generosity and service, yet Judas could only see it as a foolish waste of money and asked, “Why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5).
Lest any of his readers mistake Judas’s reaction for actual concern for the needy, the Gospel writer John (who knew Judas Iscariot very well) hastened to add, “He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it” (John 12:6).
If Judas had been simply a petty thief or an embezzler of ministry funds, his historic profile would probably be much lower. But bad choices tend to have a snowball effect. They build on one another until they become impossible to control.
That may explain why Judas Iscariot conspired with Jesus’ enemies to betray him. Judas agreed to lead a group into the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed, so they could arrest him. Within hours of his arrest, Jesus was put on trial, tortured by Roman soldiers, and nailed to a cross.
Bible scholars have long debated the reason for Judas Iscariot’s actions. One of the clues Scripture offers is found in Luke 22:3: “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was numbered among the Twelve.” Beyond that, little is known about the thought process that went into Juda’s plan.
What is known is that Jesus recognized Judas’s traitorous nature early on. Look at John 6;70-71: “Jesus replied to them, ‘Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is the Devil! He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray Him.” As to why Jesus allowed Judas to be a part of his ministry in the first place, the Bible is silent.
Whatever Juda’s Iscariot’s reason was for betraying Jesus, he felt nothing but shame and regret for his actions when they were completed. He tried to return the money he’d been given, but his coconspirators wouldn’t take it back.
With no hope and no chance for redemption that he could see, Judas made one final terrible decision. According to Matthew 27:5, he “hanged himself.”
JOHN 6:70-71 – “Jesus replied to them, ‘Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is the Devil!’ He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray Him.”