Why did Jesus select evil Judas Iscariot to be an apostle?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, it is a most provocative question, yes? Why did not Jesus simply select an apostle who would not betray Him? Did He not know the future about Judas Iscariot, what he was really like? We can think of two principle reasons why Jesus, despite knowing full well Judas Iscariot’s true nature, chose him as an apostle. First, the shorter and simpler reason, and then the longer and more complicated one. Beloved, to the Scriptures we go!


“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

Unless we had a New Testament correlation for this obscure verse, we would have no idea that Psalm 41:9 was actually quoting Jesus Christ many centuries in advance. Reading from John 13:17-21, the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: “[17] If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. [18] I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. [19] Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. [20] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. [21] When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.”

Long before it happened, the Lord Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot would betray Him according to prophecy. The Bible says in Mark 14:17-21: “[17] And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. [18] And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. [19] And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? [20] And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. [21] The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

Think about this, dear friends. For just over three years, the Lord Jesus spent the majority of His time with His 12 apostles. He was teaching them and training them to take His place when He would ascend back into heaven to their Heavenly Father. These 12 men and their Lord grew very close together. Walking around together, eating with each other, praying with each other, and hearing the wonderful Word of God together. They grew to be good friends, having been through all sorts of wild and dangerous experiences together—angry mobs, rock-throwing, at least one storm at sea, physical weariness from long journeys, and so on. Witnessing fantastic miracles of all kinds—the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the mute speaking, the lame walking, the storms instantly calming, the dead rising, thousands fed with a few fish and a few loaves of bread, and so on. What adventures!

Returning to our primary passage, I want to draw your attention to one word in Psalm 41:9: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Judas was not merely a “friend” of Jesus, but the Scriptures call him a familiar friend.” One of Jesus’ closest friends needed to betray Him. Out of the 12, Judas Iscariot was probably the closest friend of Christ. The Lord Jesus and Judas were like family members, and that made the betrayal unimaginably painful. The Bible says that Judas was the treasurer of the apostles—“he had the [money] bag” (John 12:6; John 13:29). Judas Iscariot was the most trusted apostle. We can only imagine how devastated those 11 other apostles were when Judas Iscariot was manifested as Jesus’ traitor! The one they had trusted to such a great extent, for him to turn over Jesus to apostate Israel and pagan Rome, what a horrendous concept! How shocking to see what he was all along! He was the betrayer of whom Jesus had warned!


When we think about it as it relates to the “grand scheme of things,” Judas Iscariot serves as a warning to Israel, not only during the Four Gospels but particularly during the (future) seven-year Tribulation. The book of the Revelation talks about “them which say they are apostles, and are not” (2:2). It mentions those “which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie” (3:9). There are going to be all sorts of deception during Daniel’s 70th week, the time of Jacob’s trouble. Our Lord made that very clear in Matthew 24:4,5,11,23-24. It will also be a time of great apostasy, people who claimed to know the truth but have left it. Many other verses in Hebrews through Revelation echo this (Hebrews 6:4-9; Hebrews 10:25-31; Hebrews 12:12-17; 2 Peter 2:12-22; 1 John 4:1-4; et cetera). Thus, the little book of 1 John contains a series of tests, to be used by Israel during the seven-year Tribulation. These tests assess Jews to see who belong to the “true fellowship” and who are the “false fellowship” in disguise as the “true fellowship.” That is, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle John provided information on how to differentiate between believing Jews and unbelieving Jews during the time period after our Dispensation of Grace ends.

One of the most famous passages quoted today, although out of context, is 1 John 2:18-20. It describes Jews who, like Judas, will claim to be following the truth but who really are following the Antichrist and the lie program. We read in 1 John chapter 2: “[18] Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. [19] They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. [20] But ye have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” Remember, Judas appeared to be a believer in Jesus Christ, but, in the end, he was manifested to be an unsaved man. He never was a heart follower of Jesus Christ, although, externally, he played the hypocrite for over three years! Israel is thus warned of these satanic counterfeits in her midst during Daniel’s 70th week!

Our Lord began to share several parables in Matthew chapter 13. Note the second one, called “The Parable of the Tares of the Field” (verse 36). Beginning in verse 24: “[24] Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: [25] But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. [26] But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. [27] So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? [28] He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? [29] But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”

What in the world could the Parable of the Tares possibly mean? Friend, we need not guess an interpretation. Rather, the disciples also wondered about it, and they asked Jesus to explain it. He did in verses 37-43, and we accept God’s interpretation as valid: “[36] Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. [37] He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; [38] The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; [39] The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. [40] As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. [41] The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; [42] And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

This is fairly simple to grasp. As Jesus (“the Son of Man;” verse 37) was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom—“Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)—there were Jews who responded to that message by faith. They accepted Jesus as their Messiah-King and were then baptized of John. Matthew 13:38 calls them “the children of the kingdom.” They were “the Little Flock,” the descendants of Abraham who would inherit God’s earthly kingdom (see Luke 12:31-32). In the parable, the believing Jews are called “good seed” and “wheat” (Matthew 13:24-25,38).

However, God the Son was not the only Person operating in Israel. There was Satan, as always, diligently opposing everything God had purposed and was now doing. Satan—which means “Adversary” (or “enemy”) in Hebrew—had “planted” his own minions in Palestine. They were unbelieving/unsaved Jews, people whom Jesus rightly called “children of the devil” (John 8:44). In the parable, Jesus called these hypocrites “tares” (Matthew 13:26). From all outward appearances, they looked and sounded like believing Jews. But, in the heart, they rejected Jesus Christ, and were thus still dead in Adam and in their sins. Toward the end of the parable, the Lord talked about not gathering the tares lest the wheat would be also rooted up (verses 28,29). “Tares” are “weeds,” and as in the real world, tares closely resembled the good crop. These unbelievers went to the Temple for worship, they claimed to follow Moses, they quoted the prophets of old, and so on. But, God could look into their hearts and see who had the circumcision inside—that is, the separation from Adam, and eternal life in Jesus Christ—or who just had some physical circumcision without internal correspondence (see Romans 2:28-29).

Jesus concluded the parable by talking about angels gathering the “tares” (unbelievers) out of Israel’s land and tossing them into eternal hellfire. This will be at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, at the Second Coming of Christ, and just before the establishment of the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ. Note again verses 41-43: “[41] The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; [42] And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Doubtless, our Lord Jesus knew there were many unbelievers lurking in His presence. He spoke of them as being a reality, and Judas heard that parable firsthand. It was in the same time period (roughly halfway through Christ’s three-year earthly ministry) that Jesus Christ spoke the Parable of the Tares as well as the harsh words in John chapter 6. Reading from verse 64 to the end of the chapter: “[64] But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. [65] And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. [66] From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. [67] Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? [68] Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. [69] And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. [70] Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? [71] He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

By the way, before we wrap this up, note that, after Jesus pointed out to His audience that “there are some of you that believe not” (verse 64), verse 66 says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Like Judas would do in a year or so, they abandoned Jesus Christ, never to walk with Him again. It was that “offensive” discourse in the chapter that convicted them and drove them away, not to mention that “equally offensive” Parable of the Tares (eternal judgment against the lost) that they knew was coming upon them one day!

Also see:
» Why does the Bible give two accounts of Judas’s death?
» Who was Judas’ replacement—Matthias or Paul?
» Does Matthew 19:27-28 prove Judas is in heaven?