Did Judas Iscariot have to betray Christ?

DID JUDAS ISCARIOT HAVE TO BETRAY CHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Was Judas Iscariot treated fairly in the whole “betrayal matter?” Did he have a choice in it at all? Or had God already specifically selected him to betray the Lord Jesus Christ? As we will see, it is an interesting combination of free will and God’s foreknowledge.

If we consider the Holy Bible in totality, we see that the Creator God is very generous. He is more than willing to be merciful and forgive, more than eager to be gracious, ready to be kind and longsuffering. Exodus chapter 34 testifies: “[6] And the LORD passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, [7] Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” (The close of verse 7 shows that God also does not take sin lightly. Yes, He is loving, but He is righteous too. He will enforce a punishment when that righteous standard is not met.)

When we find someone in the Bible facing the wrath of a just God, or meeting some dire fate at the hands of a righteous God, we can be sure there was ample warning issued prior. God’s judgment does not simply fall on someone without notice. A clear Divine commandment was broken first: God’s Word was ignored and sin was pursued. When people die and go to Hell today, never can it be said that “they did not know” or that “they did not have a chance.” The Bible could not be clearer about the eternal death (Hell and the Lake of Fire) awaiting all sinners who do not trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. All have been warned; it is not God’s fault if they refuse to hear His innumerable forewarnings! (This will be important later in our discussion.)

Returning to the issue of Judas Iscariot, let us consider the following. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus Christ quoted an Old Testament verse that predicted that betrayal. Read John chapter 13, noting especially verses 18 and 21-27:

“[18] I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture [Psalm 41:9] 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. [22] Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. [23] Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. [24] Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. [25] He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? [26] Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. [27] And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. [28] Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. [29] For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. [30] He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.”

It is interesting that while the Lord Jesus referred to His betrayer, He never actually named him. Rather, He just said “one of you” (verse 21) would be the betrayer. He never commanded Judas, “You are the one whom God has chosen to betray Me.” Now, someone may say that Jesus giving Judas the sop (or moistened bread) influenced Judas to fulfill the prophecy. This argument is invalid, for Judas at this point had already contracted with the chief priests to betray Christ. Judas had already made up his mind.

John 13:18-30 parallels Matthew 26:20-25, which means that Matthew 26:14-16 preceded, came before, the Upper Room Passover we just read about in John. Notice Matthew 26:14-16: “[14] Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, [15] And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. [16] And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. Jesus never told anyone about His betrayer until later (that is, the passage we just read from John), so Jesus’ words on the subject in no way influenced Judas to betray Him. Judas had always been an idolater: he never had an interest in serving the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ. For three years, Judas Iscariot had played the hypocrite. He had pretended to be a disciple, and while he had fooled all the others, Jesus Christ was never deceived (check John 6:70-71, for example). From the time of Matthew 26:14-16, Judas began to try to find a convenient time to betray Christ. There was to be no uproar or commotion. It was to be done as clandestinely as possible.

As per Acts chapter 1, the Old Testament prophets predicted the fall of one of Jesus’ disciples. With Jesus post-resurrection explaining the Old Testament Messianic verses to His disciples (Luke 24:44-48; Acts 1:1-4), they could interpret those ancient Scriptures once He ascended and return to Heaven. They gained information about Judas Iscariot.

Now we understand how the Apostle Peter had such tremendous Scriptural insight in Acts chapter 1: “[16] Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. [17] For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. [18] Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. [19] And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. [20] For it is written in the book of Psalms [Psalm 69:25], Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and [Psalm 109:8] his bishoprick let another take.

Take a few moments to read the original quotes in Psalms. “Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents” (Psalm 69:25). “Let his days be few; and let another take his office” (Psalm 109:8). Did you read here, or anywhere else in the Psalms, about a Judas Iscariot? There is nothing. The prophecy was specific in that Jesus’ betrayer would be His friend: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9; cf. John 13:18). Yet, it was also general in that the betrayer is unknown. By concealing the person’s identity, God the Holy Spirit was affording Judas Iscariot the opportunity to avoid it being true of him. God in His foreknew saw into the future. He knew it would ultimately be Judas, but He let Judas decide if he wanted to betray Christ. That is, God’s Word had not already selected Judas Iscariot to commit that dastardly deed. Judas had already determined to do it, and Jesus simply let him do it.

Yet, as that time of evil approaches, we can God’s grace being offered to Judas time and time again. If you search the Four Gospel Records—especially Matthew, Luke, and John—you will discover that Judas had many opportunities to turn around, to not go through with the betrayal. He refused them all because he was never a believer in Christ. Even though he had already made the decision, and had already accepted the 30 pieces of silver, God was still willing to be friendly toward His betrayer. Watch carefully.

Matthew 26:21-25: “[21] And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. [22] And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? [23] And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. [24] The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. [25] Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.” (Judas had plenty of opportunity here to back out of the betrayal, as it had not yet occurred. He asked a rhetorical question in verse 25. He knew he had already promised to betray Christ—see verses 14-16 again! Jesus let Judas admit it.)

John 18:4-9 is another interesting passage on the subject: “[4] Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? [5] They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. [6] As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. [7] Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. [8] Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: [9] That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.” (Judas could have turned back in these verses as well. He did not; he carried on through with the betrayal.)

Now, Luke 22:48: “But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Here, during the betrayal, Jesus is asking a rhetorical question, prompting Judas to think about what he was doing. “Judas, are you really going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss? Is this how it is going to turn out?” Judas could have backed out again, the opportunity was there, but he was not about to take it.)

Try Matthew 26:49-50, the most startling of all: “[49] And forthwith he [Judas] came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. [50] And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.” (Here, after the kiss of betrayal, Jesus still addressed Judas as friend!!” Jesus was reminding Judas he was one of them, one of His most trusted Apostles. Even after it occurred, the Lord Jesus was willing to forgive and restore Judas to fellowship. “Friend, why are you come?” Can you hear the tenderness here? Using his free will, Judas bypasses this as well; he refuses to accept God’s invitation to friendship.)

CONCLUSION

Judas Iscariot did what he did because: (1) he was a sinner, (2) he was an idolater, (3) he was never a true follower of Christ, (4) he coveted 30 pieces of silver, and (5) he was a willing participant of Satan’s policy of evil. God is not to be blamed; He saw all outcomes but He never forced any one outcome! The Bible had already predicted a close friend of Jesus would betray Him, but God never singled out Judas until Judas had already covenanted for the 30 pieces of silver. Jesus did not reveal him until he had already determined what he was going to do. Judas alone made the choice—it was his wrong choice, yes, but it was his choice. God gave Judas plenty of opportunity to turn around, to not betray Christ, but the Bible never says Judas took advantage of any of those chances.

Also see:
» Why did Jesus select evil Judas Iscariot to be an apostle?
» Was Judas forgiven?
» Why does the Bible give two accounts of Judas’s death?

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