Many Christians have asked that very question. Why, when he saw the miracles and the wonders, did he give his Master over to be killed? How could he, who had seemingly been such a devot follower, betray his Lord? Well, predestination theologians would say that he was ordained to do it by God as part of the plan for the sanctification of Man, and therefore could not have done otherwise. But I don’t agree with that for a second.
Judas in voluntary will, chose to betray Christ because his heart wasn’t for the Master. What was Judas’s job amongst the twelve? He was put in charge of the purse, meaning he was the money keeper. He may have requested the job, or perhaps he was given it because he was good with figures. Regardless, Jesus trusted him with the cheapest of His commodities, and the one men value most. Judas loved money and was ever remiss to see it be spent ill or on vain frivolities. Such is the attitude he takes in this story:
There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 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. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Now, in the book of John, we see Judas mention directly about the oil that was used on Jesus, and why it wasn’t sold and the money given to the poor.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Judas wasn’t the best of disciples. It says that he was a theif, which may have even meant that he was known for taking things from the other disciples on occasion. Judas wasn’t in the ministry for the Master, he was in it for the money. I like to think of Judas as one of the guys who thought that Jesus was going to raise money to purchase an army to overthrow Rome.
But here, with this woman named Mary, we see Jesus is not in it for the money; and as soon as Judas knows that, what does he do? He makes for the Pharisees to strike a deal. He figures, if Jesus can’t make him money, He is at least worth some Himself. But, Judas wasn’t ever really like the other disciples, he wasn’t all that interested in the mission of Christ. Judas is called a theif, and one of God’s Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not steal”. Thus, we can deduce that with such a vice in his life, Judas wasn’t “all there” every time Christ spoke about the Kingdom.
Vices prey on our souls and distract us. They prevent us from growing closer to God, and in this case, prevented Judas from really getting to know Christ for who He was. Really, if life was so cheap to Judas, friendship at the very least, that it could be sold for 30 silver coins, what kind of man was he? As to whether he was destined to betray Jesus or not… I believe Judas can be compared to the Pharoah of the Israelite captivity. Pharoah was given a choice many times before God hardened his heart. Either way, God’s people would’ve made it out of Egypt, but Pharoah, in his obstinance, chose the hard way. He allowed himself to become hard to God and brought destruction upon himself.
Judas hardened himself against the truth and distracted himself with money and thoughts of riches. He allowed Satan into his life to perform his purpose through him, by valuing life cheaply and not truly believing in Christ for who He was.
Why did Judas do what he did? Because he was following after the wrong prize: the fleeting treasures of earth. He was so intent on wealth and power that he overlooked Jesus Christ. He was a real person, with real choices, and he made the wrong ones. Betrayal is a hard thing to fathom. Even knowing the background for his betrayal, I still end up saying, “Why Judas? Why?”.
As always, thanks for reading.
—the anonymous novelist