Did you ever wonder? Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Christ, was a PERSON. He had MOTIVES, and REASONS for what he did, just like you and I do when we sin. But what were they? What could POSSIBLY have motivated him to betray his friend and longtime companion, Jesus? He wasn’t just the embodiment of evil, you know. He was working a plan. And he wasn’t just doing it for the money!
Matthew 27:3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he [Jesus] was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Read that carefully. First, you notice he returned the money as we all know, so clearly that wasn’t his motive. And he returned the money as soon as “he saw that Jesus was condemned”! When he saw that Jesus was condemned, HE REPENTED! Because he had never expected that to happen!
Matthew 27:4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. …
AND he knew that Jesus was innocent, so he didn’t betray him because he was mad at Him either! So it wasn’t for the money, it wasn’t because of a grudge, and it wasn’t to see Him suffer – so WHAT WAS JUDAS THINKING??
And before I can explain that, we have to cover a bit of history. After the Jews returned from exile to Babylon in the 5th century BC, they had a rocky time of it. First they were under governors from the Medo-Persian empire, then after the fall of that empire to Alexander the Great’s armies they were under the Greeks; after the death of Alexander in 323 BC his empire was divided among his four generals (well, it’s a bit more complicated than that but that was the eventual result) and Jerusalem remained under the rule of the biblical king of the north, the Seleucid dynasty.
This lasted for awhile before the king of the south took it, the Ptolemaic dynasty which was over Egypt. Then the Seleucids took it back in 198 BC. This lasted about thirty years, during which time the Seleucids tried to covert the Jews to the Greek religion of Helena – hence the term Hellenization. That came to a head in about 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes of the Seleucid Dynasty set up an altar to Zeus in the temple of Jerusalem, and sacrificed swine on it.
This caused a major revolt under the Maccabees, which ultimately led to Jewish independence for awhile, until finally the whole region fell to Rome in 37 BC who installed Herod as governor. So you can see that this little scrap of land had been the focus of a great deal of fighting and squabbling back and forth over the last 600 years. The Jews had been through a lot, and they were tired of it. The only way they held out hope was with prophecies like this:
Jeremiah 23:5-6 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: …
This prophecy says that God will raise up the “Branch” (Christ), and in His days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely. And it had been dwelling in anything BUT safety for the past six centuries! And so when the disciples saw Jesus coming, and believed that He was the one who was prophesied to come, they assumed – just as you or I would have, given the information they had available to them – that He was coming to take over the Kingdom of Israel and give it again the glory that it had under David and Solomon, as He so often promised to do throughout the prophets. And the disciples never quite understood that this wasn’t going to happen at that time…
Luke 19:11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
And even after His resurrection, and all the things that had happened, it was still the foremost thing on their minds…
Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
This was what they wanted! They were driven by a national pride and weariness of pagan oppression to desperately want the Kingdom of God to give Israel its independence and glory NOW! But what they didn’t realize was that the Israel that Christ came to, the Israel that rejected him, did not DESERVE that glory!
Luke 11:47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
These are just a few scriptures that show that He COULD NOT give the Kingdom of God to them – and exalt them above all nations! They had to be RIGHTEOUS first!
Jeremiah 3:19 But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.
In order for them to inherit the kingdom promised to them in the prophets, they had to call Him Father – in other words, OBEY HIM, and they had to not turn away from him! But these people…
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
When He came to them, they REJECTED HIM, and wouldn’t receive Him! So they COULD NOT receive the Kingdom until that changed.
Deuteronomy 26:19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.
So what had happened is that the disciples lost perspective of what really mattered; they wanted their nation to be exalted just because it was their nation – and not because it deserved it. They didn’t care if it was righteous or not, they just wanted it to be the greatest of the nations again. And so when Jesus told the disciples that He was going to die…
Mark 8:31-32 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, … AND BE KILLED, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. …
And then picking up the story in Matthew, which adds a bit of information:
Matthew 16:22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
Peter was upset! But not just because Jesus was going to die – but because if Jesus died, HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO RESTORE THE KINGDOM! And Jesus KNEW that, and so He responded:
Matthew 16:23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
They loved the POWER and PRESTIGE that would come when Israel was queen of the nations once more! They didn’t love the things of God, they loved the things that MEN loved! And THAT is why Christ jumped down Peter’s throat! And now back to Judas Iscariot.
He had the same feelings that Peter did – although perhaps somewhat more. He desperately wanted the Kingdom to appear right then. But Jesus just wandered around Israel, year after year, wasting time healing people and speaking in parables which no one understood, and just wouldn’t get His act in a pile and start rebuilding the kingdom!
And so Judas thought “ah-hah! I have a plan! Jesus has power to do anything – I’ve seen him work miracles right and left! So if He was backed into a corner, where He had no other way out BUT to defend Himself with His powers and set up the Kingdom, THE KINGDOM OF GOD WOULD COME NOW!”
Mark 14:10-11 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
But for his plan to work well, it had to be a trap. He wanted Christ to be pitted, not just against anyone, but against the rulers! Because when Christ worked His miracles to destroy his adversaries – as the Old Testament promised that He would in dozens of places – Judas wanted the chief priests, Herod, and Pilate destroyed so that Christ would be able to take over the kingdom.
So he collected a reward for a few reasons; first, for his plan to work, it had to look like he was betraying him for money – otherwise it would have aroused their suspicions, since the scripture well documents the love of money that the priests had (Luke 16:14); and then he held the purse strings, and apparently was rather fond of, and dishonest with, money:
John 12:4-6 (Weymouth) Then said Judas (the Iscariot, one of the Twelve-the one who afterwards betrayed Jesus), “Why was not that perfume sold for 300 shillings and the money given to the poor?” The reason he said this was not that he cared for the poor, but that he was a thief, and that being in charge of the money-box, he used to steal what was put into it.
So then he betrayed Him, collected his reward, and all was going well… until he saw the high priests sentence Him to death (Matthew 26:66), then proceeded to slap, spit on, and mock Him. Judas had expected Christ to react to this treatment with the twelve legions of angels He Himself said He could call at any time – but to Judas’ consternation, He didn’t! And so He tried to backpedal and abort the plan – like so many criminals do, who get in over their heads – but it was too late!
Matthew 27:3-5 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
All of the disciples had these thoughts of restoring the kingdom, as the Bible often shows. But most of them would never have hatched such a plan, and even Judas, left to himself, probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to go through with it. And so Satan gave him a little push in the right direction, to help him do what he already wanted to do…
John 13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
Even though this reads like this was the first time Judas planned to betray Christ, we know that He had been in communication with the priests about this well before the passover took place:
Matthew 26:14-16 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.
And the next verse mentions that the passover is coming, so this probably took place at least a full day before the passover where “the devil entered into his heart”. So Judas wasn’t just “possessed” against his will by Satan – that never, EVER happens – Satan just encouraged Judas to do what HE WAS ALREADY PLANNING!
Judas did it, so he thought, to force Christ to restore the kingdom, and because his national pride yearned for Israel to be number one, no matter what. Satan did it because he thought he was killing Christ, once and for all. Both did it for their own selfish motives – but both were actually helping God’s plan all the while.
Matthew 26:24 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.
1 Corinthians 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Satan COULD NOT have known that by killing Christ, he was making possible YOUR salvation! Judas DID NOT know that by betraying Christ, he was helping Satan kill him! And it was NECESSARY, for our salvation – yes, perhaps someday even Judas’ salvation – that these offences come, and that Christ be betrayed and killed!
Matthew 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
But Judas will pay a heady price for his betrayal, and if eventually saved at all, he will come up at the bottom of the heap – for the first shall be last, and the last first. And Judas certainly had the chance be first. And he threw it all away because solely because he… was patriotic to an unworthy nation.
He literally and spiritually betrayed Christ for his country. Take heed that you don’t repeat his mistake.