Monday, February 6

Why Judas betrayed Jesus

Scripture: Matthew 26

Matthew 26:14–16 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.


Why did Judas betray Jesus? The Scripture doesn’t say directly, but motives can be inferred from the context. Probably it was a complex mix of motives. Commentators mention several possible motives; Barclay summarizes them in three: avarice (greed); disillusionment and disappointment; and an attempt to force Jesus’ hand.

Avarice: we know that Judas was the treasurer, a thief, and cared too much about money (John 12:4-6). Judas’ betrayal followed the story of the anointing in Bethany, where he objected to the waste of expensive perfume. It’s possible that waste was the final straw and Judas betrayed Jesus for money.

Disappointment: it’s possible that Judas was expecting Jesus to be a military messiah who would use his miraculous powers to catalyze Jewish resistance and drive out the Romans. This chapter opens with Jesus telling his disciples he will be crucified, followed by the anointing and talk of his burial. It’s possible that was the final straw for Judas and his disillusionment and disappointment led him to betray Jesus.

Force Jesus’ hand: it’s possible that Jesus was moving too slowly for Judas and he decided to force Jesus to act to defend himself and start the revolution. In this case, he never intended Jesus to die, and this explains his suicide later. 

Barclay concludes:

“However we look at it, the tragedy of Judas is that he refused to accept Jesus as he was and tried to make him what he wanted him to be. It is not Jesus who can be changed by us, but we who must be changed by Jesus. We can never use him for our purposes; we must submit to be used for his. The tragedy of Judas is that of a man who thought he knew better than God.” (Barclay, W., ed. (1976). The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, p. 332.)


Life often doesn’t go as we hoped. God sometimes doesn’t come through as we expected. And people (especially) disappoint us. Many people leave church and their faith in Jesus because of these disappointments. That is a Judas decision.

Let’s be those who stand by Jesus even when disappointed, even when he doesn’t do what we hoped. As Barclay said, let’s allow Jesus to change us rather than trying to change him; let’s not use Jesus for our purposes, but let him use us for his.  Let’s not think we know better than God. 

Let’s trust him and keep going. 

Prayer: I love you Lord and I don’t want to be a Judas. I see that tendency in me—to use you for my purposes and be disappointed when you don’t conform. Forgive me, and help me follow you as you are, rather than squeezing you into my mold. Help me to trust and follow.