Most expectant parents, when choosing a name for their soon-to-be born son, rarely choose the name “Judas”. When one is familiar with the biblical story of Judas Iscariot, the reason for avoiding the name becomes clear.
The name ‘Judas’ is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name ‘Judah’ and means “praise Yahweh” [God]. Judas’ last name, Iscariot, probably means ‘man of Kerioth’. Kerioth was a city of Moab near Hebron. It is also possible that ‘Iscariot’ means ‘assassin’ or ‘bandit’ and might tie Judas, and his father Simon (John 6:71) to a group of Jewish patriots known as Zealots. However, it appears the stronger evidence favors ‘man of Kerioth’.
Profile of a betrayer
Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve original disciples. He was the treasurer for the group (John 13:29), but was known as a miser and a thief (John 12:4-6).
Judas is best remembered for his betrayal of Jesus to those who sought to harm Him (Matthew 26:14-47; Mark 14:10-46; Luke 22:3-48; John 18:2-5). After this betrayal, Judas felt remorse and tried unsuccessfully to return the thirty pieces of silver he had been paid to betray Jesus (Matthew 27:3-4). Judas then went and hung himself (Matthew 27:5; Acts 1:18).
The Betrayal was no surprise to Jesus
Jesus had already identified Judas as a ‘devil’ (John 6:70-71). Jesus clearly knew beforehand what the future held for Him. Nevertheless, Jesus also made it clear that He had chosen Judas to be in His group of disciples just as He had chosen the other eleven. This goes to show that it was all part of God’s plan. Satan was not conspiring against Jesus without Jesus knowing. Quite the contrary, nothing happens at all unless God either causes it or allows it.
To further make this point, we see that Judas’ act of betrayal was foretold in the Old Testament. The apostle Peter, in Acts 1:16, tells us that David had prophesied about Judas Iscariot many years earlier, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry”…“For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; [Psalm 69:25] and “‘Let another take his office’ [Psalm 109:8]“ (Acts 1:16-17, 20 ESV).
Was Judas saved or not?
The debate continues over whether Judas was truly a saved man who fell away or whether he was an imposter the whole time, or part of the time, he walked with Jesus and the other disciples. I believe the biblical record leans toward Judas as a person who was always more concerned with his own will than with God’s will.
We are told that Satan entered Judas’ heart and ‘put it into his heart’ to betray Jesus (John 13:2, 27). If this were the only verse concerning the condition of Judas’ heart, we could blame the entire betrayal on Satan. However, even this verse does not say that Satan ‘forced’ Judas to do anything. It says that Satan ‘put it into [Judas’] heart’ to betray Jesus. The Greek here simply means that Satan tempted Judas with the idea of betraying Jesus.
James 1:14-15 tells us, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (ESV). Satan put an idea into Judas’ heart that appealed to Judas’ selfish motives. Judas heart condition was such that it was an open door to Satan.
What biblical evidence do we have that reveals the condition of Judas’ heart? In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, we have the story of Mary [the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead], in an act of worship, pouring out some expensive ointment onto Jesus’ feet.
However, instead of recognizing this act for the worship it was, Judas’ reaction revealed much about his heart’s condition. “But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:4-6 ESV). Judas’ question, and the explanation that followed, tells us that Judas’ heart was not a heart touched, and changed, by the love of Jesus. Judas was a man with his own ideas, plans, and motives. Judas was not a man who loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, body, and strength.
The tragedy of missed opportunity
Judas remained committed to his own selfish plans and desires instead of following Jesus with all his heart. It is tragic that someone who walked so close to Jesus could miss the truth. There is at least one powerful lesson to be gleaned from what we know of the life of Judas. It is possible to pretend on the outside to be what one is not on the inside. One can act like a Christian while never experiencing true salvation. One can also attend church regularly and fellowship with believers, but never truly be a follower of Jesus. We can commit Judas’ same tragic act today if we are not willing “…to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 ESV).
As believers in Jesus Christ, we must be ever watchful that we are following God’s will for our lives and not our own selfish will. Only then can we be sure we are safe from the temptation “of the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (I John 2:16 ESV).
Looking for more Bible studies/stories like this? Take a look at these articles:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV)