How do Christians explain Judas betraying Jesus after he had seen Jesus perform miracles? Does it make any sense that he would betray Jesus after demonstrations of divinity, all for some silver coins?

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    Greed, possessed by Satan, predestined and prophesied to do so as part of God's plan, seeking to force Jesus to act as Messiah as traditionally expected, trying to arrange discussion between Jesus and the Jerusalem authorities, and many more possibilities. The first three have clear biblical justification.
    – Henry
    Aug 12, 2022 at 21:51
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    One might also ask why the Israelites still abandoned God in the wilderness despite seeing a pillar of fire and the parting of the Red Sea. Turns out that humans are very bad at loyalty, even to their own creator and savior.
    – Luke Hill
    Aug 12, 2022 at 22:31
  • I forgot where I read it, but the betrayal of Judas follows the usual tactic the Devil employs. To lure you into committing the sin he exaggerates God's mercy in your mind to dispel the fear of sin, and after you fall he tempts you to despair from the wrath of God. That is why Judas betrayed Christ and hanged himself afterwards. Most Christians today are so confident in God's mercy that the Devil let's them continue in their sin. Since Judas realized he sinned against God only then does he drive to despair. To combat this we must fear the Lord before sin, and be confident of his mercy after.
    – Glorius
    Sep 5, 2022 at 19:14

3 Answers 3


Psalm 55 is prophetic:

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God,
as we walked about
    among the worshipers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
    let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
    for evil finds lodging among them.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.

This Psalm surely speaks of a friend of David's who betrayed him, but has a wider messianic significance. Judas betrayed not only Jesus, but his friends, the other disciples. The mention of drawn swords also brings to mind the scene of the arrest of Jesus at night.

As for the price for the betrayal and the fact that it would be used to buy a field, that is in Zechariah 11:

12 Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages zthirty pieces of silver. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—athe lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.

There are other prophecies about the betrayal, but these two are sufficient. Thus the first cause of Judas' betrayal was God's sovereign will: Judas was not among the elect. A second cause was human freedom: Judas chose to betray Jesus. Reconciling divine sovereignty and human free will is above my pay grade. A third cause was Satan. During the Last Supper, Jesus said, according to Luke in chapter 22:

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.

Other causes were Judas' greed and fear of the authorities, who were plotting to kill Jesus already. To demonstrate greed, we have John 12:6:

[Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

  • 1
    Also clear that Jesus early on knew that Judas would betray him: John 6:70. +1 Aug 13, 2022 at 13:46

There are several was to explain the betrayal of Jesus in biblical context.

A frequently mentioned idea is that it was predestined by God. Jesus was sent to die for our sins and so whatever Judas' personal motivation was, he was helping Jesus to fulfill his destiny. He may even have known this, despite his feeling of guilt afterward. This is supported by Jesus' words at the Last Supper: “Do quickly what you are going to do.” - John 13:27

Against this we have the curse of Jesus in Matthew 26:24 "Woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” But this is prefaced by "The Son of Man goes as it is written of him." So the idea that it was predestined leaves us with questions about why God would use Judas to fulfill his will, but also condemn him for fulfilling his divinely appointed role.

If we want to go beyond the theory that Judas was God's agent to fulfill Jesus' destiny, we have to speculate about Judas' motivation, a motivation strong enough to cause him to use his free will to betray Jesus even though Judas had witnessed God's power in Jesus so dramatically.

One theory is that Judas was a Zealot, a strong Jewish patriot who wanted to prod Jesus into action against Rome. For Jews, the Messiah did not come to die for our sins but to re-establish the Davidic throne, and to do so the Messiah needed to take dramatic political action. Judas' possible identification as a Zealot is indicated by two bits of evidence: his name "Iscariot" may be related to the word for the faction of Zealots know as the 'sicarii,' meaning dagger-men. Also, in the Epistula Apostolorum verse 2, [2nd century] Judas is called Judas Zelotes, an appellation usually associated with another apostle, Simon the Zealot. In this view, Judas believed Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah who had divine power, and by turning Jesus over to the authorities, Judas thought he would move Jesus to dramatic action.

The Gospel of John suggests another possible motivation for Judas: financial corruption. John 12:3-6 states:

3 Mary [of Bethany] took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped them with her hair... [But Judas] said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

The narrator makes Judas' motivation clear: he was a thief, and thus greed may also be attributed to his selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Conversely, one might speculate that Judas felt Jesus was acting hypocritically and was himself guilty of financial corruption. Jesus had taught that to enter eternal life, a rich man had to sell all he had and give it to the poor. [Mark 10:21] But here, Judas complains that Jesus was squandering a year's wages worth of pure nard on himself. Thus, Judas might have lost faith in Jesus, so much so that he was willing to betray him as a false messiah.

The action of Mary of Bethany in this scene is also suggestive. To care for a man's feet was an extremely intimate gesture, and the use of a woman's hair to do so was scandalous. In addition to possible moral outrage, Judas may have also felt jealousy toward Jesus if he himself had a romantic or sexual interest in Mary.

Finally, we should mention the 2nd century gnostic-christian Gospel of Judas, in which Judas is described as a co-conspirator of Jesus. This work, however, is considered heretical. Judas, like Jesus himself, is a pre-existent semi-divine being who comes to earth to show humans the Truth, which is that our physical bodies are only illusions from which we need to escape.

Jesus said to Judas "You'll do more than all of them, because you'll sacrifice the human who bears me. Your horn has already been raised, your anger has been kindled, your star has ascended..." verse 56

My answer in summary: there are several ways that Christians might explain why Judas betrayed Jesus despite witnessing God's power in him. They include that he was God's agent in doing so, that he was a Zealot who wanted Jesus to use God's miraculous power against Rome, that he was greedy and wanted money, that he lost faith because he thought Jesus himself was misusing money, that he was outraged or jealous over Mary of Bethany's intimacy with Jesus, or even that he and Jesus were both divine messengers and not normal human beings. These explanations are not mutually exclusive.

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    This thinking of sexual interest is beyond absurd.
    – JonH
    Sep 6, 2022 at 2:11
  • why... Do you think Judas was incapable of that kind of jealousy? Sep 6, 2022 at 2:51
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    I just do not think, nor was there any writings or evidence, of some sort of jealousy from Jesus to any female during that time. To suggest it seems to add no value whatsoever.
    – JonH
    Sep 6, 2022 at 3:14
  • Agreed. But I was speaking about jealousy toward Jesus [from Judas] . Sep 8, 2022 at 4:11
  • I understood that as well, however, I still think just the thought or implication here is wrong. I think Judas clearly knew Jesus's purpose and to even suggest it seems wrong. Anyways that is your opinion which you are free to have.
    – JonH
    Sep 8, 2022 at 10:39

To answer this I will begin with what God told the prophet Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

While Jeremiah was a prophet of God, Judas Iscariot was more important as his job was to provide the mechanism for all of us to be saved through God's Son Jesus Christ. God knew Judas Iscariot before he was formed in the womb and He set him apart to do what he had to do.

Jesus knew the role Judas had to perform before Judas knew Jesus, and Jesus chose him to be his disciple. Jesus could not tell any of the disciples what Judas' role had to be until after Judas left to do what he had to do, and then he would have only told one. I believe that to be John. John would have helped the others understand why Judas did what he had to do.

Study closely the dynamics of John 13 and try to understand how the disciples could not understand why Jesus told Judas:

“What you are about to do, do quickly.”

The critical question is: Who did Peter ask the question to? If it were John, as most people say it was, then this statement would not be true:

But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. (John 13:28)

Jesus knew what Judas had to do, and He knew that Judas would suffer afterwards. Jesus would have provided some one to help Judas understand his role, and to help the others understand. This, I understand, would have been John, and Jesus' confidence to John would have taken place when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

John does not write about Jesus praying at Gethsemane in his Gospel, but Matthew, Mark and Luke did. MM&L state that Jesus went there to pray AFTER the last supper and BEFORE he was arrested. One of the disciples had to be awake with Jesus while he was praying to write about it. This, I understand, would have been John. Jesus took three disciples (Peter, James and John) with him to pray and two slept. This makes the sleeping disciples wording of the verses true.

What I've shared goes against the grain of what the Christian church teaches about Judas Iscariot, but I cannot conceive any truth that God would have created a man to do what Judas Iscariot had to do and then condemn him to Hell. This is not what Jesus taught, and this is not the life that God offers to all of us.

I understand that Jesus provided a way for Judas Iscariot to be forgiven, and a way for Judas to ease Peter's pain of the loss of a brother and the death of Jesus.

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