A few nights ago, my wife and I were discussing the role and aftermath of Judas, so I went to the Scriptures and determined to clarify my position on Judas. This is part 1 of a 3 part series in which I examine Judas according to the Scriptures. This is, as always, open to discussion.
Freewill and Determination – historical debates among Christians, today, yesterday, and forever. One of the central figures in this debate is a man known as Judas Iscariot. In Christian tradition, he is the betrayer of Christ with a kiss. For thirty pieces of silver, he gave up Christ to the Roman and Jewish authorities and went on to commit suicide, serving ever since as the one individual who has received more hate from Christians than anyone else.
Was his betrayal predetermined?
We know that the characterization of Judas in Matthew points to the idea that he and his actions were a completion of the words of the prophets. If this is the case, then I would assume that the early writers saw Judas as one who had been selected to betray Jesus, especially since Christ had specifically chosen Judas,
(v.70) Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” (John 6:64-70)
Notice the next verse in which John specifically identifies Judas as one of the Twelve.
He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray him. (John 6:71 NLT)
In the various lists, Judas is always identified with the Twelve:
Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (also called Peter), then Andrew (Peter’s brother), James (son of Zebedee), John (James’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). (Mat 10:1-4 NLT)
We can readily accept that Judas was the pre-chosen betrayer, and that he completed the words of the prophets, however, can we accept that Judas in his predetermined out come may have been ultimately forgiven?
Note then the words of Jesus when speaking to the inner circle of the disciples, the Twelve:
Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Mat 19:27-28)
And we can find the thought mimicked in Luke:
After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people– an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.”
The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:20-30)
It is possible that perhaps Jesus was speaking about Matthais or about Paul but in the Gospels, it is clear that Judas will be given a throne along with the rest of the Apostles. Further, we find in Revelation, a codified number of Apostles, like the Gospels, which are central to the New Jerusalem:
The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev 21:14 NLT)
Did Judas Repent?
We find in that Judas, when confronted with what he had done – not in the betrayal so much, but in the impending death of Christ – he repented,
When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse (μεταμεληθεὶς). So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders.
“I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”
Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. (Mat 27:3-5)
The ESV reads,
he changed his mind (Mat 27:3 ESV)
The word carries within it a deep sense of sorrow, but not the repentance which is spoken of in the New Testament. While he became remorseful, it would not be wise to assume from this passage that he in anyway repented of his act. He was, as the NLT says, remorseful.
We can place any number of people into the Twelve to take Judas’ place, but Paul would not be one of them, as the Twelve judge the Twelve Tribes and Paul was an Apostle to the Gentiles. We can replace him with Matthais, but that is simply not in the present text.