Mark 14:10-11 – Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?

A few years ago the media went wild over the ‘Gospel of Judas,” a gnostic text which (it was claimed) described Judas as a faith disciple of Jesus, chosen to be the betrayer because he was so faithful. I first encountered this idea through William Klassen’s book Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996). Klassen argued that Judas was not the betrayer, but rather the most faithful disciple. Jesus had to be handed over to the authorities, so he entrusted this job to Judas. In order to make this theory work, Klassen has to make the “anti-Judas” statements into “later additions” by the church.  This includes the brief note in Luke that “Satan entered him” and the much later references to Judas as a thief in John’s gospel.  He makes much of the fact that Paul never mentions the betrayal or Judas.

Klassen does have a point, the later texts do indeed offer a more pernicious view of Judas.  In John 12:1-8, Judas is described as a thief. He is embezzling from the disciples, and when a woman anoints Jesus’ feet with a precious perfume, he feels that he has been “cheated.” The perfume was not sold, he could have skimmed quite a bit from the sale (in John 13:28-30 Judas is the keeper of the funds for the disciples.) Greed could be a factor in Matthew 26:14-16 as well – Judas asked the priests “What will you give me….?”

Another answer is that the “perfume incident” forced Judas to understand that Jesus was not the Messiah, at least exactly as he understood the Messiah. One option is that Judas was convinced by the anointing that Jesus was not who he claimed, and the Pharisees were right all along. Jesus had to be destroyed as a false teacher. A second option is that Judas was shocked when he finally understood that Jesus was literally going to his death. He may have expected Jesus to go to Jerusalem to overthrow the Romans, but not to die. He may have wanted to ‘force’ Jesus to use his power to destroy the Romans.

At the time of the Last Supper, Judas had already made his choice to betray when Satan entered him (Luke 22:3). Perhaps Satan’s hand in the betrayal was to tempt Judas into making the decision or perhaps to keep Judas from losing his nerve by entering him. This is an extremely unique event:  Satan is never mentioned as “entering” anyone else. Satan has become personally involved because the previous efforts to stop Jesus have failed.

Another angle here is this: What did Satan stand to gain by getting Judas to betray Jesus? Why did Satan want to kill Jesus? He should have been able to understand that it would be Jesus’ death and resurrection that defeated him. Clearly Satan tried to stop him from going to the cross in the temptations, and tried to slow him down or stop him throughout his ministry, so why help him to the cross now? Satan’s role in the killing of Jesus is an indication of the arrogance of the devil. Perhaps he thought that if he could not stop Jesus in the world, that he could stop him in death. Maybe he thought that he could hold Jesus in the grave. Another option, although less likely, is that Satan was playing the role laid out for him, and that he was not truly a free agent in the whole affair.

But from a purely human perspective, what did Judas hope to gain?  Thirty pieces of silver was not a great deal of money, he would not have won many friends by betraying his teacher.  I suspect that his motivations were good, he wanted to help Jesus establish himself as the Messiah and to assist him in starting a Kingdom of God in Jerusalem.

Bibliography: Klassen also wrote the Anchor Bible Dictionary article, “Judas Iscariot”, 3:1091-1096. For a more balanced approach, see D. J. Williams, “Judas Iscariot”, in DJG, 406-408; John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:208-211.

17 thoughts on “Mark 14:10-11 – Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?

  1. Your conclusion is what i saw depicted in the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2010. Judas was depicted as not understanding that his betrayed would mean Jesus’ death. It shows Judas thinking that the sanhedrin would not be able to provide sufficient evidence to condemn him, but Judas is filled with remorse when he learns that Jesus is condemned. Like you explained, remorse doesn’t let him off the hook. Remorse is often the result when we realize the consequences of our sin.


    • I think that this is a very common view, actually. (I did have to google “Oberammergau Passion Play”!)


  2. I have a hard time believing that Judas really had good intentions as he betrayed Jesus. In Mark 14:11, it says that Judas “sought an opportunity to betray” Jesus. He was not just looking for the right time to give His location up, the word betray is used and it seems like it is used in a strong sense. It seems obvious here that Judas was actively looking to betray Jesus, rather than trying to help Him with good intentions. Also, in the Luke version, it says that satan entered into Judas before he even plots with the priests for the first time. So this could mean that satan was in him the whole time. If it was only good intention on Judas’ part, and it was only part of the plan the whole time so Judas was suppose to do it, then why would Jesus even ask Judas, “..would you betray the Son of Man?” (Luke 22:48). In the Matthew version of this, it says that Judas specifically asks what they will give him in return and he accepts the money (Matt. 26:15). He could be after the money, but how much money was it exactly? On the other hand, it is hard to see Judas’ reasoning since in the end (Matt. 27:3-5) Judas gives the money back and commits suicide. Another point to look at is in Mark 14:21, at the Lord’s supper, Jesus says that someone will be betray Him and He says that even though he Son of Man will go as in prophesy, “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” I do not think that if Judas had good intentions that Jesus would say this about him. I think another solid evidence of this would be that in John 6:64 that there are some that do not believe, and in parenthesis it says that Jesus know who did not believe and would betray Him. This could be saying that Judas did not really believe. He also calls Judas a devil in John 6:70-71. I feel that if Judas really did have good intentions than he would not be so badly talked about in the Bible, being called and betrayer and a traitor and a devil.

    I’ve heard there is proof that Judas is no longer one of the 12 that will judge the tribes of Israel, but have not found direct proof. Is there proof? And if so where is it located in the Bible?


    • “I’ve heard there is proof that Judas is no longer one of the 12 that will judge the tribes of Israel” Nothing comes to mind, other than the fact that in Acts one he is replaced by Matthias. That would seem to me to be a replacement, even for the eschatological judgment. Some Christians think that Paul replaced Judas, but I disagree.


      • So you think that Judas will still be one of the ones to judge the tribes of Israel? I could be wrong, but I think that Loverin said that he thought it was pretty clear that Judas will not be, in class like a week ago.


      • I do not think he remained an apostle, he was replaced, so no, he will not be a judge. I also think it’s interesting that when James is killed he is not replaced (acts 12). But then he was martyred not betrayer.


  3. I tend to think that Judas had come to sincerely believe that Jesus had gone off the rails — similar to when Jesus’ mother and brothers came out after him near the beginning of his public ministry to try to convince him to come home and stop preaching this crazy stuff all over the countryside. I don’t think Judas expected Jesus to be sentenced to death; I think he expected the authorities to lock him up and keep him in prison until the social unrest died down. After all, that’s what should have happened to John the Baptist: he was imprisoned, and only died because of the conniving of Herodias.

    A mimetic reading of the passion identifies Satan as the accuser, the one who makes the accusative gesture that precipitates violence against the scapegoat. In this reading, Satan “entering” someone is not at all unusual; it’s rather the usual way that such scapegoat-lynchings come about.


  4. I had never given thought to Judas possibly having good intentions, it never came off to me that that was a possibility. Although, I understand all counter arguments. Which isn’t making my job any easier. Perhaps Judas had good intentions and wanted to provoke a way for Jesus to fill his role as the Messiah. Perhaps he did just want Jesus to be temporarily arrested to calm down Jesus’ teachings going off the deep end. Maybe when Judas was entered by Satan his actions weren’t very much his own, but maybe when Satan entered Judas it was to keep Judas from getting the ball rolling on Jesus’ descent to hell in order to overcome it and be the Savior of the world. Maybe Satan thought that by getting Jesus to the grave he could keep him there. Perhaps Judas never believed and was intentionally betraying Jesus on his own, not necessarily forced by Satan’s influence. Maybe Judas was the most faithful disciple in assisting God in getting Jesus to the cross. Maybe Judas had good intentions, maybe he had bad intentions. I believe all the verses and arguments for these options have been laid out. To restate them would be a waste. I wish I could make a divine decision that is correct based on some interpretation or Greek word. But I can’t. I don’t think Judas had anything to gain from the betrayal. And I think that his remorse would be a sign of an amount of genuineness or love for Jesus, or possibly simply the realization that he IS the Son of God, the Savior of the world.


  5. After reading this post, there are a few things that I had never thought of or realized before. The biggest one it that, like Kym said, it never even occurred to me that Judas may have had good intentions in betraying Jesus. To me, it does not matter what it is, to betray someone always seems to have a negative motive. So to think that Judas did this to help Jesus prove that He is Messiah, is a thought that never would have crossed my mind. And to be honest, it is still one that I am not fully convinced of. Obviously I have not done a lot of research on the topic, but just the statement from Luke alone that “Satan entered him” (Luke 22:3) is enough to still make me question his motives—although I am not sure what a counter response to that would be. Along with this, I found it interesting to learn that there is no account of Satan, himself, entering anyone any other time—was he really that desperate?! I have to wonder if it was that Satan thought the only way to defeat Jesus was by ensuring His death. But back to the reason why Judas betrayed Jesus and what he had to gain, I honestly do not know. Like you said, P. Long, the money was not that significant and he had already made the decision to do so before Satan entered him.


  6. When P. Long mentioned this in class, that Judas might have had good intentions at the time for betraying Jesus, I had a hard time believing it. Although his arguments made sense (Judas betrayed Jesus in order for Jesus to fulfill his purpose on earth) I still have a hard time believing that Judas did this for the right reasons. Whether or not Satan entering him (Luke 22:3) happened before or after his decision to betray Jesus is also a factor in Judas’ innocence. We can never truly know what Judas was thinking when he made the conscious decision to sell Jesus’ location t his prosecutors. However, we can be completely sure of the fact that Jesus needed to be betrayed and he needed to be crucified in order for his will to be done. Although, I would like to think that if Judas hadn’t betrayed him, Jesus would still be able to fulfill his purpose on earth. From a purely human perspective, Judas could have hoped to gain the honor of aiding Jesus in completing his will on earth (if we believe that he did it with good intentions). For that reason alone, even I would do the same Judas did. Not for the honor or glory of being a puzzle piece to salvation, but to aid Jesus in saving us all.


  7. I have a very hard time looking at Judas’ betrayal and seeing it as something done with positive intentions. However, after reading through and looking at the different arguments and Scripture that aided in these views, I do see why people look for another explanation in regards to this betrayal of the Messiah by one of his own disciples. It is clear that Judas did not gain much of anything for betraying Jesus, and we also see his clear remorse for what he did when he refuses the money and hangs himself. It was necessary that Jesus would suffer, and the purpose of his ministry on the earth was to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Yet, was it necessary that he have a betrayer? As discussed above, we are told that Satan enters Judas. Yet there are different accounts as to when exactly that entrance happened (before or after Judas’ decision to betray Jesus). Regardless, was this decision one that Judas made himself or one that he was led to make through Satan in order to fulfill Divine purposes? Or as scholars including Klassen have suggested, is it possible that Judas betrayed Jesus with intentions of helping him to fulfill his role as the Messiah? If we conclude that Judas actually lost more than he gained in his betrayal of Jesus, it seems more sensible to say that either Satan was the driving force of Judas’ betrayal or that Judas had good intentions in this betrayal. However, it has always been my understanding that it is not possible for believers to be possessed by a demon or to have Satan enter them. While I am not sure if this idea of mine has Biblical support or is just something that I have been taught over the years, it seems to me that for the Devil himself or any of his accomplices to have any part in controlling a person, it is not possible if that person has any sort of communion or connection with God. With this in mind, it seems to me that in order for Satan to enter Judas, he must have clearly been living in sin for this to be possible, and ultimately his intentions could not have been good. 1 John 4:4 says, “….greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” If Judas was a genuine follower of Jesus who loved him, I believe that this would overpower Satan and would not allow him to enter Judas.


  8. However, it has always been my understanding that it is not possible for believers to be possessed by a demon or to have Satan enter them. While I am not sure if this idea of mine has Biblical support or is just something that I have been taught over the years, it seems to me that for the Devil himself or any of his accomplices to have any part in controlling a person, it is not possible if that person has any sort of communion or connection with God.

    Interesting idea. But, I would expect that such protection would not come from *any* form of connection with God, but would depend specifically on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is granted to Christian believers in our age, but would have been unavailable to Judas because the Spirit had not yet been given.


  9. I really have no idea what Judas was trying to do. I cannot grasp the fact that Judas betrayed Jesus after walking with Jesus and seeing that he is the true Messiah. To trade Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver only to gain what, the satisfaction that he was the one who betrayed him? Or maybe it is like you said; he had good intentions behind his idea of betraying Jesus. But what about the fact that Satan entered him in Luke 22:3? That Satan was trying to stop Jesus from suffering on the cross and then rising again only to further the Kingdom of God, but he already knew that he was already going to be defeated, but to try and stop Jesus from dying, to prolong the process of the crucifixion? I just do not get the point of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus when he knew that Jesus is the Messiah. Again, I have never thought of these statements or situations before and dig deeper into what the real truth and meaning is.


  10. I can understand why people may have thought that Judas had good intentions when he betrayed Jesus, but i would have to disagree with this statement. I can not understand why he would do something like this at all. He had been with Jesus for such a long time, he had seen the miracles, heard the parables, he seemed to be a devoted follower of Christ. I know that Jesus was sent here to die on the cross and for our sins to be forgiven, but why did Judas do this? Why would he trade in the forgiver of our sins and the redeemer of all of our sins in for silver. It still confuses me.


  11. For me to read that Judas had “good intentions” both does and does not make sense, if that makes sense. In one sense, for Judas to do such a thing to set the scene for Christ rolling into Jerusalem and destroying the Romans and ending the tyranny would make sense. But at the same time you really can’t have good intentions to betray the Christ in any sense. It is a weird thought to have and I have never thought of the possibility of Judas having good intentions. So it is a weird thought for me to have.


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