Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him (see John 6:64,70-71), and of course God knew it from eternity past. In fact, it was predicted in Psalm 41:9 that the Messiah would be betrayed by one with whom He would share His food. Jesus revealed to Peter that Judas was the betrayer, and in so doing proved His foreknowledge of what was about to happen.
Was Judas really responsible for what he did? Didn’t someone have to betray Jesus in order for prophecy to be fulfilled? And doesn’t Satan really bear the responsibility, since the Bible says he entered Judas? And what about Jesus? Wasn’t He partly responsible for His own betrayal, since He instructed Judas to do quickly what he was about to do?
The answer to those questions is that Judas bore most of the responsibility for Christ’s betrayal, Satan bore some and Christ bore none. The Scriptures only foretold what God knew would happen, so we shouldn’t think that someone had to betray Jesus or that Judas was predestined to do it. Judas decided to betray Christ on his own (see Matthew 26:14-16).
The Bible does indicate that Satan was involved in tempting Judas, so he also bears some guilt. However, his tempting of Judas didn’t remove Judas’s guilt in the matter. Satan didn’t force Judas; he only tempted him. Judas still had to decide whether or not he would yield to the temptation.
Finally, when Jesus told Judas to do quickly what he had planned, we shouldn’t think Jesus was encouraging Judas to betray Him. Judas had already made up his mind what he was going to do; Jesus was revealing to Judas that He knew he was about to betray Him. Jesus’ words should have made it more difficult for Judas to follow through on his plan, since he certainly didn’t want Jesus to know what he was about to do, but now he knew that Jesus knew.
Jesus also realized that His time with His disciples was very short. He would soon be in heaven. So He took His final opportunity to share what was most important with those who would carry on His work. They would be the ones who would lead the church, and the one thing that could ruin them before they got started was strife. However, if they would love one another, they would remain unified and strong. So Jesus commanded them to love one another, saying that their love would be the identifying mark that they were His disciples.
Unfortunately, either this truth hasn’t sunk into the hearts of many Christians, or many people who claim to be Christians are just fooling themselves, because they don’t display what Jesus said would mark them as being His. Sitting in church once a week is not the identifying mark of a true Christian, neither is prophesying, possessing Bible knowledge, going on youth retreats, nor playing on the church softball team. True followers of Christ love each other.
Q. Why did the chief priests need someone to betray Jesus? Why didn’t they just arrest Jesus when He was teaching in the Temple each day?
A. Because they were afraid that the people would riot if they arrested Jesus in a public place. So they needed someone to inform them of Jesus’ whereabouts when He would be alone or with only His twelve disciples (see Matthew 26:3-5; Luke 22:6).
Q. Jesus not only knew Judas’s plans, He also knew what Peter would do: denying Him three times after boasting that he was ready to die for Him. Can you think of a spiritual principle that describes what happened to Peter?
A. “Pride goes before destruction” (see Proverbs 16:18).
Application: Jesus didn’t suggest that we love one another. He commanded it. And the standard by which He said we should measure our love for one another is by His love for us. That means we should really love each other, from our hearts, proving our love through our words and actions.