Why did Judas betray Jesus?

First, we find the prophecy from Zechariah 11:12-13, written more than five centuries before Judas’ betrayal. In this passage, there are several things that point to the account of Judas’ betrayal, including the discussion on how much the betrayal was worth, and the deciding number, 30 pieces of silver. (See Matthew 26:15.) We also see, Judas threw the money down in the temple. (See Matthew 27:5.) And we discover, the money was used for the potter—in Matthew 27:6-7 we see that the chief priests bought the potter’s field with it.

The second thing we need to understand is the philosophy. The Pharisees of that day taught that the Messiah would come as a conquering king and deliver them from Roman oppression. However, Scripture is clear that the Messiah would be despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3) and that He would give His life by way of crucifixion, as perfectly illustrated in Psalm 22. Jesus did not come to deliver people from oppression but from sin. A more modern view of this betrayal is that God chose Judas to betray Jesus as if Judas had no choice. God never chooses people to sin. God is eternal, unbound by time as we are, and He sees all time at the same time. Therefore, God, in His Sovereignty, will use people according to the choices He has already seen them make to accomplish His will, but He will not push them into, or make them, sin. That would go against His holiness. Jesus, in His desire to save all, even gave Judas one last chance to choose differently when He called him friend. (See Matthew 26:50 and 2 Peter 3:9).

The third thing we see is the hypocrisy. Judas acted as a follower of Christ for several years, but his heart was never with Him. Judas is called the betrayer and a thief, and we are told how Satan entered him after he had made the choice to betray Jesus. Satan cannot reside in the same heart where Jesus does; light and darkness cannot coexist (See John 12:4-6, 13:26-30, and 1 John 1:5).