Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
While we cannot be absolutely certain why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are certain. While Judas was chosen to be one of the Twelve, all scriptural evidence points to the fact that he never believed Jesus to be God. He may not even have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (at least as he understood it). Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas instead called him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty, Judas never did so. This lack of faith in Jesus is the foundation for the other issues listed below. The same holds true for us. If we fail to recognize Jesus as God incarnate, and therefore the only One who can provide forgiveness for our sins, and the eternal salvation that comes with it, we lose in the end.
Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he also had little personal relationship with Him. When the synoptic gospels list the Twelve, they are always listed in the same general order, with slight variations. The general order is believed to indicate the relative closeness of their personal relationship with Jesus. Despite the variations, Peter and the brothers James and John, are always listed first, which is consistent with their relationships with Jesus. Judas is always listed last. Additionally, the only documented dialogue between Jesus and Judas involves Judas being rebuked after his greed motivated remark to Mary (John 12:1-8), his denial of his betrayal (Matthew 26:25), and the betrayal itself (Luke 22:48).
Judas was consumed with greed to the point of betraying the trust of not only Jesus, but also his fellow disciples, as we see in John 12:5-6. Judas may have desired to follow Jesus simply because he saw an opportunity to profit from collections taken for support of the group.
Judas, like most Jews at the time, believed the Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and take a position of power ruling over the nation of Israel. Judas may have followed Jesus hoping to benefit from association with Him as the new reigning political power. No doubt he expected to be among the ruling elite after the revolution. By the time of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus had made it clear that He planned to die, not start a rebellion against Rome. So Judas may have assumed, as the Pharisees did, that since He would not overthrow the Romans, He was not the Messiah they were anticipating. In the end, he played the part necessary for God’s plan of salvation for all men to come into being. That doesn’t make what Judas did right or acceptable, because it came down to his own choice, but shows that God can take even our worst and turn it to be to his glory.