Judas Iscariot


To us in the twenty-first century, the very name Judas is a picture of treachery and betrayal, a name not given to new-born babies, but in the time of Christ, it was an honorable name. One of the twelve tribes of Israel was named Judah, and King David emerged from that tribe. Maybe Judas was named after Judas Maccabeus, an Israelite who led the Jews to victory over the Seleucid Empire, more than 175 years earlier after Antiochus Epiphanes sought to destroy the Jewish faith and change the Jewish culture and language. His surname, Iscariot, tells us the town that Judas came from, i.e., ish (“man”) of Kerioth, a small village in the south of Judea.

Judas had so mastered the art of hypocrisy and deception that, when Jesus told the twelve during the Last Supper that one among them would betray Him, none of the eleven knew who was the betrayer:


20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." 22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" (Matthew 26:20-22). 


Judas was still trying to hide his betrayal from the others by saying to Messiah, "‘Surely not I, Rabbi?' Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you'" (Matthew 26:25). Judas was more than likely sitting at the table in the place of honor to Jesus' left side as he tried to hide what he was planning. We know this because the Lord was in easy reach of Judas to hand him a piece of bread that Jesus dipped into the dish. The apostle John gives us more information here:

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." 22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" 26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him (John 13:21-27).


The order of seating was John's reclining to the right of Jesus with his head against Jesus' chest. Although we do not know for sure, some have assumed that Peter was to John's right because Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question ("Ask Him which one He means"(v. 24). It could be that Judas was at the left hand of Jesus, one of the two honored places to Messiah’s left and right.


How did Judas get to the other seat of honor at Jesus' left? Luke tells us of a dispute that went on at the Last Supper over which of them was considered the greatest (Luke 22:24). It could be that Peter was upset at getting a lesser position around the table due to Judas seating himself alongside Jesus. Their desire for the best position could have come to the fore because there was an expectation that the kingdom of God would soon be revealed. This desire for a higher station or status must be uprooted out of the heart of the Christian. We are servants, and we should be ready to take the lowest place, and with a glad and willing heart. Let’s talk some more about this tomorrow. Keith Thomas


Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke. Click on study 58. The Betrayal of Jesus.