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Why did Judas do it?

Why did Judas do it: Why did he betray Jesus? Many guesses have been offered as to the reason. One theory is that Judas was the treasurer of the group (of Jesus and the Apostles) and a thief, and he did it for the money (John 12:6). But I have a different theory; I cannot prove it, but it does seem to make sense. It centers on the other name that Judas was known as, “Iscariot.”

Some background before we get to that, though. In the time of Jesus, several Jewish religious/political parties existed: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, and Zealots. There were undoubtedly more, but these are the ones which get the most attention. (The Essenes are not mentioned in the NT but were the source of the Dead Sea Scrolls.) Out of all the groups, the Zealots were the ones which were, well, most zealous for getting rid of the Romans and getting the kingdom of Israel back.

During the time of Jesus, the Romans occupied Israel. They had taken over Israel in the year 63 BC, so by the time Jesus was preaching they had occupied Israel for about 100 years. Eventually, about 30 years after Jesus, in AD 66, the Jews killed 3000 Roman soldiers and reestablish the Kingdom of Israel (although the Romans will come back five years later and reconquer it.) But during the time of Jesus, the Zealots only knew that they had been occupied for 100 years, and they didn’t like it.

Within this Zealot group existed a smaller group called the Sicarii. Sicarii is from the Latin and means “dagger men.” These fanatical Zealots carried knives with them and would attempt to assassinate Romans or those Jews who had gone over to the Roman side. And Judas might have been one of these Sicarii. After all, “Iscariot” and “Sicarii” are very similar, with the same letters “s-c-a-r-i” in each.

So let’s say that Judas was a Sicarii. That meant that he was extremely fanatical about getting rid of the Romans, which meant that he was searching for a military leader to lead the Jews into battle against the Romans. He learns about Jesus, goes to meet Jesus ,and finds that this guy attracts large crowds wherever he goes. He also sees that Jesus is the kind of guy who people just naturally follow. So he sees a potential leader for the rebellion.

He joins those following Jesus, and Jesus picks him to be one of his main leaders, one of the Apostles. He begins to become convinced that Jesus is this military leader. So he follows Jesus. Plus Jesus heals people and raises them from the dead, just the kind of things you would want a military leader to be able to do.

But Jesus just keeps preaching and teaching. After three years, Judas is tired of waiting for the rebellion to start. He figures that he needs to back Jesus into a corner, to make him come out fighting. He goes to the Jewish leaders and tells them that he can take them to Jesus’ secret prayer place. He leads them to Jesus during the night, and he expected Jesus to come out fighting and to start the rebellion. But Jesus allows himself to be captured and taken away.

Judas was confused. He was certain that Jesus was a military leader. Then he finally gets it: Jesus is not a military leader but a spiritual leader. He goes back to the Jewish leaders and tells them they have made a mistake. But they ignore him, and he goes out and commits suicide.

So, this is a theory, but it does explain why Judas tried to get Jesus released and why he committed suicide.

©2011 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved