Judas Iscariot Was one of the Original 12 Apostles, Chosen by Christ. The Example of his Life Should be More Instructive to us Than it Commonly Is:
According to all four canonical gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him and addressing him as “rabbi” to reveal his identity to the crowd who had come to arrest him. This act of course defines Judas an apostate and as a betrayer.
The Gospel of Matthew (26:15) states that Judas committed the betrayal in exchange for thirty pieces of silver indicating the sin of greed as a motive for Judas’ betrayal of Christ. The Gospel of Luke (22:3) and the Gospel of John (13:27) suggest that Judas was possessed by Satan (which suggests that Judas more of a victim than prime mover in his actions).
It is my personal opinion that these degradations of Judas, if they are taken as a full understanding of who Judas was, are a rather superficial, “two dimensional”, cardboard cut out of who the historical Judas Iscariot of the Bible should be understood as. First of all we must remember that Judas was chosen by God’s Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the incarnation of God himself, as one of his twelve disciples, a true Apostle. God does not goof, and Jesus the Christ did not accidentally make a “bad pick” and chose a second rate individual to be one of the twelve Apostles.
In the Gospel of Matthew (19:28), Jesus tells his apostles: “in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne, you will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This ultimate job/fate for the Apostles is the highest honor God has bestowed to any man or group of men (of course, short of the honor God bestowed on Jesus the man, being one with God).
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus sent out “the twelve” (including Judas) with power over unclean spirits and with a ministry of preaching and healing; Judas clearly played an active part in this apostolic ministry alongside the other eleven. Judas experienced the full power and authority of being one of the team of evangelists ordained and sent out to work by Jesus the Christ of God. Judas was at least initially, “all in” as a gospel team member. He was a co-equal with Simon Peter, John, Matthew, Mark and the rest of the apostles. He experienced the personal power and authority of being an Apostle of Christ.
The badly misunderstood free will vs predestination arguments of the Reformation may be 1500 years in the future at this point, but I believe Judas must be understood as a “good guy” who made some “bad choices”, which is a failing which is “common to us all.” God unquestionably has foreknowledge of all things, but also clearly allows us to make bad choices in our lives. God is more like a permissive father who wants us to make good choices, but doesn’t stop us from making bad ones (and doesn’t shield us from the consequences of our bad decisions). Sorry Mr. Calvin, but God just doesn’t force us to sin; He allows us to sin.
Somewhere in the process of living and traveling with Jesus for the three years of His ministry, Judas became disillusioned and began to mis-understand God’s Messiah (as many of the other Apostles did at various points in time). The difference between Judas and his fellow disciples is that Judas went on to take consequential actions, and to betray his Lord and Master.
However, ideas have consequences and Judas’ bad choices ultimately separated him from Jesus and from God, and ultimately led him to take his own life.
Most honest, pious, Christians experience doubts and many Christian lives will go through a season of “the dark night of the soul” where they aren’t sure they believe in God or Christianity at all! Judas is our example of what happens when we don’t turn to God, and see our circumstances and His creation through His eyes, in our times of despair.