There’s No Whitewashing It: Judas Was Truly Evil

Posted on August 30, 2019


By David Ettinger

No Mercy Deserved
It is customary in works of fiction about the life of Jesus to portray Judas in somewhat of a merciful light. This is understandable as writers and directors try to give their audience a sense of why Judas did what he did and not paint him as a black-and-white figure of pure evil.

And yet, we cannot ignore the Apostle Peter’s words concerning Judas: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs” (Acts 1:24,25, italic added).


This statement is brutal in its frankness, and yet we must take Scripture at face value: Judas was deserving of the eternal punishment he now suffers. There are no words of consolation regarding Judas, only condemnation. Therefore, without compromise or excuse, we must accept the fact that Judas was indeed evil, despite his motivations.

Judas, always named last in the list of apostles,[1] is referred to as Judas Iscariot, a likely reference to what is believed to be his hometown of Kerioth Hezron, about 23 miles south of Jerusalem.

Judas was probably the only one of the 12 disciples not from Galilee. Perhaps this made him somewhat of an outcast among the 12, his “superior” southern dialect distinguishing him from his “inferior” northern brothers. (Jews of southern Israel disdained Jews of the north.)

His True Nature
It is intriguing that Jesus put Judas in charge of His contingent’s funds, making him keeper of the moneybag with its modest holdings. As the watchman of the money, Judas “used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6). Considering that Jesus was poor – “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58) – as were his Galilean disciples, Judas’ thievery was truly unconscionable and a revealing clue as to his true nature. Most fictional depictions of Judas fail to include this.

One question that has always boggled the minds of Christians concerns Jesus’ inclusion of Judas as one of the Twelve. Did Jesus know Judas would betray Him? He certainly did. “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?” Jesus asked. “‘Yet one of you is a devil!’ (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him)” (John 6:70-71). At the Last Supper, Jesus said to Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27). Jesus knew all along what Judas would do, and yet He gave him at least two years to repent and turn from his evil, something Judas never did.


So, what drew Judas to Jesus? According to John MacArthur, “It is clear that Judas never had any spiritual interest in Jesus – he was attracted to him because he expected Jesus to become a powerful religious and political leader. He saw great potential for power, wealth, and prestige through his association with Him.”[2]

This seems like an accurate explanation of Judas’ aspirations considering we already know that Judas was both a thief and called a “devil.” It appears that Judas was “in it” for what he could get out of it, and when Judas saw that Jesus came to die rather than to rule, he was bitterly disappointed. He quickly turned against Jesus and would betray him for a mere pittance – 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave.[3]

Guilt, Not Repentance
The attempts to paint Judas in a softer light derive from his actions following Jesus’ death sentence. Scripture says, “When Judas … saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood’” (Matthew 27:3-4).

Though this seems commendable, there is a difference between guilty remorse and solemn repentance, as Peter displayed.[4] Instead of crying out for mercy and confessing Christ’s deity, Judas instead committed suicide, his place in eternal damnation secured.

For at least two years, Judas followed Jesus and witnessed His miracles, listened to His teaching and, more than anything, experienced His love. Jesus gave Judas every opportunity to turn from His evil ways, but the corrupt treasurer refused. Judas, and Judas alone, was the author of his fate.

And yet Jesus, in unrivaled grace, persistently held out to him the offer of forgiveness and eternal life. We serve a remarkable Savior!

[1] Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:17-19; Luke 6:14-16

[2] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007. P. 1,461.

[3] Exodus 21:32

[4] Luke 22:62