The career of Judas Iscariot is compassed about with perplexities, at least by traditional exegesis. But let’s have a look at the texts concerning him.
John 6:64-65 “‘There are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who were not believing, and the one who was to betray Him.) And He said, ‘Therefore I told you that no one can come to me unless it has been given to him of the Father.'”
John 13:2 “And supper being ended, the Devil put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Him.”
Matthew 26:24 “The Son of Man goes, as it is written of Him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be good for that man if he had not been born.”
Here is a case of apparent predestination to betrayal, and its awful consequences. How does that square with the character of God? The simple answer is, it doesn’t. As students of Scripture, we cannot afford to allow ungodly thoughts to determine the meaning of what we read, even if at first reading it seems paradoxical and unjust.
On the basis of Judas Iscariot’s pre-existence, something must have happened to cause this scenario. Let’s take stock of the situation. Judas was Ish-Kerioth, that is, “man of Kerioth”, a town in Judaea. Jesus had chosen nearly all His disciples from around the Lake of Galilee. Judas was the exception. No doubt he prided himself that he, and he alone, could boast of being a Judaean, like his Master. This can be learned from the Gospels.
But what can be learned from his pre-existence days? Hardly anything, except what may be based on Jesus’ words about Judas, that “it would have been better if he had not been born.” The Gospel of Mark, in the A.V. unfortunately says “never been born,” which is not in the Greek. In fact the Greek of Matthew and Mark is identical in this reference.
Why would it have been better for him not to be born? The word “not” is OU in Greek, and is the intensive form of the negative, differing from ME, which is not so strong. Hence the Master was saying “it would have been better if he had not been born.” Therefore there was something about his birth in that place and at that time which militated against his best good. Jesus was saying in effect that his birth was contrary to the Father’s will at that time.
We can only say therefore that Judas must have asked the Father to be allowed to be born at that time, and to become a disciple of Jesus. This was his great wish in life, and he imagined that God would be pleased with such a request. He was crest-fallen when the answer given him was “No, it will not be to your best good.” But Judas must have argued, and having been told several times that it would be better for him to be born later, he still insisted. Eventually, God said to him, “Be it then according to you will. But I have warned you. No good will come of it.”
This being so, Jesus knew about this decision when He chose Judas, hence the words, “Jesus knew from the beginning who it was who would betray Him.” He was to be allowed to attain his greatest wish, and become a disciple of Christ. But during those three and a half years he became more and more disillusioned. Imagining himself to be a great ambassador of the Christ when He entered His Kingdom, he found the Messiah talking about crucifixion, and asking His followers to take up their crosses to follow Him. What merit was there in that? He wanted a military-style Messiah, who would eliminate the Roman tyrant from the land. Instead he found a foot-washing, woman-and-child loving man, who spoke about lilies of the field, sparrows, and widow’s mites. He learned to despise Him, and eventually decided to betray Him into the hands of the authorities. Why? To save Him from Himself! To prevent Him from being made a fool of, and being tortured and crucified by the Romans.
But it backfired on him badly, because no sooner had he played his part, he realised that he had betrayed innocent blood. But it was too late. In utter remorse he went out and committed suicide.
This is the only way in which a just and proper understanding of Judas’s actions, and Jesus’ choice, can be explained. If Judas had never existed until he was conceived or born, then the events of his life would forever remain a mystery, compassed about, perhaps, by dark thoughts towards God Himself.