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Back Stabber: The Kiss Worth 30 Pieces of Silver, Betrayal of Jesus by Judas by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Apr 1

30 pieces of silver given to Judas.

The Back Stabbers

"Back Stabbers", a 1972 hit by the O'Jays, said it best. What they do? They smile in your face. All the time, they want to take your place - the back stabbers (Back stabbers). Being "stabbed in the back" is a metaphor for expressing the experience of betrayal by someone close to you - a friend.

The Types of Betrayal

When we talk about betrayal, we usually think about it happening in romantic relationships or marriages. Those kinds of betrayals hurt deeply. Betrayal by a friend can be just as painful, even though people do not discuss it much. There is a quiet sadness in the betrayal between friends that often goes unnoticed. It can cause us to hold others at arm's length for fear of experiencing betrayal again by someone else.


Betrayal happens when you trust someone, and they let you down or go around your back to hurt you. If you do not trust or care about someone, there is no chance for them to betray you. Strangers are unlikely to betray you; even if they do, the hurt is not as deep as when a close friend betrays you. Enemies cannot betray you because you do not trust or invest in them. The emotional pain of betrayal is greater when you are more invested in the relationship.

The Risks of Betrayal

Unless you want to live off the grid, be a hermit, or live in a cave, you risk being hurt by a friend. On the one hand, we want to get close to someone for companionship and intimacy. On the other hand, the closer we get to someone, the more opportunity we give that friend to betray us.

To be close to someone, you have to share your life, secrets, and vulnerabilities. But when they betray you, we fear they will use against us the very things that brought us closer together.


Cast of Betrayal

People rightfully consider Judas the "betrayer in chief" in the death of Jesus. But there was an entire cast of others that helped set the stage and benefitted from the betrayal of Jesus. Each person or group had their motivation, but the outcome was the same: the crucifixion of Jesus.

1)    The Pharisees, devout interpreters of Jewish law, sought a Messianic figure who would embody and enforce strict adherence to religious traditions.

2)    The Sadducees, aristocratic and aligned with the Temple priesthood, anticipated a Messiah who would stabilize their religious and political influence.

3)    The Zealots longed for a revolutionary Messiah, envisioning a leader who would liberate Israel from Roman oppression through armed resistance.

4)    The Sicarii, a faction seen as radical within the zealot movement, sought a Messiah who would violently oppose Roman rule.

5)    The Essenes, ascetic and withdrawn, anticipated a spiritual Messiah ushering in a utopian era of righteousness.

6)    High priest Caiaphas and his Father-In-Law Annas aimed to maintain the status quo, apprehensive of any Messianic movement that could disrupt their collaboration with Roman authorities and prompt their removal from religious office and a loss of status and power.

7)    Pontius Pilate exercised caution regarding any Messianic figure that could be perceived as a political threat. His primary concern was to prevent any uprising or disturbance that could lead to Roman intervention and potentially jeopardize his position.

8)    Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus has been debated by theologians, historians, and psychologists. All attempting to grapple with one question. Why would Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, betray his rabbi and friend for thirty pieces of silver and do so with a kiss on the cheek? Judas is the betrayer of betrayers! How could he? "With Judas's eyes, he saw the clearest evidence. With his ears, he heard the finest teaching. With his feet, he followed the greatest example. And yet this man still betrayed Jesus." (1)

Jesus betrayed by Judas with a kiss.

Adapted from

Cause of Betrayal

1) Judas experienced hurt and a feeling of exclusion.

Judas held the prominent position of treasurer, and yet he was not in the inner circle of Jesus. Was he hurt because he was not in the inner circle of Jesus like Peter, James, and John? (Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37, 9:2; Luke 9:28; Luke 8:51). (2)


2) Judas was greedy and just in it for the money. 

From the beginning, as the treasurer, Judas was on the take, and everything he did was for financial gain. John's gospel says Judas was a thief and often skimmed money from the treasury (John 12:4-6 KJV).


3) Judas was motivated by political intentions.

It is possible that Judas had an affiliation with the Zealots, a radical political movement advocating for the violent overthrow of Roman rule. The Zealots believed in using force to establish God's kingdom on earth, and scholars suggest that Judas may have shared these sentiments. Rather than betraying Jesus with malicious intent, a misguided but fervent desire might have driven Judas to force Jesus into the role of a political Messiah.


4) Satan made Judas do it.

At some point, "Satan" or his evil inclination took hold of his life and from that point on, he was determined to betray Jesus. Luke and John add this into the mix of what motivated Judas to betray Jesus. Then "entered" (3) Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve (Luke 22:3 KJV). And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly (John 13:27 KJV).

Who determined the price of betrayal? 

For Judas, this meeting was about more than money. He felt betrayed by Jesus and marginalized by the other disciples. The money was the icing on the cake. Judas did not request a certain amount. The chief priests offered thirty pieces of silver, and Judas accepted the fee without hesitation or debate. "What will you give me?" (Matthew 25:16 KJV).


What is the significance of the thirty pieces of silver?

The chief priests used Judas as a means to an end - the crucifixion of Jesus. Judas did not ask for a certain price. The chief priests had already determined what they would offer Judas to set up Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Judas accepted the money without hesitation or an attempt to bargain for a higher fee.

The price they paid for the life of Jesus was equal to what an owner paid for a slave gored by a neighbor's ox - thirty pieces of silver (Exodus 21:32). This was redemption money. A substitute for the loss experienced by the master of the slave. The chief priests considered Jesus' value to not be more than that of a slave.


On the emotional level, being betrayed by a friend is like someone coming up with a smile on their face, embracing you with a hug, while stabbing you in the back and twisting it for good measure. Some of us never bounce back after a betrayal and remain guarded for the rest of our lives. Vulnerability no more!


While Judas's plan might have been misguided and ultimately led to unforeseen consequences, we will never know for sure what motivated him to betray Jesus. Regardless of his true intentions, Judas regretted betraying Jesus.


What is the message for us? We have a difficult example to follow. For three years, Jesus walked alongside Judas. He taught him. He led by example. Jesus showed Judas the way. Jesus did something I know I could not do. How about you?


The gospels indicate Jesus knew that Judas was his betrayer. And yet, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus still included Judas in one last meal with him and his closest associates - the eleven other disciples by extending an invitation. Jesus risked being hurt. Jesus risked being vulnerable. For the sake of the relationship, Jesus risked being identified by a kiss and being seized by the temple guards and later crucified by the Romans.


Judas was not the only one who abandoned Jesus. In his moment of remorse, Judas committed suicide. (Matthew 27:10). Peter denied knowing him. Thomas doubted him. But Mark states, "They all forsook him, and fled" (Mark 14:50 KJV). All the disciples scattered to avoid apprehension from the Romans. Only John stood by the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34 KJV).


(1)   Smith, Colin. "4 Things to Learn from Judas." The Gospel Coalition,


(2)   Judas held the prominent position of the treasurer, and yet he was not in the inner circle of Jesus. Peter, James, and John went up with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration and invited them to see the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead. This hurt drove him to revenge and he sought to betray Jesus.


And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver (paradidomi) him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 25:16 KJV).

And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray (paradidomi) him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray (paradidomi) him (Mark 14:10-11 KJV).

And he went his way(aperchomai), and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray (paradidomi) him unto them (Luke 22:4 KJV).

Paradidomi implies more than a mere handing over or delivering Jesus to the soldiers; it signifies a profound sense of betrayal and abandonment. When Judas met with the chief priests, this was an out-of-sight (aperchomai) secret meeting where Judas "communed with the chief priests" and the Temple guards to develop the scheme to betray Jesus.


(3)   What do Luke and John mean when they state that Satan "entered" Judas? Both Luke and John use eiserchomai which means "to enter into" as in entering a room or building. Does this mean Satan or the evil inclination overtook Judas from that point on? You are the judge. Regardless, something happened to Judas at the Passover (Last Supper) meal with Jesus and the disciples that set Judas on a course of betrayal. Betrayal with severe consequences. Matthew 26:24 further underscores the gravity of Judas' actions, as Jesus laments, "The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."



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Great read. Honestly I believe all the reasons listed combined explains why Judas betrayed Jesus. I think Judas came to realize that Jesus was not planning on usurping the kingdom the way he intended so he took matters into his own hands and betrayal was necessary. This made me reflect on my own life when my dreams and visions of life do not reflect Christ’s written plan for me… I am tempted to betray God and go my own way. Praise God for interceding for me so that Satan won’t have an advantage over me and sift me as wheat.

Mar 18
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I enjoy the comments and the pictures.

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