Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus was motivated by at least three factors: greed, jealousy, and satanic influence. The Apostle John’s account of the last days of Jesus life indicated that he was at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus when Judas became upset about Mary’s waste of a precious ointment that was used to anoint the feet of Jesus (John 12:3). John recorded, “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare that was put therein” (John 12:4-6). Matthew indicated Judas was given thirty pieces of silver for cooperating with the religious leaders that wanted to kill Jesus. He said, “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16).
Jesus’ recognition of Mary for her sacrifice was probably a significant factor in Judas’ decision to betray him. When Judas suggested that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus responded, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:10-11). Jesus’ public criticism of Judas would have been like a slap in the face. It’s possible that Judas perceived Jesus’ comment to be a sign of his disregard for his service in the ministry. Judas may have thought Jesus was trying to humiliate him by placing Mary above him in the eyes of those that were present. The one thing that seems to be obvious is that Judas was in need of money and was willing to betray his own master in order to get it.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ betrayal is somewhat different than what is found in the other three gospels. Luke attributed Judas’ actions to demon possession. He stated:
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:1-6 ESV)
Luke’s remark that Satan entered into Judas seems to suggest that Judas was not responsible for his actions when he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Although it could be true that Judas had no control over what he was doing, there might have been an intent on Judas’ part to betray Jesus and Satan merely helped him to carry it out. John’s record indicated Satan didn’t enter Judas until the Last Supper (John 13:27), so it seems likely that Jesus’ betrayal was a joint effort between Judas and Satan.