Very closely related: In what sense did Judas betray Jesus?

Matthew 26:14-16:

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

What was the "opportunity" that he was looking for? And why did he have such difficulty finding an appropriate moment? As Jesus Himself noted in verse 55, He wasn't exactly a hard man to find.

Based on the following verses, as well as the linked question, it would seem that they wanted to arrest Him somewhere more private (or, at least, have some way to avoid making a scene when they did arrest Him):

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

Why did they even bother with Judas in the first place? Why did they consider it worth the money? Was the entire point of hiring Judas the fact that he'd know when and where they could find Jesus alone? If so, did they really need Judas for that? Wouldn't there have been a lot of people who could've told them that?


2 Answers 2


I think the point about catching him out in private is the key one. Sure, everyone knows where a public person or celebrity is at certain times -- when they make a public appearance. Well, that was when the high priests wanted to avoid doing it. People don't know where those people are on their own time -- not even the media or the government since this is before the paparazzi or the NSA. :) If someone told you they hung out with your favourite celebrity on a regular basis and could arrange for you to be at the same restaurant as them and get their autograph, wouldn't you consider that a good lead?

Another factor is the question of allegiance. The priests had to be wary about whose help to enlist from the public. Taking someone up on an offer to betray him was less risky, less of a loose end, than going and asking someone to betray him and having it backfire. Also, as Judas had access to Jesus as one of the 12, it was going to be possible to get closer to him before he realized what was going on. Judas was able to go right up and kiss Jesus, whereas a stranger approaching him in a secluded place at night might have aroused suspicion and sent Jesus running (from the priests' point of view).

They also couldn't just go to the authorities and ask them to arrest him. They had no solid charges, and not even full unanimity among themselves, which is why they convened the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night when it was not customary. This is what Jesus meant by saying that if there were a legitimate reason to arrest him, they would have done it when he was in public.

For me, the difficulty with the story is not Judas's role but how, given their fear of the public's loyalty to Jesus, they managed to turn it around the next day and have the crowd calling for his crucifixion. I think we have to put this down to mob fickleness, but it's still puzzling.

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    Yeah, I was wondering about that last point. It's also a little baffling about why they were so worried about arresting Jesus in private if they just whipped up a mob screaming for his crucifixion the next morning. This is speculation, but maybe they stacked the deck by making sure that a lot of their supporters were present in the crowd (maybe even people from the very same crowd that was present at Jesus's arrest). It seems like it would have been a lot easier to stack that crowd than to stack the crowd in the Temple, since they knew exactly what was happening and Jesus's supporters didn't. May 8, 2019 at 13:28
  • I don't know how fast news travelled back then (No sociall media), but the majority of Jesus' supporters might have been at the temple waiting for him, and just thought he's gone off to some other place today.
    – Michael
    May 8, 2019 at 22:04

The chief priests did not go looking for Judas. According to scripture Judas "Went to the chief priests". Judas went looking for this. According to scripture Judas was a thief. He stole from the money purse the apostles had.

As for stacking the deck, yes, the chief priests according to scripture went to the wives of the men in power and told them to tell their husbands to have Jesus crucified. Greed got the better of Judas. I often thought maybe Judas hated Jesus for the cheap lifestyle the apostles lived in. I think Judas even hated the poor. In scripture Judas yells at the woman who anointed Jesus with the expensive spikenard. Judas said this could have been sold and given to the poor. Scripture says, "He said this not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief" and stole money from the purse he carried for the apostles.

Judas was actively seeking an opportunity to betray Jesus. Scripture says from then on he looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Although Judas being able to find Jesus alone was one reason Judas was who betrayed Jesus, Judas was also able to identify Jesus. At the Garden of Gethsemane Judas identified Jesus by kissing Him. Jesus says, "Dost thou betray me with a kiss?"

The chief priests wanted to get Jesus alone because the chief priests did not want to incite a riot. In one scenario the Passover was coming up. In another set of circumstances Matthew 21:46 "But when they sought to lay hands on Him they feared the multitude."

Another reason why Judas was the one to betray Jesus was the person who betrayed Jesus had to be willing to betray Him. At the last supper the apostles asked, "Who would do such a thing?" Judas would. The other 11 apostles knew where Jesus would be also but they did not want to betray Jesus.

Why get Jesus alone? Even if not a crowd, Peter was an excellent swordsman and he smote the high priest's servant's ear off for seizing Jesus.

The priests did not need someone who could get close to Jesus without Jesus realizing what would happen. Jesus knew who and what would happen when He picked the 12 apostles. In scripture Jesus says picked the 12 apostles Himself and still there is a devil. At the wedding at Cana Jesus says, "My hour has not come." At the Last Supper Jesus announces one of you will betray me. Jesus says it is he who dips with me. When Judas asks, "Master, is it I?", Jesus answers, "You say." Jesus tells Judas at the Last Supper do it fast. At the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus BEGS the Father to take the cup away from Him. Jesus says do you not think I cannot ask my Father to send angels to help me? Jesus also says, "But how then will the prophesy be fulfilled?" Jesus knew what was coming. He did not need to do anything special. He could have simply not gone to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus even pushed His own capture. In the Garden of Gethsemane when the crowd still cannot identify Jesus despite Judas kissing Him, Jesus says, "I AM WHO ye seek."

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    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your answer. Please take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. Please edit you answer to provide paragraphs and some references.
    – Dottard
    Oct 25, 2020 at 22:48
  • Unlike your other answers, this one actually addresses the question. I have edited it to add paragraph breaks (use two line breaks, not indented first lines). However it ends in the middle of a sentence. Can you edit this to fix that?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:17

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