Judas Iscariot is perhaps the most controversial disciple of Jesus. There are so many questions that come to mind including why he was called in the first place, if he went to heaven etc. But all these questions would make no sense without understanding his call. See, the twelve disciples were called, trained, and commissioned with Jesus. He found some fishing and asked them to leave their nets and follow him. He found others collecting taxes. But what about Judas?
The Bible remains silent on how Jesus met Judas. However, Greek scholars believe that Judas was originally a disciple of John. From the Bible, we know that the disciples of John admired the ministry of Jesus and it is plausible that Judas left John to follow Jesus. This could have happened when Jesus traveled to Judea where Judas hailed from.
Who Was Judas?
The name Judas is a Greek variant of the Hebrew name Judah which loosely translates to “Praising God.” As such, there were several people named Judas during the time of Jesus. Some of the Judases that have been mentioned in the Bible include another disciple of Jesus that was also called Judas (John 14:22), and one of Jesus’s brothers (Mark 6:3). As a way of distinguishing the Judas who betrayed Jesus from the others, he is described as Judas Iscariot.
Iscariot is not really a name but more of a description. It is believed that the Greek name Iskariotes was derived from the Hebrew name “ishq’riyoth” which means “man of Kerioth.” Kerioth was a city in Southern Judah, where Simon, Judas’ father hailed from. Judas Iscariot, therefore means Judas (the son of Simon) who comes from Kerioth.
Judas lived at the start of the first century A.D. Since he came from southern Judah, he was probably the only disciple of Jesus who was a Judean. All the other disciples were from Galilee. The details of his childhood are not provided but the fact that he joined the ministry of Jesus is proof that was in Israel around 30 A.D.
How Jesus and Judas Met
We have already established that Judas came from Judea. Since Jesus likely met Judas during his travels, we can safely infer that their meeting happened on one of his early mission trips in the region. One of the early trips that Jesus made to the region is recorded in the gospel of John.
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. John 3:22-23
Apostle John contrasts the ministry of Jesus with that of John the Baptist for a reason. The contrast stemmed from the fact that Jesus was also baptizing in the same region that John was. Some of the Jews, as well as some of the disciples of John, questioned John why Jesus was also baptizing. They believed that John was the only one who should do it. To their surprise, John not only endorsed the ministry of Jesus but also made it clear that his role was to “decrease” so that Jesus may “increase.”
All this happened before John was put in prison and later killed by Herod. After John was imprisoned, it must have thrown his disciples in disarray. Even though the Bible does not mention it, the disciples of John must have figured that was what John meant by decreasing. It is therefore plausible that Judas followed Jesus from then on.
But there is another possibility that is presented in the first chapter of the gospel of John.
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. John 1:35-37
From the account above, it is clear that two of John’s disciples left John and started following Jesus. Since we have already established that Judas followed John before following Jesus, there is a good chance that he was one of the two that the scripture was referring to.
Did Jesus Know Judas Would Betray Him?
One of the questions surrounding the call of Judas is whether Jesus knew that he would ultimately betray him. The scripture makes it clear that Jesus knew not only who (Judas) but also how (with a kiss) he would betray him. In John 6, Jesus made it clear that he knew that one of the twelve was his betrayer.
Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (John 6:70).
On another occasion, Jesus insinuated that Judas was not clean like Peter and the rest of the disciples.
Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ John 13:10
Again, during the Last Supper, Jesus not only predicted that he would be betrayed but he also identified the betrayer to the rest of the disciples.
Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon” (John 13:26).
To wrap it up, the mystery of how Jesus met Judas Iscariot remains veiled in historical speculation and biblical interpretation. While the scriptures do not provide a detailed account of their initial encounter, it is plausible that Judas, originally a disciple of John the Baptist, may have joined Jesus during one of his early mission trips to Judea. Their meeting could have occurred amidst the ministry of John the Baptist, who endorsed Jesus’s work and saw his role as diminishing in favor of Jesus’s rise. Regardless of the circumstances of their first meeting, it is clear from the biblical accounts that Jesus had an understanding of Judas’s ultimate betrayal, as he foretold it and even identified the betrayer during the Last Supper.