Before his arrest, at Jesus' last supper with friends, Jesus handed to Judas a dipped crust of bread, a sign of special honour.
"...after receiving the piece of bread...immediately went out. And it was night." John 13:30 NRSVHis purpose was to hand Jesus over to the religious authorities. Jesus handed him grace and favour and I am sure looked at him with love. Judas responded with betrayal. Since then, in many languages, the word 'Judas' has become synonymous with 'betrayer'. To be betrayed by an enemy is hard enough. To be betrayed by a friend is particularly painful.
"It is not enemies who taunt me -
I could bear that:
It is not adversaries who deal insolently with me -
I could hide from them.
But it is you, my equal, my companion,
my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company;
we walked in the house of God with the throng."
Psalm 55: 12-14 NRSV
The gospels are mostly silent on why Judas betrayed Jesus, which leaves plenty of room for speculative interpretation. Judas may, in his own mind, have had the best of intentions for his action. Like so may other religious and political figures, perhaps he did what he thought was 'the right thing to do' and only later was appalled by the dreadful consequences of his action.
For me the message of the account in John 13: 21-32 is that all Jesus' disciples faced the uncomfortable truth that anyone of them could have betrayed Jesus,
"The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking." John 13:22
It's unfair to heap all the blame on Judas. As I mentioned in Plotting, a few hours later Peter betrayed Jesus by denying he knew him and most of the inner circle betrayed him by deserting him. As Philip Yancey points out, "Judas was not the first or last person to betray Jesus, merely the most famous."
It could have been anyone then.
It could be anyone now - including me.