Judas Iscariot was originally one of the twelve apostles, but is known for his betrayal of Jesus Christ. The Wednesday fast commemorates the sorrow at this betrayal, and it is one of the events commemorated in the services of Holy Thursday. His place among the apostles was taken by Matthias after a vote. He was the son of Simon Iscariot; Iscariot refers to his place of birth, Judea. The other apostles were all from Galilee. He is not to be confused with the Apostle Jude, brother of James.
Plot against Jesus
Jesus revealed at the Mystical Supper that Judas would betray Him, fulfilling the prophecy from the Old Testament. After the bread was blessed and broken, Judas left to fetch a guard to arrest Jesus (cf. Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:10-11, 18-29).
After Jesus and His apostles had eaten the meal, Judas came with an armed crowd and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Jesus allowed this because it was part of the burden He chose to accept (cf. Matthew 26:46-50, Mark 14:42-45, Luke 22:47-48, John 18:2-5).
There are two accounts of Judas' death.
- Judas, remorseful, tried to return the money, but was refused, so he threw it into the temple. He hanged himself. The money was used to purchase a potter's field as a burial place for foreigners (cf. Matthew 27:3-10).
- Judas bought a field where he fell and died (cf. Acts 1:18-19).
The betrayal of Christ was foretold in the prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah and Zachariah.
In the prayers of preparation before receiving the Holy Eucharist, he is contrasted with the the thief who confessed Christ on the cross: "I will not reveal your mysteries to your enemies, neither like Judas will I betray you with a kiss, but like the thief on the cross I will confess you: 'Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom.'"
In the services of Holy Wednesday, Judas is contrasted with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume (Matthew 26:6-13).
- When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, then Judas the ungodly was stricken and darkened with the love of money; and to lawless judges he delivered you, the just judge. O lover of money, look upon him who for its sake hanged himself; flee from the insatiable soul, which dared such things against the Teacher. O you who are good to all, Lord, glory to you.
The darkening of Judas' nouse is expounded upon with the reoccurring refrain, "Judas did not understand" which appears throughout Antiphon III. While elaborating on the betrayal, the listener is admonished not follow in the footsteps of Judas and succumb to avarice to avoid suffering the same fate.
The hymn before the reading of the Third Gospel (wherein the act of betrayal takes place) about his motive:
- What was it, Judas, that made you into the betrayer of the Saviour? Did he separate you from the choir of the Apostles? Did he deprive you of the gift of healings? When he supped with them, did he thrust you from the table? When he washed the others’ feet, did he despise yours? Oh of how many good things have you become forgetful! Your ungrateful intent is condemned, while his measureless long-suffering is proclaimed, and his great mercy.
Once Jesus is betrayed by Judas' kiss, he is only mentioned in the hymnography once more just before the reading of the Fourth Gospel. The last mentioning of his name in the service is during the reading of the Fifth Gospel when Judas attempts to return the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders and then hangs himself.