Did Jesus forgive Judas for betraying him?
This is a great question; thanks for sending it in! Most of us would think it’s nearly impossible to forgive someone who let the adversary use him to betray the Messiah and get him killed. This would be difficult for most of us, but you didn’t ask about a typical fallen human. You asked about the perfect Messiah, who lived a sinless life from start to finish, setting the example of how we should live our own lives.
The short answer to your question would be, “Yes, of course he did.” The Messiah’s own words while He was on the cross should be enough to convince us,
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34a)
Right here, we see the Messiah asking for forgiveness for those who were participating in his crucifixion. It’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have also forgiven Judas, a man he was close to. There is still more evidence that Judas was forgiven by the one he betrayed:
Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” (Matthew 26:50a)
The Messiah knew ahead of time who was betraying him. At the very moment of betrayal, he knew what Judas was doing yet still called him “friend.” Even we, as fallen humans, generally strive to forgive our neighbors who trespass against us, don’t we? How much more would the Messiah display this? Judas, despite his actions, is loved by the Father and the Son.
The question you asked is an important one, but more relevant to our lives today is how and why the Messiah forgave him. Here are some Scripture verses to help us figure this out:
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not boast, it does not become conceited, it does not behave dishonorably, it is not selfish, it does not become angry, it does not keep a record of wrongs, it does not rejoice at unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a LEB)
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:17–18)
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:22–24)
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25 LEB)
So how did the Messiah forgive Judas? By actively loving him. Holding on to unforgiveness is a heart problem; it is unloving. Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13). The Father tells us not to hate our brothers or hold a grudge against them (Leviticus 19); this means we must forgive. The Messiah says our hearts must be clean of anything we are holding against a brother when we pray. We must be reconciled with our brother before we can bring a gift to the altar, if at all possible (Mark 11, Matthew 5).
There is no doubt that Jesus forgave Judas; He had to. Without forgiving Judas, the Messiah would not be exhibiting love (i.e., sinning by breaking God’s command to not bear a grudge). If He’d done that, then He could not be our perfect Messiah.
If the Messiah could forgive and love the man who betrayed Him even to His death, how can we even think it’s okay to keep unforgiveness in our own lives? May the Messiah’s example remind us of who we are called to be and not who we tend to be when we follow our flesh. It may not always be easy, but being quick to forgive others is one way we walk the narrow path, showing love for both the Father and our neighbor when we do so.
Hopefully this helped clarify things for you, and thanks again for writing to us!
May the Father bless and guide you.