There is something that is often lost when we discuss what Judas did.
Yes, he betrayed Jesus. But in another sense, all the disciples left Jesus alone to die. If Jesus didn’t freely forgive betrayal then none of them and none of us would have a chance.
Yes, Judas did steal. But hours later Jesus freely forgave a thief on the cross.
Luke’s account makes it clear that Judas had already betrayed Jesus before the Last Supper. Jesus didn’t hate Judas even after knowing precisely what he’d already done. The text is quite clear that Jesus wasn’t angry, only very grieved, most likely for Judas’ sake.
In fact, Jesus’ love was the reason that he behaved slightly strangely in the Last Supper. Earlier in his ministry Jesus had mentioned obliquely that he knew what Judas was up to, but Judas didn’t take the hint. So here at the last supper, Jesus stops hinting and he’s quite blunt.
That’s why in John 13:18, Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9, but only part of it. He leaves out the part where David said he trusted his betrayer. Jesus never was taken in, but Judas had deceived everyone else – it was a studious, practiced deception that he was able to maintain unbeknownst to all the other apostles. Notice that no apostle even thinks to accuse Judas. He had fooled them all.
Jesus’ choice to quote the heel part of Psalm 41:9 is interesting. This is the only use of the word heel in all of the New Testament, and to anyone steeped in the Old Testament it can only refer back to Jacob, whose name meant heel in the sense of to trip up, to deceive.
Perhaps Jesus used Psalm 41:9 to remind Judas that even after Jacob had cold-bloodedly deceived his father, he still was able to repent and God freely restored him, gave him a new name, Israel, and a renewed identity.
Regardless, Jesus offers Judas three final opportunities to repent for what he’d already done. Judas turns down all three.
First, during the foot washing, Jesus made it clear to Judas that he knew what he was doing. Judas did not repent. He still felt he was fully in control of the situation.
Second, Jesus said explicitly he knew who was going to betray him. All the other disciples said, “Is it me, Lord?” but Judas said “Is it me, rabbi?” Ignore for a moment the cold-blooded deception where you could look right at the face of the man who you have seen do stunning miracles and lie. Ignore that and notice that Judas did not call him Lord, but only rabbi. Judas saw Jesus only as a teacher who could be deceived, not as his Lord, much less the king of the universe, who can never be deceived.
As with all humanity, Jesus is always willing to restore us. He wanted to bring healing and wholeness to Judas, but that requires repentance. If you don’t let God in, God won’t come.
On this last minute of Judas’ last chance, Jesus’ last warning was one of the most bone-chilling warnings in all of scripture. But stunningly, Judas blithely ignores it and remains quite cool and confident, certain that he had everything all under control.
So, as many commentators have previously noted, Judas’ main sin was refusal to ask forgiveness. However, Jesus’ partial quotation of Psalm 41:9 hints that perhaps the reason Judas refused to ask was because, in the end, his long-practiced art of deception ended up only tripping up himself.