Question: What did the Savior mean when he said, “woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!”?

Answer: The Savior’s answer to this question is “it had been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Matthew 26:24

24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

Luke 22:21-23

21 But, behold, the hand of him (Judas Iscariot) that betrayeth me is with me on the table.

22 And truly the Son of man (Christ) goeth (dies), as it was determined (planned): but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

23 And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing (betray the Savior).

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The Last Supper

“The supper proceeded under conditions of tense sadness. As they ate, the Lord sorrowfully remarked: ‘Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.’ Most of the apostles fell into a state of introspection; and one after another exclaimed: ‘Is it I?’ ‘Lord, is it I?’ It is pleasing to note that each of those who so inquired was more concerned with the dread thought that possibly he was an offender, however inadvertently so, than as to whether his brother was about to prove himself a traitor.

“Jesus answered that it was one of the Twelve, then and there eating with Him from the common dish, and continued with the terrifying pronouncement: ‘The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.’ Then Judas Iscariot, who had already covenanted to sell his Master for money, and who at this moment probably feared that silence might arouse suspicion against himself, asked with a brazen audacity that was veritably devilish: ‘Master, is it I?’ With cutting promptness the Lord replied: ‘Thou hast said.’” (Jesus the Christ, Chapter 33)

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Judas Iscariot:

His surname meant “man of Kerioth.” He was from the tribe of Judah and was the only Apostle who was not a Galilean. Judas betrayed the Lord. After betraying Jesus, Judas hung himself.

Matthew 27:1–10. The Death of Judas Iscariot

Matthew was obviously affected by the suicide of Judas, a fellow Apostle, but he knew it was also a fulfillment of prophecy. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote the following regarding the death of Judas Iscariot as the fulfillment of prophecy: “However desirable the thirty pieces of silver seemed before the deed, their ill-gotten weight became a crushing burden on the soul now. In his frenzy Judas discards them so as to fulfill in literal detail the remainder of Zechariah’s Messianic utterance about them: ‘And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.’ (Zech. 11:13–14.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:798).

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John 13:18–30. The Betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot

Judas’s betrayal of the Savior was a direct fulfillment of Psalm 41:9. The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) explained that those who were once in fellowship with the Lord and the Saints can become enemies of the truth:

“Judas was rebuked and immediately betrayed his Lord into the hands of His enemies, because Satan entered into him.

“There is a superior intelligence bestowed upon such as obey the Gospel with full purpose of heart, which, if sinned against, the apostate is left naked and destitute of the Spirit of God, and he is, in truth, nigh unto cursing, and his end is to be burned. When once that light which was in them is taken from them they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas-like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 321; see also Alma 24:30). (New Testament Manual, Chapter 25)

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 91; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 242.