“…and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Luke 6:19).
Jesus spends the night in prayer on a mountain, then descends and calls his disciples to gather around. From among them he chooses 12 to be Apostles, which means “those sent.” They will be specially prepared to represent him and to extend his mission when he is gone.
The last name in the list is that of Judas Iscariot. His name is a form of Judah, which means “God is praised.” The surname, "Iscariot," could indicate family, that he belonged to a group of nationalist zealots called sicarii, who were assassins, or be an epithet regarding his death by choking. Luke leaves the door open as to the character of Judas by saying that he “became” a traitor, meaning he was not one when Jesus chose him.
Because Jesus spent the night in prayer before calling the Twelve, we may assume that he knew the potential of each one. So his choice of Judas was deliberate. The question for us is how Judas in fact carried the message of Jesus to the world as an Apostle, and how God was praised by his role in the story.
Like Peter, the first name in the list of Apostles, Judas demonstrated God’s unconditional love by failing to be worthy of it. Both Peter and Judas were total failures. The only difference was that Peter survived his ordeal to become a messenger of God’s mercy, whereas Judas hanged himself in despair. But God has the last word. Jesus, too, is hanged on the cross in parallel to Judas' death. One of his final cries is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
These words, together with Jesus’ descent into hell (the Apostle’s Creed) to retrieve the lost sheep (Luke 15), become the most complete expression of the Gospel of mercy imaginable. Judas the Apostle made this outpouring of forgiveness possible and thus lived up to his call and to his name, “God is praised.”