Perspective: Judas Kissed. Peter Wept.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 26:45a (Holman) Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?”
For the third time, Jesus found them sleeping. He had hoped they would pray with Him; this obviously did not happen. They would never again be able to pray with Him in His agony. Some opportunities pass, never to return. Do we need to do a kindness, pray for someone, heal a relationship? Do it before the moment passes.Matt. 26:45b-46 “Look, the time is near. The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! See—My betrayer is near.”
“Let’s go!”—not to run away, but to go meet His opponents head on. He went forth like a champion to combat, reminding us He willingly gave His life.
Jesus, fortified by prayer, boldly confronted the enemy. The disciples, who slept through prayer time, cowardly fled. A major byproduct of prayer is; it can embolden us. If we want to stand tall for Jesus before people we must kneel low before God. To face the battles of Earth, enter Heaven in prayer (Barclay).
In a matter of moments, Jesus was disappointed and deserted by His closest followers, betrayed by one of His own disciples, and arrested by ruffians. For Jesus, a huge agony was compressed into minutes. He stood firm due to prayer.
Matt. 26:47a While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived.
Our author Matthew, “one of the Twelve”, described Judas as “one of the Twelve”. The emphasis was on infamy. Matthew, years later, could still feel the sting of the betrayal, when a leader of the sheep became a leader of the wolves.
Judas—none of us would ever give this name to a child or pet. For centuries, people have recoiled at the mention of his name. He is for many the worst turncoat.
Matt. 26:47b A large mob, with swords and clubs, was with him from the chief priests and elders of the people.
Judas brought a posse. The Gospel writers collectively give us a thorough picture of what happened here. There were maybe hundreds of Temple police and Roman soldiers. The latter were probably approved by Pilate. (Did his wife overhear, thus causing her nightmare about Jesus?) They brought lanterns to find the Light of the World, and swords to subdue the Prince of Peace (Hendriksen).
Why did Judas and the religious leaders feel a need to bring so many? They remembered the crowd’s frenzy at the Triumphal Entry, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, and knew many of His fellow Galileans were in town for Passover.
The leaders also knew of His supernatural powers. They believed His power was of the devil, but they feared He might still have it and use it. Whatever their reasoning, they inadvertently complimented Jesus, labeling Him as a force to be reckoned with. They felt it was safest to send a large army of people against Jesus.
Their rabble-response was ridiculous. If He were God, they could never have had enough soldiers; if only a man, they could have come with far fewer ruffians.
Matt. 26:48 His betrayer had given them a sign: “The One I kiss, He’s the One; arrest Him!”
“Arrest Him!”—as if the One who spoke the Universe into existence, and holds the cosmos together by the power of His word, could be held by ruffians.
“A sign” was needed because there were no pictures of Him. Many, if not most, of the mob had possibly never seen Jesus. Since His identity was unknown, there was danger they might capture the wrong person; the disciples had said they would die for Him. The mob needed to make sure they did not arrest a substitute.
Matt. 26:49 So he went right up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!”—and kissed Him.
Judas was stunningly brazen. He showed absolutely no remorse. He looked straight into Jesus’ face. Surely his heart would melt, but no, he had sold his soul.
What a difference between Judas and Peter. Peter in his denial also saw the face of Jesus, but reacted by going out to weep bitterly. One mark of increasing spirituality is the decreasing time between committing a sin, and repenting of it.
Judas used a kiss to kill. A slap to the face would have been less repulsive. A deceitful kiss brazenly desecrated the Holy One’s face. As I studied our text, I could not help but think of Mark Lowry’s question in his Christmas song, “Mary, did you know. . .when you kiss your little baby, you kissed the face of God?”
A kiss was the customary greeting of a pupil to a Rabbi. By using this symbol of friendship and allegiance as a sign of betrayal, Judas proved he was a devil masquerading as an angel of light. He betrayed innocence by pretending love.
The word for kiss here is intensive. This was not a peck on the cheek. The same word is used of the sinful woman who kept kissing Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:38), of the Father as he embraced the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:20), and of the Ephesian elders, who with weeping kissed Paul farewell for the last time (Acts 20:37).
For us USA Americans, our most painful, closer-to-home illustration of treachery remains General Benedict Arnold, who betrayed us in the Revolutionary War by defecting to the British army. He is an enigma to us, because he was exemplary in his leadership, especially at the battle that turned the tide of war in our favor, Saratoga, where he was shot in the foot.
He is said to have later asked a British soldier what he thought his fate would be if taken prisoner. The man replied they would cut off his leg wounded at Saratoga, and bury it with all the honors of war, and hang the rest of him on a gibbet. This crude prediction was amazingly prophetic in one way. At Saratoga today, there is a monument honoring the heroic battle fought there by Arnold. It is a boot monument, but does not mention Arnold’s name, or show his likeness.
Betrayal is dastardly. Judas, only an hour or two before these events in Gethsemane, had been eating with Jesus, in a seat of honor close enough for our Master to put a piece of dipped bread in his dish. Judas had for three years heard majestic words. He witnessed tender mercies and touches of compassion. He had seen supernatural miracles: the storm stilled, the dead raised, the blind healed, 5000 fed, etc. Yet he turned his back on Jesus.
Do not let this overly surprise you. It happens every day among us. Great privileges do not guarantee spiritual success later. Some of the most ardent enemies of Christianity grew up in church. They know the language of Zion, and know how to use it vehemently against us.
What is the message for us today? Guard our hearts. Evil possibilities lurk there. Judas knew the place of prayer, but not the prayer of the place. In our church buildings, we do acts of worship; we sing, pray, preach, etc. Make sure they sink deep into, and rise up from, our heart. Don’t let them be ritual, done by rote.