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Faith Bible Church, NY
July 2, 1995
The Kiss of Betrayal
Traitors are know throughout history. There have always been and always will be those who will turn on their friends for their own gain. In American History, no name is more synonymous with traitor than Benedict Arnold. But even he pales by comparison with who is by far the most tragic figure in human history, Judas Iscariot.. No man, no matter how evil, is seen as being as despicable as Judas. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are despised for their mass murders and destruction of nations, but not even their treachery compares to Judas.
Judas is the epitome of a traitor, the ultimate betrayer because his act is contrasted with the privileges he received. Judas was one of only 12 disciples the Lord Jesus Christ picked to be with Him during His few short years of ministry on Earth. He was there to see all of Jesus’ miracles. He was a witness to Jesus’ compassion. He heard Jesus teaching over and over again. He was close enough to become a personal friend of Jesus.
Our text in Matt. 26 picks up the narrative of Jesus’ last night. The night that Judas would complete his abominable deed. Judas left to make final arrangements with the chief priests. The Last Supper has ended. Jesus has finished his last teaching session with the remaining disciples. They have gone to the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, which was just across the Kendron valley from the Temple mount.
Jesus has, in His humanity, poured out His soul to the Father. The emotion of the moment was so strong that the stress of it burst the capillaries in His skin and the blood mingled, with the sweat pouring off Him. Jesus who knew no sin was repulsed at being made sin on behalf of man that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Bearing man’s sin would require the Father turning His back to the Son, and Jesus did not want to experience that unless there was no other way, so Jesus prayed.
He prayed the way all of us should pray. Passionately, with emotion, and yet in complete control of His will. In His humanity Jesus wanted there to be another way and so He was petitioning the Father. Yet, His human will was in complete submission to the Father’s will, and He would undergo whatever was necessary to accomplish that. Jesus finished praying, woke up the sleeping disciples and went out to meet the one who was betraying Him (vs. 46).
THE MOB ARRIVES
Matthew 26:47 describes the arrival of the mob that came to arrest Jesus. And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
I call this group a “mob” because it consisted of a lot more than just the arresting officers and Judas who was to point Jesus out to them. In out text we find there is a “great multitude.” There are also the chief priests who originally made the arrangement with Judas for the betrayal of Jesus. We also find that the elders of the people have joined in too. Mark’s account adds that the scribes have also joined in. The most detailed account is that of John, who adds the Pharisees to the list of those that come with a cohort of Roman soldiers along with “officers from the chief priests”, those being the temple guard. A cohort of soldiers was 600 men. Add all the others (temple guards, chief priests, scribes, and elders) and it is possible that there could have been 800 to 1,000 men in the group.
Were they all needed to arrest Jesus? No. The soldiers were there because they were commanded to be there, but the rest were there because they wanted to see Jesus finally arrested. They wanted to witness first hand the scene so they could savor the moment when their enemy was finally seized. That is one reason why I refer to this group as a mob. A does not form because it is needed, it forms out of those who want to join along to see.
I also call it a mob because it demonstrated the cowardly nature of those in a mob. They ban together to create a sense of security because individually they are afraid. I don’t think the soldiers themselves were afraid because they were trained for war, but those coming with them were afraid. Why would they need so many soldiers to arrest one man, or the whole group of 12, if that were needed? Most of the mob was there to see the sights, not accomplish the work.
The chief priest would have had to work hard to get Pilate to allow the use of Roman soldiers for such a purpose. Certainly Pilate was not told the truth, but surmising from the trial held the next day, he was probably told that Jesus was an insurrectionist and would need to be subdued quietly so that the multitudes in Jerusalem would not be aroused. Pilate would not want to have risked such an uprising when so many were in Jerusalem, so he sent the soldiers.
The soldiers would have been carrying their swords and the rest may have had a mixture of swords and clubs. John adds that they were also carrying lanterns and torches for it is late. The full moon has set and now it is very dark. Evil does not like to be exposed in the light, but desires the cover of darkness.
But darkness does not hide things from God. John’s account records that “Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him went forth.” Jesus knew who they were and what they were coming for, and He goes to meet them. Jesus then asked them “Whom do you seek?” they answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ He said to them, ‘I am.’ When Jesus said this, John records that the whole mob “drew back and fell to the ground.” (See, mobs are mindless as well, and they do everything together). If any of them had really considered that they had just been knocked over by the power of God, they would have fled, instead they get up and brush themselves off. Jesus asks them again who they were looking for and they repeat, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus then tells them that if He is the one they want, then they should let the disciples go.
Jesus’ self identification shows that even Judas was not needed by the mob. Judas’ bargain with the chief priests was to let them know when Jesus would be away from the multitudes so that they could arrest Him quietly. Judas had done that, but they had brought him along so that he could identify Jesus in the darkness. Judas is also needed so that they will recognize Him, and every appearance is that Judas wanted to be there. Remember, Satan had entered into him when he left the Passover to tell the chief priests where to find Jesus.
A TRAITOR’S KISS
Look at verse 48, Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
Judas comes and acts like a friend. He had told them the sign would be a kiss, which is still a common greeting in the Middle East. A slave would kiss the master’s feet. A servant would kiss the master’s hand. Friends would kiss each other’s cheek and close friends would embrace and kiss both cheeks. It was a sign of close affection and love.
Judas had told them the sign would be a kiss, and so Judas approaches Jesus as a friend would. He calls out a respectful greeting, “Hail Rabbi,” the equivalent of “Hello Teacher.” Judas then comes up to Jesus and kisses Him. The Greek word for kiss here is an intensified form of the word used in the previous sentence. This is a fervent kiss. The amplified version brings out its meaning well, “And he embraced Him and kissed Him with pretended warmth and devotion.”
If you or I had been in Jesus’ place at this point, we would have been revolted by Judas’ kiss. We would backed away from Judas and refused to received it. Jesus knew exactly what Judas was doing and yet accepted his greeting and kiss. Luke records that Jesus first said to Judas, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus let Judas know that He knew exactly what Judas was doing. Jesus could not be fooled.
Yet, even here we find grace extended to Judas. All of the gospel writers refer to him as “one of the twelve” even at the point of his betrayal. And Jesus refers to him as “friend” or maybe better translated as “comrade” or “companion” in verse 50. Even at this point we sense that Jesus would forgive Judas if he would seek it.
Why a friend, and why a kiss? Both serve to heighten the evil of what Judas did and reveal the wickedness of man’s heart.
But before we get too hard on Judas, it would be good to consider the last verse of Michael Card’s song, “Traitor’s Look.”
“Now Judas don’t you come to close, I fear that I might see, the traitor’s look upon your face might look too much like me. Cause just like you I’ve sold the Lord and often for much less and like a wretched traitor I betrayed Him with a kiss.”
I wonder how many have aligned themselves with Jesus because they thought they could gain some earthly benefit from Him; if not health, wealth and prosperity, then at least some business contacts? How many have made professions of faith in Jesus not because they actually believe in Him, but because they wanted to gain something from Him? And things go fine until they realize that the Christian life is a demanding life. The world will hate you. Your will must become submitted to God’s will. Christian fun does not include the pleasures of sin. A Christians’ first priority is serving the Lord, and that costs both time and money.
You see, I know from past experience in a group this size that some here today will become like Judas. They make a fine profession of faith now, but at some point hardship will enter their life, they will become disillusioned with Christ, and they will not just deny the Lord, they will become His enemy, whether active or passive. It is a hard thing to see someone become apostate, but I have seen it more than once. Judas is the epitome of those who once followed after Christ, but finally chose their own way over His, and turning their backs on the Lord, they walk away and became His enemy.
Jesus tells Judas in verse 50, “‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.” These are the last words that Judas will hear from the Jesus until he stands before Christ to be judged. Judas would have been better off if he had never been born.
The mob now moves forward to seize Jesus and one of the disciples springs into action. Verse 51, And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
John tells us this was Peter and the slave was named Malchus. The other writers mention the incident, but do not mention Peter by name probably to make sure there would be no retribution against him since they were written while Peter was still alive. John writes many years after Peter had been martyred, so there is nothing to protect.
Peter had boasted that he was ready to die with Jesus, and now he is ready to prove it. He might not be able to stay awake to pray, but he would do his best with his short sword. Possibly, he thought he would do as much damage as possible before they got him. But more probably part of Peter’s courage must have come from seeing all of them fall to the ground when Jesus spoke. He would start off, and if he got in trouble he would just ask the Lord to knock them all down again.
As the group moves to seize Jesus, one of the disciples asked Jesus “if they should strike with the sword” (Luke 22:49). Peter does not wait but starts swinging at the closest person to him, which turned out to be the slave of the High Priest, Malchus. You can be sure that Peter was not aiming for the man’s ear, and probably would have taken a second swipe at him if Jesus had not intervened so that prophecy could be fulfilled.
THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY
Verse 52, Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?”
Man’s way is the way of the sword. It is to seize the moment, take action, and force others to submit. That is what weapons are for; to be used in either offense against someone to make them do what you want or used in defense so that you can continue to do what you want. Peter had chosen man’s way. Peter had not spent his time in Gethsemane wisely. Peter was prepared to fight man’s way. He was not ready to fight God’s way. They come with swords and clubs, and he would ensure that they would not have to submit to the mob.
The church has never advanced by the sword, and every time it has tried, it has harmed the cause of Christ. The church tried to use the sword to convert the pagans throughout Europe by forcing them to be baptized, but all that resulted was wet pagans that gave Bible names to their pagan gods, and used Bible events as the excuse to continue their pagan celebrations.
Jesus pointed out to Peter, God’s way. John tells us that Jesus picked up Malchus’ ear and performed his last miracle of healing by put it back on. Malchus was with the mob. He was there to see Jesus arrested, but Jesus continues to have compassion on sinful man.
Man’s way is by the sword, but those who take it up will perish by it. This is not an argument for pacifism, but a simple reminder of the standard God set back in Genesis 9:6, Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. Those who murder are subject to capital punishment, and Peter would have committed murder if he had killed Malchus. Peter’s life was not threatened and the mob had the law on its side. Vigilante action is not justified. Paul put it plainly in Romans 13:4 in referring to government as a “minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil,” which is why “it does not bear the sword in vain.”
Jesus’ point is that no one has the right to take justice into his own hands, even against an unjust government that is doing wrong. Jesus’ arrest and trial would be travesties of justice, but God was not out to lunch. He was still in control and knew what He was doing. Peter did not have the right to start swinging his sword.
And if it was a matter of power, Jesus had plenty available. Verse 53: “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? A legion is 6,000 troops. Twelve legions would then be 72,000 angels. And if one angel can kill 185,000 Assyrians in one night (2 Kings 19:35) imagine what 72,000 can do!
But God’s way is different. He does not have to resort to physical force to accomplish His ends. He is so powerful He can even use His enemies to accomplish His purposes. And so it is with Christ’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion. “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way.” Jesu s had already told all the disciples many times before exactly what was now taking place. Peter is to be commended for trying to do something, but since he had not prepared himself properly, spiritually, his very effort was a hindrance to the Lord whom he was trying to defend. God can only use us when we are in submission to Him. If we are not all our efforts are presumptuous and futile.
THE REBUKE & DECLARATION
Jesus now turns His attention to the mob and rebukes them while declaring that they were only able to arrest Him now, because it had long ago been declared as part of God’s sovereign plan.
Verse 55, At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.”
The chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and Elders were probably gloating at this time. They had finally been able to lay hands on Jesus. They saw themselves as protectors of the people, defenders of the Mosaic law, and watchmen over the house of Israel. They thought themselves as sly, cunning, and brave to be able to finally take on Jesus. Jesus proves that they were really the opposite. They were not brave. They have come with a large force of armed men to capture a man that has never demonstrated any violence. They were not defenders of the Mosaic Law, or they would have done something about Him while He was teaching in the Temple. They are not watchmen over the house of Israel because the reason they have come in the middle of the night, is because they are afraid of the people they think they looking after.
In fact, they are not even very smart. They have not outmaneuvered Jesus in capturing Him in Gethsemane. They were unwilling pawns in the hand of a sovereign God who had declared long before through the prophets the events that were now taking place. They were unwittingly fulfilling the very Scriptures they refused to believe and follow. The only reason they were now able to arrest Jesus is because it was now Jesus’ time to fulfill those Scriptures in redeeming man from sin. God was using their evil intent to accomplish His righteous and gracious purposes.
The mob had only come for Jesus (John 18:5), and Jesus had already made provision for the disciples to be left alone, but they were still fearful. The end of verse 56 says, “Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”
What Jesus had told them on their way to the Mount of Olives earlier that evening had now taken place. The disciples had fallen away. Out of fear of man, they had run away from Jesus.
They had been unprepared and overconfident. They had confused good intentions with spiritual strength. They reacted based on their emotions rather than on truth and so they did not take Jesus’ promises to heart. Peter then reacted according to the way of men rather than that of God and finally they devised their own way of escape rather than waiting for the Lord’s deliverance. We are no different than they and we fall into the same sin trap. If we do not take advantage of what God has provided for us to prepare ourselves – His Word and prayer – then we will fall.
If this scene were being played out today where would you fit? I would hope there are no false religious leaders out there, but Scripture warns me that could be possible. Someone who thinks they are serving God but are in fact perverters of the truth and are working against Him.
Maybe some that would fit the Judas category. You have signed up with Christianity for what you think you can get out of it. Let me warn you early on that Christianity is about Christ, not you. We serve and worship Jesus because He is the way, the truth, and the life, and not because we expect to gain the things of the world from Him.
There might be some who are like the soldiers and temple guards. You are just going through life doing the things you think you are supposed to do without really giving serious thought to what God has done for you and what He wants from you. Living for the Lord might result in some of your friends calling you a fanatic, but who judges whether your life accomplished anything or not. Them? Yourself? Or the Lord? Christianity is by nature a radical existence and there in no such thing as loving the Lord too much.
I am sure that many of you are like the disciples. Reading our Bibles and learning about God, but not always taking seriously what He says. We fail to prepare ourselves with the result that we fall. At times we even separate ourselves from a public acknowledge of Him because we fear what people may think or do to us. Some of us are loud like Peter, but most are quiet like the other disciples.
There is really only one model in this to follow and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you prepared for what may come against you? Do you have on the whole armor of God ready to stand against our adversary and live openly for Him? Do you trust the heavenly Father? Do you face the future with a confidence of His hand upon you and that your life counts for eternity? If not, then set your eyes on Jesus. Learn of Him and follow His example.
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