The Judas Kiss
And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
— Mark 14:44,45
Have you ever been stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a true friend? You had walked with him and spent much time with him; you had shared your thoughts and even your secrets with him, thinking that everything you said would be held in confidence between the two of you. Then you discovered that the commitment you felt for that person was not what he felt for you. Can you recall any hurtful moments in your life like this?
This is what happened to Jesus on the night Judas betrayed Him. It was no accidental betrayal, but one that was premeditated and meticulously implemented. Before Judas led the soldiers and temple police to the Garden of Gethsemane, he met with the religious leaders and negotiated a deal for Jesus’ capture. During these meetings, he disclosed information about where Jesus prayed and where He met with His disciples. Judas must have also told them about Jesus’ phenomenal power, which explains why so many troops came with weapons to arrest Jesus that night. It was in those meetings with the religious leaders that Judas agreed to receive a payment of thirty pieces of silver for delivering Jesus into their hands.
Because many of the soldiers and temple police had never seen Jesus before, Judas devised a special signal that would alert them to know who Jesus was. Mark 14:44 calls this special signal a “token,” from the Greek word sussemon, meaning a signal previously agreed upon. This makes it emphatically clear that the kiss Judas gave Jesus was nothing more than a signal devised to let the troops know they needed to move swiftly to make their arrest.
Judas must have been very confused. On the one hand, he warned the religious leaders about Jesus’ supernatural power so strongly that the soldiers arrived on the scene prepared to put up a serious fight with weapons of murder. But on the other hand, Judas told them that he thought he could deliver Jesus into their hands with a mere kiss!
These two conflicting pictures provide an excellent example to demonstrate the kind of confusion created inside a person who walks in deception. Deception is a powerful force that twists and distorts one’s ability to see things clearly. Deceived people misperceive, misunderstand, misrepresent, and misjudge — and later don’t even understand why they did what they did.
The different mixed signals Judas was giving about Jesus make it evident that Judas was both deceived and confused. He told the soldiers and temple police, “…Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.” The word “kiss” is the Greek word phileo. This well-known Greek word is used to show strong emotion, affection, and love. Later, it came to represent such strong affection that it was used only between people who had a strong bond or a deeply felt obligation to each other, such as husbands and wives or family members. Later on, it came to be used as a form of greeting between especially dear and cherished friends.
During the time that the Gospels were written, the word phileo would have depicted friends who were bound by some kind of obligation or covenant and who cherished each other very deeply. On the basis of this deep emotion, it also became the Greek word for a kiss as a man would give his wife, as parents and children might give to each other, or as a brother or sister might give to his or her siblings.
In Mark 14:44, this word depicts not just a kiss of friendship, but a symbol of deep love, affection, obligation, covenant, and relationship. Giving this kind of kiss was a powerful symbol to everyone who saw it. Strangers would never greet each other with a kiss, for it was a greeting reserved only for the most special of relationships. This is why Paul later told the Early Church in Rome to “salute one another with an holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16). It was a symbol in that day of deep affection, commitment, and covenant.
Judas knew beforehand that he could give Jesus such a kiss. This lets us know that he and Jesus were not strangers but had a unique, friendly relationship. As the bookkeeper and treasurer of the ministry, Judas had assuredly met often with Jesus to discuss ministry finances and disbursement of funds. It seems that during their three-year working relationship, they became dear and cherished friends — so close that Judas had the privilege of giving Jesus a kiss of friendship, a privilege reserved only for the intimate few.
On the very night of Jesus’ betrayal, He served Communion to all His disciples, including Judas Iscariot. That Communion was a reaffirmation of His covenant to all twelve of them. Jesus understood what it meant to be in covenant. He knew He would have to lay down His life to empower that covenant and make it real. And just as Jesus reaffirmed His covenant to the other disciples that night, He also confirmed it to Judas. Jesus extended His genuine love and commitment to Judas as He offered him the bread and wine, and Judas feigned commitment by accepting the bread and the wine as symbols of the covenant.
However, Judas’ loyalty to Jesus was fatally flawed. As noted above, that night Judas told the troops and temple police, “…Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.”
Betraying Jesus with a kiss was about as low as a person could go. It was like saying, “You and I are friends forever. Now please turn around so I can sink my dagger into your back!” You see, the kiss Judas gave was a false kiss that revealed insincerity, bogus love, and a phony commitment. The fact that it was premeditated made it even worse. This was no last-minute, accidental betrayal; it was well-planned and very deliberate. Judas played the game all the way to the end, working closely with Jesus and remaining a part of His inner circle. Then at the preappointed time, Judas drove in the dagger as deep as he could!
When I travel and speak with people, I repeatedly hear stories of those who have felt betrayed by someone they dearly loved and trusted. Although they never gave the other person a kiss as a symbol of their affection, they opened their hearts, shared their secrets, and gave a part of themselves to him or her. Then later they discovered that the person they loved and trusted wasn’t as he or she seemed. That kind of discovery can be a very traumatic and emotional ordeal.
Have you ever experienced betrayal somewhere along the way from a friend or associate you thought was a true friend — only to find out later that he or she wasn’t? Did you wonder, How could this person behave like this after we’ve been together for so many years?
Something was evidently wrong in the relationship from the beginning. Maybe you subconsciously knew something was wrong, but you loved the person so much that you didn’t want to see what your heart was telling you. Or perhaps you really were blind to what was happening right under your nose.
When someone becomes a betrayer, you can be certain that: 1) the person was never who you thought he or she was to begin with, or 2) you sensed something wasn’t right but allowed yourself to go ahead with the relationship anyway.
Does either of these scenarios describe you? Have you been burned by someone you trusted? If you allow your hurt to fester and grow inside you, it will only make you bitter and ugly. It’s time for you to forgive and let go of that offense so you can move on with your life.
Jesus always knew that Judas would be His betrayer; nevertheless, Jesus loved Judas, working closely with him and even sharing Communion with him on the same night of his betrayal!
You may ask, Why did Jesus extend so much of Himself to someone He knew would be disloyal to Him? Let me answer this question by posing a few questions to you:
- Have you ever been disloyal and unfaithful to Jesus?
- Have you ever violated His authority in your life by disobeying Him?
- Have you ever dragged Him into unholy situations that you got yourself into?
- Have you ever betrayed or denied Him in your own life?
If you’re honest, your answer to all four of these questions will be “Yes, I’ve done that!” Jesus knew you would do these things even before He called you and saved you. But did He throw you out, reject you, or disown you? No, He forgave you, and He is still forgiving you now. Aren’t you glad that Jesus has so much patience with you? Aren’t you grateful He gives you so many chances to get things right?
So just learn from the experience, and determine to never let a Judas be your best friend again. Then allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the finest friends you’ve ever had in your life! Yes, it has been painful, but if you’ll allow this experience to work for you and not against you, it will make you a stronger and better person. And when you come out on the other side, you’ll be in a position to understand what others are going through who have been hurt by betrayal so you can be a help and a blessing to them!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve been a Judas! I am so sorry for the times I’ve been unfaithful or hurtful to people who thought they could trust me. I truly repent for repeating things that were told to me in confidence, for I know it would have hurt me deeply if someone had done the same thing to me. Help me go back to those whom I have hurt and ask for their forgiveness. Please restore my fellowship with those people, and help me never to repeat this wrong behavior again!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I use wisdom in the way I choose my closest friends. Because the Holy Spirit is constantly illuminating my mind with insight, I discern who is a real friend and who isn’t. Even more, I confess that I am a real friend and not a betrayer of the people who are dear to me. When the devil tempts me to open my mouth and repeat things that were told to me in confidence, I do not do it! I am a friend who can be trusted. I will never be known as a betrayer to the friends God has brought into my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Has a close friend or associate ever betrayed you? How did you deal with this in your life?
2. Having experienced betrayal yourself, have you become even more committed to being a loyal friend and associate yourself?
3. Knowing what you have learned from that experience when you were betrayed by someone close to you, what would you do differently now if you found yourself in that same situation?