On the most sacred night on Israel’s calendar, the Passover, and in the most sacred place on earth, Gethsemane, where Jesus had fallen on the ground and wrestled in prayer, and with the most sacred symbol of tender affection, a kiss, Judas betrayed the Son of God.
We read in the Scripture: “And forthwith he came (that is, Judas) to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him” (Matt. 26:49).
There was glee in hell that night, while the angels hid their faces. For Judas committed the most cold-blooded, chilling betrayal of the Christ. Outwardly he acted as an intimate friend. He kissed Jesus. Inwardly he hated Him and sought to destroy Him. He was a complete stranger to Christ.
Are you without the fault of Judas? Is your life one of apparent friendship and Christian profession? Yet, daily, do you scheme with the world, being an ally of this world, making friends of those who are the enemies of Jesus Christ and who hate Him? Is your confession of Christ only a mask, a hypocrisy, hiding from the view of men the fact that your heart has not changed but is still centered in covetousness, greed, the lusts of the flesh, and pride? Are we only church-going, outwardly confessing friends of Jesus, but strangers to true godly sorrow and brokenness over our own sins, strangers to what it really is to seek forgiveness in His blood and to be reconciled to God?
Then we must repent in tears. Do you see that you, too, are guilty of the betrayal of Christ? Do you mourn over your life which so often is content with the mere outward mask of friendship to Christ while your hearts can often be cold to Him and His commands? If so, if such repentance is in you, then you must, today, not only see the despicable Judas Iscariot, but you must also see your own sin and flee to Him who is truly your friend, who bore away also this your own unfaithfulness and hypocrisy before Jesus.
Our text that we have chosen today from Mark 14 relates to us the events that took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had gone there on Thursday night to pray with His disciples. He had wrestled in prayer with the Father over the cup which bore all of the wrath of God against our sins. Now, having prayed, He rises from the Garden strengthened. He arises with sovereign authority to go forth, to give Himself over, for all of our sins. And He stands now at the gate of the Garden of Gethsemane. And Judas comes, leading the band, the mob of soldiers and priests, to capture Him.
We read in Mark 14:43, “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.” Now this did not come as a surprise to Jesus. For the Good Shepherd knew all those who were given Him of the Father. And He knew also the wolves. He knew what was in man. He knew the will and the counsel of God which was set down for Him in every part of His suffering. And He knew that this suffering included the betrayal by one of the intimate circle of His disciples. In Psalm 55:12, 13 it was foretold that His betrayal would be by one who was His acquaintance, who took sweet counsel together with Him, and who walked with Him into the house of God. A year before, on the occasion of Peter’s confession in the streets of Capernaum, Jesus had said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” For Jesus knew who should betray Him.
Earlier this very night Jesus had forced Judas’ hand. You will remember, perhaps, that in the privacy of the upper room where Jesus ate the Passover and introduced the Lord’s Supper to His disciples, He had announced that one of them would betray Him. And He went on to show Judas that He knew what was in his heart by dipping the sop and giving it to him. And He had told Judas, in sovereignty, “What thou doest, do quickly.”
Judas, who had made a covenant with Satan, had gone out in that night determined to give Jesus over to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord knew that. That is why the Lord intentionally went to the Garden of Gethsemane, because Judas knew the place, we read, and he would bring the enemies of the Lord there first.
Judas was one of the twelve. He was one who stood very close to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was an intimate disciple of Jesus. Judas had been sent out with the twelve to preach and to heal the sick and to cast out devils. Judas had been a personal witness of the Lord’s mighty works. He had heard the Lord’s words and had become thoroughly acquainted with the truths of the kingdom of heaven. Judas stood with the twelve disciples when Jesus taught them of all the things that He had heard of God the Father. And Judas had made an outward confession, just like the other ones, that he, too, belonged to Jesus Christ – that Christ was his Lord and Savior, his Master and his God.
Judas had followed Jesus for three years. But none of it was of the heart. Judas was not changed. The inward reality of God’s grace whereby personally one knows himself to be the chief sinner before God and calls upon God in a broken heart – to this, Judas was a stranger. And he carried on the charade to the very end – to the very moment that he planted a kiss on Jesus’ cheek. He carried on the charade of having the outward form, but inwardly he despised the reality of God’s grace.
Although we cannot look into his heart, the Bible makes very plain that the god that sat upon the throne of Judas’ heart, the god whom he served, was mammon. Judas lived for the things of this world, for money, fine clothes, greed, covetousness. And he saw at first in Jesus an earthly kingdom over which he would be the treasurer. Judas was the treasurer of the disciples. He “held the bag.” He was a thief. He followed Jesus to make merchandise of his power. And when he discerned that this was not Jesus’ kingdom, that Jesus was not concerned with adding more money to a person’s pocket, but that He had come to remove the debt of sin before the living God, then Judas plotted with Satan. He thought he could redeem his acquaintance with Jesus for what he truly loved – thirty pieces of silver!
Oh, take heed now. Why are you following Jesus? For bread? Or have you swallowed the false gospel which is propagated so loudly today, that Jesus is an earthly Savior and if you believe in Him you will have success and money and health? … that none of the bad things will ever come to you because you have faith in Jesus? … that belonging to Jesus means that you will be rich and drive a good car? Is that why you follow Him? Do you believe that? Judas did. That is why Judas followed Jesus.
Judas arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane with a great multitude of the chief priests and scribes with swords and staves. He had hurried from the upper room that night when Jesus dismissed him with the words, “What thou doest, do quickly.” He had made his way through the dark streets of Jerusalem to the chief priests and had informed them that they had to act now. The chief priests, earlier in the week, had conspired with Judas and said to him, “Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.” But Judas rushes into their midst and says, “It is known to Him. Somehow He knows. We have to act tonight. We have to act now!”
So a multitude is gathered to go forth to arrest Jesus, a multitude gathered by the chief priests. It seems that they plan that by their power they shall succeed in capturing Jesus. That multitude that went with Judas was no unorganized mob. It was filled with official temple guards. There was also a contingent from the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. And, finally, there probably were many curiosity-seekers who followed along. So Judas is at the head of a sizable multitude of people, capable soldiers, sneering Pharisees, and a noisy crowd.
We read in verse 44, “And he that betrayed him had given them a token (that is, a previously agreed-upon sign), saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.” Now there breathes in those words an element of uncertainty. There was an apprehension on the part of the captors that night, and on the part of Judas, as is seen in the dispatch of such a large multitude to capture a single man. Judas had been with the Lord long enough, and despite his irreverent spirit he could not forget, he could not be oblivious to, what he had seen: how Jesus, on previous occasions, had slipped away from the intended grasp of His enemies. And Judas does not want to lose his thirty pieces of silver. So, there must be a previously agreed signal. There must be a plot, an ambush. “The one whom I kiss. That will be the indication that we have our man. Whomever I kiss, that same is He. Don’t miss your man then. Seize Him and take Him away. Bind Him securely. Don’t let Him slip out of our grasp. And so we read, “as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.” Literally, he kissed Him much, profusely, he covered Him with kisses. He was going to make sure that the sign was really a sign, just in case the darkness or the deceiving glow of the torches and lanterns would obscure their vision. I will make sure, I will not give just a little peck on the cheek. But he embraces Christ and kisses Him intensely. And he addresses Him with the loud words, “Master, master.” And he smothers Him with kisses.
Is there anything sweeter than a kiss? Was there ever anything so devilish as the traitor’s kiss of Judas?
The kiss is the token, the symbol, of fellowship and love, affection and tenderness, reconciliation. The Bible says in Psalm 2, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.” “Embrace, cherish the Son of God, your salvation,” is the command of God. True faith is not a cold, formal, theoretical thing. But it calls for the employment of the deepest part of the new heart in love for God: Love the Lord thy God! And the kiss, which is so prostituted today, so identified with unbridled passion, lust, and abandoned lust, a kiss is a sacred gift of God. It is the expression of delight. It is the merging of heart and the exchange of the secrets of the heart. Greet one another, we read in the Scriptures, with an holy kiss. Judas kissed Him.
Treachery. The glee of the devil that it would be so.
And the Lord? He stands as the perfect servant of Jehovah, enduring all. He utters a burning condemnation upon Judas. According to the Word of God, He said, first of all, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matt. 26:50), or “Friend, that for which thou art come.” And, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). Jesus addressed Judas as a friend. And we wonder at that. There would be some who would say that Jesus attempts one last time to gain the repentance of Judas and offers to save him yet. That very night, hours earlier in the upper room, Jesus had prayed, in John 17:11 and 12, that He had kept all of those who were given to Him of the Father and none of them is lost, save “the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” Jesus knew Judas was the son of perdition, of condemnation. No, but Jesus is pointing to Judas in the hypocrisy of it: “Friend? You confess fellowship with Me? That for which thou art come? Don’t play games with me, Judas. I know, as you know, what you have come for. Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? Will you take the sacred symbol of love and affection, and are you so perverse to use it, to put it upon Me, in order to identify Me, to betray Me into the hands of My enemies? Have you appeared outwardly as the friend but are come, in reality, to betray Me?”
Jesus discloses Judas’ guilt and He tears away the mask of hypocrisy. It was intended to paint the crime with a blaze of lightning flash upon the darkness. “Friend, profess friendship, companionship? Yet, in reality turned unto the service of the devil? Treachery! Betrayest thou the Son of man, the one whom you have come to know as the one who came to seek and save, with a kiss, a token of love?” The Lord speaks in such a way as to expose Judas’ guilt and to put the glare of that guilt upon his conscience forever. Judas’ spirit is in hell at this very hour waiting for the day of judgment and resurrection of the dead and with this terrible engraving upon his soul: TRAITOR, HYPOCRISY, FIENDISHLY EVIL, who without repentance betrayed the Son of God with a kiss.
Judas’ remorse when, later that night, he took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them on the floor and said, “I have betrayed innocent blood” – that was the sorrow of the world. It was a sorrow over himself. It was not rooted in love for Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior. It was not a sorrow which would lead to repentance. It was a sorrow which led to the pit of self-pity where he wallowed. And he hanged himself.
Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
Shall we stand afar now on the heights of self-righteous indignation and enjoy our horror of Judas? Shall we draw the robes of our self-righteousness around us a bit tighter and shall we say, “For shame, Judas, I am more righteous than thou? We could have no part in that. Such could never characterize us.”
Before God are you ready to say that you are without this fault of Judas? Can you honestly say, before God, that you have never been guilty of confessing to be the friend of Jesus Christ, coming before His face in prayer to kiss Him, and yet in your heart being false, aligning your heart with the devils of greed or lust or immorality, falling into sin and yet confessing outwardly that you are His friend? The kiss, the confession of love and devotion to Jesus Christ, “How I love thee,” yet, at the same time harboring hatred and envy and evil speech towards fellow members in the church?
Christ dwells in His people, in His church. There we plant kisses on Jesus’ face. But do we also stab Him in the back by gossiping, backbiting, refusing to forgive and to forget, refusing to show all charity toward one another? Can we take the outward appearance of piety, but when we get home from church do we lash out and tear down other brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ by backbiting and harsh judgments? On the phone, yesterday, when so-and-so in the church was mentioned and when you thought about them, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? Outwardly do you appear kind and loving and yet inwardly do you scorn and mock those who belong to Christ?
What about our lives six days a week? Consciously and strenuously do we live as we ought to out of the grace of God, or is Sunday a day when we plant our kisses upon His cheek, sing His praises, profess His truth, and, come Monday, we live for the buck, for the dollar, to get ahead, to succeed? Ask yourselves. Look at your heart. Do we live for Christ, seeking His kingdom, or do we live for mammon? Friend, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
Do you know Him, His mighty works? Young people, do you? Can you rightly be called one of the twelve, intimately acquainted with Jesus? Now it is Friday night, young people. Someone says, “Let’s go drinking.” Do you go along? You end up in a place with dirty, foul language, drinking, fornication. You end up in some dark spot giving yourself over to all the lusts of the flesh, and then you sneak home and scramble into bed and maybe, because you have been taught since a child that you must pray, you plant your kiss upon Jesus’ face in prayer? Friend? What kind of friend?
You see, this word of God concerns you and me. Let us not draw our robes of righteousness around ourselves. Let us not stand above Judas here. Do not cast this word of God from you. Do not say, “I am not as Judas of myself.” No, we are not as Judas. But that is the grace of God! Of ourselves, we are Judas. Yes, we are!
Judas contemplates Jesus’ question in hell today. His guilt is before him. He has been exposed in all his Satanic deceit and falseness. He has no remorse. It is all hardness and it is so cold.
Let us confess Him, by grace. Let us confess also the unfaithfulness that is found so often in our hearts. Let us confess our sins. Let us confess our failure of love. Let us seek forgiveness in His blood. And let us look upon Jesus and say, “What a friend we have in Jesus! He opened and He gave His all for us. He was faithful. He confessed our names to His Father. He covered all our sins with His precious blood. He saved us by His grace. He washed us and by His Spirit, He has made us to be His friends, His brethren. And He calls us, by grace now, to render to Him the praise of our hearts. For Him who bore our sins that we might live through Him, our faithful Friend.”
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, we pray that Thy Word may sink into our hearts and bring forth the beauty of sincere repentance. Amen.