Matthew 26:47-50

THE TRAITOR’S KISS

Matt. 26:47-50

While Jesus was still speaking, there came Judas, one of the Twelve, and a great crowd with swords and cudgels, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. The traitor had given them a sign. “Whom I shall kiss,” he said, “that is the man. Lay hold on him!” Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Master!” and kissed him lovingly. Jesus said to him, “Comrade, get on with the deed for which you have come!” Then they came forward, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him.

As we have already seen, the actions of Judas may spring from one of two motives. He may really, either from avarice or from disillusionment, have wished to see Jesus killed; or he may have been trying to force his hand, and may have wished not to see him killed but to compel him to act.

There is, therefore, a double way of interpreting this incident. If in Judas’ heart there was nothing but black hatred and a kind of maniacal avarice, this is simply the most terrible kiss in history and a sign of betrayal. If that is so, there is nothing too terrible to be said about Judas.

But there are signs that there is more to it than that. When Judas told the armed mob that he would indicate the man whom they had come to arrest by a kiss, the word he uses is the Greek word philein (GSN5368), which is the normal word for a kiss; but when it is said that Judas actually did kiss Jesus, the word used is kataphilein (GSN2705), which is the word for a lover’s kiss, and means to kiss repeatedly and fervently. Why should Judas do that?

Further, why should any identification of Jesus have been necessary? It was not identification of Jesus the authorities required; it was a convenient opportunity to arrest him. The people who came to arrest him were from the chief priests and the elders of the people; they must have been the Temple police, the only force the chief priests had at their disposal. It is incredible that the Temple police did not already know only too well the man who just days before had cleansed the Temple and driven the money-changers and the sellers of doves from the Temple court. It is incredible that they should not have known the man who had taught daily in the Temple cloisters. Having been led to the garden, they well knew the man whom they had come to arrest.

It is much more likely that Judas kissed Jesus as a disciple kissed a master and meant it; and that then he stood back with expectant pride waiting on Jesus at last to act. The curious thing is that from the moment of the kiss Judas vanishes from the scene in the garden, not to reappear until he is bent on suicide. He does not even appear as a witness at the trial of Jesus. It is far more likely that in one stunning, blinding, staggering, searing moment Judas saw how he had miscalculated and staggered away into the night a for ever broken and for ever haunted man. If this be true, at that moment Judas entered the hell which he had created for himself, for the worst kind of hell is the full realization of the terrible consequences of sin.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Chapters 11-28)

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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