The Judas Kiss
Luke 22:47-53

Even though the old English poet Robert Herrick remained a bachelor throughout his life, kissing was a common topic in his poetry. This little verse, titled “Her Legs” was a bit risqué for the 1640’s, but here goes:

Fain would I kiss my Julia’s dainty leg,
Which is as white and hairless as an egg.

 

At least we can take comfort in the fact that women of the Post-Elizabethan era shaved their legs.

Here is another poem titled “The Kiss. A Dialogue.”

 Among thy fancies, tell me this,
What is the thing we call a kiss?
I shall resolve ye what it is:

It is a creature born and bred
Between the lips, all cherry-red,
By love and warm desires fed,

And makes more soft the bridal bed.

It is an active flame, that flies
First to the babies of the eyes,
And charms them there with lullabies,
And stills the bride, too, when she cries.

Then to the chin, the cheek, the ear,
It frisks and flies, now here, now there:
‘Tis now far off, and then ’tis near,
And here, and there, and everywhere.

Has it a speaking virtue? Yes.
How speaks it, say? Do you but this,
Part your join’d lips, then speaks your kiss;
And this Love’s sweetest language is.

Has it a body? Ay, and wings,
With thousand rare encolourings;
And as it flies, it gently sings–
Love honey yields, but never stings.

 

Herrick waxes elegant about the sensual aspects of a kiss, but he exposes his inexperience in his last line: “Love honey yields, but never stings.” He obviously didn’t know that a kiss can be more agonizing than a scorpion’s sting. He didn’t know a mother’s anger when she kisses her little boy’s wounds that were inflicted by a schoolyard bully. He couldn’t have known the heartache a father feels as he kisses his freshman daughter goodbye after moving her into her college dormitory. Herrick’s lips never tasted the bitterness of kissing his wife’s cold casket and watching it descend into the ground after fifty years of marriage. And he most certainly never experienced the anguish that comes from a kiss of betrayal, which is exactly what Judas did to Jesus!

 

The Kiss of Betrayal (47-48)

Jesus and the disciples had already celebrated the Passover holiday by eating the last supper together. Judas quietly slipped away after dinner before the group entered the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Instead of keeping vigil as their master had commanded them, the disciples fell asleep while Jesus poured out his heart to the Father. With blood, sweat, and tears, he pleaded, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

It was, indeed, the Father’s will for Jesus to drink the cup of crucifixion, because just moments later, he heard a hoard of hostile voices approaching in the darkness. When the crowd got close enough, the torchlights revealed Judas’ face leading the chief priests, elders, and soldiers from the temple guard. They wielded swords and clubs as they came to arrest Jesus on a trumped-up charge of insurrection.

As the armed posse surrounded Jesus and his disciples, Judas stepped forward and leaned in to greet Jesus with a kiss. Now two men greeting each other with a kiss may seem strange in our society, but this was the common greeting for everyone in their culture. A kiss was a sign of close friendship; but Judas had prearranged this kiss to signify to the guards the one they were supposed to arrest. Jesus highlights this tragic irony when he asked, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” The kiss of brotherhood became the kiss of betrayal.

I know I spoke about betrayal just a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating today. Many of us have been victims of the kiss of betrayal; others are guilty of offering the kiss of betrayal; and some of us have been on both sides of this fence. Betrayal has ruined human relationships since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Whether the specific form of betrayal was adultery, abandonment, lying, deception, gossip, slander, or some other type of back-stabbing behavior, we either need to forgive or be forgiven.  

If you are still carrying guilt because you betrayed someone, give it to Jesus! He suffered and died on the cross for your sins and he offers you atonement and forgiveness today! You can be redeemed! If you are still harboring resentment or guarding a grudge against your betrayer, give it to Jesus! Holding on to it will not help you! Jesus knows your pain; he can heal your heart and soothe your suffering soul!

            Jesus suffered this kiss of betrayal for us on the way to the cross. In a way, his suffering would not have been complete without this betrayal. How could Jesus sympathize with us in all our sufferings unless he himself experienced the Judas kiss? When you feel betrayed—when you are betrayed—tell your heart to Jesus. He understands better than anyone else. (Ryken 514)

 

Loving Your Enemies (49-53a)

As Judas offered his two-faced kiss, the other disciples realized what was about to happen, they asked Jesus if they should strike with the sword. Now we already know from verse 38 that they were carrying two swords, and before Jesus even had a chance to respond, one of them took the blade and struck the right ear of the high priest’s official, cutting it all the way off. Luke is silent about the identities of these two men, but John’s gospel identifies the victim’s name as Malchus and the aggressor as none other than Peter, the brash outspoken leader of the disciples. Maybe Peter was still trying to prove that he would never deny Christ. But in any case, when Jesus was threatened, it was the disciple’s instinct to fight back. (Ryken 515)

But Jesus immediately intervened and put a stop to the violence. He told Peter to put his sword away, and in an amazing act of love for his enemy, Jesus bent down to the ground and picked up the bloody ear and reattached it to Malchus’ face. Jesus performed the smallest and simplest miracle of his whole ministry by healing his enemies ear.

Back in Luke 6:27-29, in the sermon on the plain, Jesus had taught his disciples to: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.” Now as Jesus was being falsely arrested, he practiced what he preached. He highlights their hypocrisy by asking why they came after him with weapons at night when they could have arrested him any day he was teaching in the temple. They were treating him as a violent criminal, even though he had never shown any aggression toward anyone.

            There are many lessons we can learn from this scene. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is: Listen to Jesus before you act! Peter hastily pulled a sword before he even heard Jesus’ reply. It is, likewise, easy for us to pray about something, but then act before we hear a response. Many of us are like Peter; we are impulsive, impatient—we want to act right now. But this often gets us into trouble. It is always better to listen to Jesus before we act. This discipline will save us a lifetime of heartache!

            Second, and most importantly, this scene reminds us of our Christian responsibility to love our enemies. Jesus’ refusal to resist arrest and heal the servant’s ear show how utterly opposed Jesus is to wrongful violence. It also provides a model for how we should respond when we are mistreated, or even betrayed. We should never seek retaliation or revenge. Instead, we are to follow the example of Jesus in blessing our enemies. Do you have any enemies? Is there a particular person who repulses you? As I have mentioned in the past, I personally think that loving an enemy is one of the hardest things in life to do. But when experience God’s amazing grace and live in the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible.

            Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Even though Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, I don’t think Jesus was a pacifist. There is a time and place for the proper use of the sword. In the case of an unprovoked attack by an unlawful aggressor, we have legitimate right to self-defense, personally and nationally. The sword has a divinely approved authority in the hands of the state through a legitimate army in the application of a just war, but what Peter did was wrong. Jesus had the power to destroy his enemies, but he chose the path of loving his enemies!

 

The Power of Darkness (53b)     

Jesus concludes his remarks to the religious leaders with the haunting rebuke: “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” This is a subtle reminder that even though Judas and the chief priests were on the frontlines of Jesus’ arrest, Satan’s fingerprints were all over this scene. He was still lurking in the background executing his diabolical scheme to murder the Messiah. This was, indeed, the dark hour Satan was waiting for—when his supposed power over God would be revealed.

Luke includes Jesus’ little line here to remind us that Satan is still lurking behind the scenes of our lives. He is still trying to disrupt and desecrate God’s plan for us to flourish. He rarely shows up in the limelight; he prefers to orchestrate his diabolical schemes from the background. But we see his fingerprints all over our land! We see his handiwork in the terrorism, mass shootings, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, disease, and widespread depression that sabotages our society.

            Listen to this insightful first-person poem about Satan’s influence in our world. It is appropriately titled “The Judas Kiss.”

 

When the world has turned its back
When the days have turned pitch black
When the fear abducts your tongue
When the fire’s dead and gone

When you think it’s all said and done
When you are the ostracized
Selfish ridden dead goodbyes
Twisting of the tourniquet
When the pieces never fit

When the storm has blacked your sky
Intuition crucify
When the ego strips your reign
Assassinate the living flame

When you think it’s all said and done
Venom of a life insane
Bites into your fragile veins
Internalize and decimate
Patronize and complicate

Judas lives recite this vow
I’ve become your new god now

Follow you from dawn of time
Whisper thoughts into your mind
Watched your towers hit the ground
Lured the children never found
Helped your kings abuse their crown

In the heart of evil man
Plant the seeds of my own plan
Strong and powerful will fall
Find a piece of me in all
Inside you all

So bow down
Sell your soul to me
I will set you free
Pacify your demons

Bow down
Surrender unto me
Submit infectiously
Sanctify your demons

Into abyss
You don’t exist
Cannot resist
The Judas kiss

 

Do you know who wrote this poem? Was it Geoffrey Chaucer? Robert Blake? Emily Dickenson? No, it was written by the heavy metal band Metallica. Do you see Satan cheering the Judas kiss? May we all beware of his lurking in our lives!

 

Even though Satan had real power on the earth, he had no idea that God had already planned the biggest fourth quarter upset in history. Yes, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss! Yes, nails would impale his hands, thorns would be pressed into his forehead, and a spear would pierce his side. Yes, he would suffer asphyxiation and breath his last breath on the cross. Yes, Satan did a victory dance at Jesus’ death! But he celebrated too early!

            Satan didn’t realize that there was still time on the clock! He didn’t know that God still had a masterplan and a trick play on the play chart! He didn’t know that God was about to defeat him on a last second play by bringing his Son back from the dead! But he would know all of this soon enough!

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