Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland
As Jesus spoke, a multitude approached to apprehend Him, Matt. 26. 47. It consisted of priests, elders, temple officers, soldiers, servants, and possibly many who came merely out of curiosity. Nor did this motley crowd take any chances; they had swords and staves in case of resistance; they had lanterns and torches to give them light; they had Judas as their guide, nay, as their leader, for his was the chief role in this drama.
Judas had agreed with the high priests about a mark of identification; he would kiss Jesus. How degrading to use this token of affection as a sign of betrayal! It gives us some indication of the depths to which Judas had sunk. He, serpent-like, came forward and with the words, "Hail, Rabbi", kissed Jesus repeatedly. The word used for "kissed" is that used of the woman in Luke 7. 45, as she bestowed her tenderest affections on the feet of Jesus. But what a contrast! Her heart overflowed with love; the heart of Judas was filled with greed for silver, This was the part Judas had promised to play, and how thoroughly he did it! The chief priests could make no mistake. Note Judas' words to the multitude, "lead him away safely", Mark 14. 44; "hold him fast", Matt. 26. 48, as though to say, "I have kept my part of the bargain; I have done my work; the responsibility is now yours to see that He does not escape". Did he fear reprisals if perchance Jesus should escape again?
Note that Jesus called Judas, "Friend", Matt. 26. 50, meaning lit, associate or confederate. He had companied with the Lord Jesus for three years; he was one of the twelve who dipped with Christ in the dish; he was one to whom the Lord had given the sop, when He had dipped it. But he was the one "who believed not"; he was a devil; he was "not clean". How utter was his degradation ! How could anyone do such a deed, after having watched the perfect life, and known the tender care of the Lord for such a long time?
Right up to the last the Lord had kept to Himself the identity of His betrayer. How generous! How difficult to keep such a secret, and not allow it to affect their relationship, nor to interfere with the fellowship between Judas and the other disciples! This burden weighed heavily on the Lord's heart. No wonder He referred to the betrayal so often just before His crucifixion.
But as Jesus was led off to trial, what about Judas? Satan, having used him for this vile purpose, left him to his fate. We feel the pathos of the Lord's words, "woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed ! good were it for that man if he had never been born", Mark 14. 21. What a pitiable sight! When Judas came to his senses, he realized the awfulness of his action. He saw that Jesus was condemned, and sought to undo it; he confessed his sin of betraying One who was innocent; he repented— changed his mind about the whole business; he returned the thirty pieces of silver, for greed of which he had stooped so low. But, Esau-like, he was too late. What was done could not be undone. The chief priests were not concerned with his testimony as to the innocence of Jesus, nor did they want the money again. So Judas went out, and occupied a suicide's grave.
This was the foulest crime ever committed by man. The name of Judas is synonymous with traitor; a kiss, the sacred emblem of love, he used as the token of betrayal. How much the Lord felt it all! He was sorry for Judas; He had sought to turn him from his folly; He knew beforehand, yet He kept the secret to Himself. It was all part of the suffering that Jesus endured, part of the cup that His Father gave Him to drink. And in it all He glorified God. "Hallelujah I what a Saviour I"
For the first time the other eleven disciples learned the identity of the traitor—when he could no longer be hidden, Addressing Judas by name, Luke 22. 48, Jesus let the others hear what the kiss betokened—treachery. The Lord reproved him for using so sacred an institution for such a dastardly action.
Note how the arrest proceeded. Jesus then took control; He went to the leaders of the multitude, and enquired whom they sought. They said, "Jesus of Nazareth", John 18. 5, using the term of contempt associated with that city, 1. 46. The Lord calmly acknowledged, "I am he". Such was the majesty of the Lord's reply that the leaders went backward, and fell to the ground, John 18. 6. The Lord asked a second time the identity of their objective. They answered as before, "Jesus of Nazareth". They sought to degrade Him. He submitted to them, but requested the release of His disciples. Peter, thinking of his boast in Matthew 26. 33, drew his sword, and cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant, Luke 22. 50. The Lord refused the defence of Peter, reminding him that the opposition of the chief captains and officers of the Jews was part of the cup that His Father had given Him, and He would drink it to its last bitter dregs. But Jesus submitted Himself to all this indignity without resistance. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously", 1 Pet. 2. 23.