"Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
Glancing at the merely human aspects of the call of Judas, we may suppose that he was first attracted by the eloquence, miracles, and rising fame of the young Prophet. At the first he may have been conscious of no insincerity, and seemed as true-hearted as the others. Thus many in our day experience certain religious emotions and make confession of faith, which their after-life proves to have been like the seed on the rocky ground, springing up hastily, but soon withering from lack of root.
He was naturally covetous, and when the first enthusiasm cooled, yielded to the dominant passion. His seeming integrity induced his intimate companions to trust him as treasurer. This was an opportunity of purloining. He murmured at the cost of the ointment, in professed care for the poor. "This he said, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the bag, took away what was put therein." The rebuke on that occasion, the pricking of conscience by the Lord's habitual teaching, the growing lack of accord between his own mind and that of his brethren more and more alienated him; he felt ill at ease. "Two cannot walk together except they are agreed." Disappointed, vexed, and angry, he might gratify both his spleen and avarice by becoming a secret ally of those who openly were the foes of Jesus. He was willing to take a bribe, however paltry. And so he bargained to betray Jesus at a place and time when He might be seized in the absence of the people. He may have expected that when actually captured, Jesus would exert His latent power to establish a temporal kingdom, which might yield Judas greater opportunities of self-aggrandisement. Such may have been the motives prompting him to an act unparalleled in vileness.
This treason was premeditated, deliberate, carefully contrived, and carried out in all its arranged details. He offered his services to the priests; he bargained for a certain sum, doubtless asking more, but willing to take even so contemptible a reward as thirty pieces of silver, which he counted out and put into his bag; he described his proposed method, and himself secured both a cohort of Roman soldiers with their captain, and a posse of police from the Jewish authorities. "Judas, then, having received the band (or cohort) of soldiers and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons."
In the uncertain light, amid the gloom of the olive grove, it might be possible for the captors to mistake their victim, especially as some of them might never have seen Him face to face. To avoid such contingency, Judas contrived a sign of designation; and this was to be the kiss of friendship, whereby he, as one of the disciples, should thus deliver over their own Leader. In all this there was evidence of careful arrangement to overcome resistance, prevent escape, and avoid mistake. "the one I shall kiss, that is He; take Him, and lead Him away under guard."
Perhaps the upper chamber was first visited. Finding it vacated, the traitor led the way to the retired spot where he had shared the sacred retirement of his Lord. Judas "knew the place, for Jesus ofttimes resorted there with the disciples." He abused the most sacred privileges of trusted intimacy, and his knowledge of the Lord's habits of private prayer and confidential communion, to execute his wicked design.
Jesus, grieved by the slumber of the disciples but invigorated by the ministry of the angel, emerged from the shadows of the Garden and met the traitor at the head of his armed band. After the first surprise and consternation, caused by the unexpected self-surrender and dignified demeanor of Jesus, although He had declared himself to be the Nazarene of whom they were in quest, they seem to have hesitated. Perhaps, having heard of or witnessed some of His miracles, they feared lest supernatural injury would be inflicted on any who laid hostile hand on a Prophet regarded by many as another Elijah. But Judas knew that His power had never been exerted to injure even His worst foes. If the traitor handed Him over with impunity the captors need not hesitate. "And forthwith He came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Rabbi and kissed Him"—with emphasis, as the Revised Version has it in the margin, "Kissed Him much."
A kiss is the sweetest, holiest pledge of faithful
friendship, and the heart's true love. We remember still the mother's fond
kiss as we lay in the tiny crib–
We remember the parting kiss, with the regretful tears, when leaving home for the distant school; and the welcoming kiss on our return, the mother's radiant smiles reflecting more than all the child's delight; the kiss of congratulation on success achieved, and the kiss of sympathy that sweetened sorrow's cup. We think of the kiss that foretells and the kiss that cements the holiest and dearest of earth's relationships, and the last kiss before the lips are stiffened in death; and, yet again, the kiss on the cold marble brow before the form beloved was shut from view forever. In such connections the kiss is identified with all that is most tender, beautiful, and true in a human nature which still bears traces of its Divine original.
We think of Jacob, who met Rachel at the well and kissed her, and lifted up his voice and wept—the expression of his fondest hopes; and of Esau who, though deeply wronged, when he met his brother, with generous affection "ran to meet him, and fell on his neck and kissed him"—an assurance of reconciliation; and of Joseph, who beholding again those who had cruelly sold him unto slavery, kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them—a pledge of forgiveness; and again, of this mighty governor, who, when Jacob was dead, fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him"—a token of enduring filial love; and of Aaron, who, commanded to go with Moses to rescue Israel from Pharaoh's thrall, met his brother in the Mount of God, and kissed him—a covenant of fraternal alliance; and of David and Jonathan, who, at a time of great peril, "kissed one another, and wept one with another"—a token of unselfish friendship; and of the disciples of Ephesus bidding Paul farewell on the seashore at Miletus, who "all wept sore, and fell on his neck, and kissed him"—a pledge of undying remembrance.
But most of all we think of Jesus, who did not rebuke the woman "a sinner" when, with the ointment she anointed His feet, and washed them with tears, and kissed them—her expression of penitence and grateful homage; and especially we think of the father in the parable, who, when the prodigal was yet a great way off, "saw him, and had compassion, and fell on his neck and kissed him"—the emphatic symbol, by Him who cannot lie, of Divine forgiveness. And now He, who had uttered these words in the traitor's hearing, is to be insulted and grieved by this symbol of love being profaned as a signal of treachery and a prelude to murder! The same word is employed in both connections, the kiss of the father and that of the traitor, an intensified kiss—kissed him emphatically.
Never was friendship so degraded to the service of the devil. How weak the words of Solomon—"The kisses of an enemy are deceitful." How far less damnable seems the crime of Joab, the only other instance in Scripture of such abuse of such a token, when he said to Amasa, "Is it well with you, my brother, and took him by the beard with his right hand to kiss him, and smote him with his sword; and he died." But all the history of villainy, and all unrecorded deeds of treachery, can present no parallel to the kiss of such a one as Judas, given to such a One as JESUS—the token of discipleship—the signal of treason. Truly had Satan entered into him.
How divine the forbearance of the Lord towards this treachery! Righteous indignation of those whose goodness makes them hate evil might have prompted the expression of abhorrence by the holiest of human saints. Jesus, on the first sight of Judas, gently said, "Friend (or companion) why have you come?" "You have been one of my chosen followers, with me in my journeys, listening to my words, a witness to my works, admitted to my intimacy. Consider your present errand! Has it really come to this? Will you persist in your plot, and complete the treachery? Before it is too late, think of it!" Here was another opportunity for Judas to repent. Would not the gentle remonstrance touch even his hard heart?
Jesus did not indignantly refuse the insult. "He hid not His face from shame and spitting." It was easier to receive the spitting of an open foe, than the kiss of a treacherous friend. This required a meekness more sublime. He enjoined much less than this on His followers when He said, "If any smite you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also." How much easier this difficult test of patience than not to turn away the cheek from such a polluted kiss! "Would you ask what Satan can do and God can bear; what the basest of mankind can do and the best of mankind can bear? Behold the lips of Judas who kisses, and the cheek of Jesus which receives the kiss. What righteous man among men would not have turned away his face? What saint might not have felt holy and vehement anger?" (Stier.)
The forbearance of Jesus to His worst foe, in the very act of his basest enmity, was expressed in the second appeal—"Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" He bore an honored name, henceforth to be trampled in the mire of world-long contempt. The title of the chief tribe of Israel was hereafter to represent the betrayal to death of Israel's Prince, the King of the Jews. What a contrast this last address, by the name of one of the disciples, to His first recognition after death—"Mary!" Judas! companion, disciple—are you betraying Me? Judas, do you betray, treacherously, deliberately—for money? Are you betraying the "Son of Man," after the warning at the Supper, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed"? With a kiss?—token of loyalty and love?—how much better, if at all, with threats and blows! Has it indeed come to this?
What a contrast between the 'hate of Judas' and the 'love of Jesus'! the hardening hate, the persevering love! the grace that pursued for salvation the traitor who was pursuing Him for destruction! "The great ocean clasps some black and barren crag that frowns against it, as closely as with its waves it kisses some fair strand enamelled with flowers and fragrant with perfumes. But what matters it though we float in the great ocean of the Divine love, if with pitch and canvas we have carefully closed every aperture at which the flood can enter? A sealed jar, plunged in the Atlantic, will be as dry inside as if it were lying on the sand of the desert." (Maclaren)
Again, we are reminded of the cost of our redemption. This betrayal was a bitter ingredient in the cup of sorrow. It formed no small part of the burden which pressed down the soul of the Sufferer in Gethsemane. It was all distinctly foreknown. "One of you shall betray me." Not so much did the body feel pain, as the sensitive spirit ingratitude and treachery. It was bitter grief that one of His chosen companions should betray Him to His bitterest foes—and with a kiss! The grief of David was shared with intensity by the Son of David, "My own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, has lifted up his heel against me." The sin of the world with the woe it entails, for which sin He suffered, was thus exhibited in its aggravated form. Was it this to which mankind had sunk? Contrast humanity in Jesus, as it originally was, as it ought to be—with humanity in Judas! And Jesus was bearing the sin of the traitor who was betraying Him!
"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Let us hate the sin that needed the sacrifice, love the Savior who bore the sin, rejoice in the salvation thus secured. Let this love comfort us in every garden of grief. Whatever our other trials, our heaviest burden has been borne, our darkest fear dispelled, our deadliest wound healed by the Sufferer of Gethsemane; and our spirit may rejoice in Christ our Savior, "with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
We see also another proof that our great High Priest is fully qualified for sympathy. He shared with us hunger, thirst, weariness, pain—but pangs far more poignant are those arising from 'unrequited affection' and 'confidence betrayed'. Of this bitter cup the Savior drank, and every follower of His may be sure of the brotherly sympathy of Him whom Judas betrayed with a kiss.
Here is a suggestion for self-scrutiny. None can ever exactly commit the sin of Judas—but it may be approached. A profession of religion may be made for wrongful ends, to gain confidence and lull suspicion. The kiss of seeming zeal may hide the thief's dishonesty and the adulterer's wiles, or may be given to secure office in the Church, and gratify ambition, or covetousness, or ease. Christ's character as Man or Teacher may be lauded, while His claims as Divine Savior are rejected. We may kiss Him in the Creed, in hymns, in the ascription, "You are the King of Glory, O Christ," while secretly rejecting His authority, and by our inconsistency injuring His cause. We may bow at His Name, yet trample on His laws. We may salute Him with "Hail, Master," and yet dishonor Him. We may kiss Him and yet betray Him.
Let us examine ourselves. Does our lack of consolation arise from any lack of sincerity? Can it be that Jesus asks us the question, calling us by name as He did Judas—"Are you betraying the Son of Man, with a kiss? You, who have known me so long, professed to serve me so faithfully, received from me so many proofs of love—Are you betraying Me? Are you betraying the Son of Man? your Redeemer, who suffered for your sin; your Brother, who sympathizes with your sorrow; your Advocate, who pleads for you in heaven? Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? By false profession of friendship, under mask of discipleship, even at the Holy Supper, devising iniquity, cloaking sin, scheming sinful indulgence, inventing excuses and palliations of evil, prostituting 'love's tenderest token' as an instrument of betrayal—Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
The very thought is agony. Can it be ever possible? Lord, is it I? Search me, O Savior, and try my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in me—any lurking lust, any cunning covetousness, any secret bosom sin, any falseness of friendship. O make me altogether Yours—sincerely, unreservedly, forever! Let every outward homage be the token of a loyal heart and devoted life; and never, oh never, may I give You cause to ask, "Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
To feel towards Christ more than any human kiss can express—entire trust, unreserved surrender, and conscious sincerity in appealing to Him as did Peter, "Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You"—this will comfort us in every garden of grief, and enable us, though "sorrowful," to be "always rejoicing." If His foes, to escape judgment, are exhorted to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry," how much more should His friends, by reverent yet endearing affection, daily renew their vows, and bow before Him, anointing His head with the fragrant ointment of unswerving love, homage, and obedience!
Then may we rejoice in an increasing and endeared communion which a kiss can only faintly indicate; and employ, without presumptuous familiarity, the language of sacred passion of saints of old, and say—"The love of Christ constrains us. We love Him because He first loved us. Lord, You know that I love You! You have put gladness into my heart! I will be glad, and rejoice in You! How excellent is Your loving-kindness! Your loving-kindness is better than life. With my soul have I desired You in the night. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning. My soul thirsts for You as a thirsty land! As the deer pants after the waterbrooks, so my soul pants after You, O God! My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will delight in the Lord. Whom have I in heaven but You, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison with You! My heart and my flesh fails, but You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Lord, what will You have me to do? Bless the Lord, O my soul! I will bless the Lord as long as I live. I will extol You and praise Your Name forever and ever. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him who sits on the throne, forever and ever. My Lord and my God!"
Such habitual communion of soul will repel all temptation to any approach towards denial or betrayal. The kiss of love renders impossible the kiss of treason, and makes the garden of grief, in the company of Jesus, the vestibule of Paradise—the gate of Heaven.
THE KISS OF REVERENTIAL LOVE