A Traitor's Kiss, How to Confront Betrayal as Jesus Did
“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48
The glow from the torches and lanterns snaked along the road from Antonia’s Fortress toward Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. The speckled line of light grew brighter and the marching footsteps grew louder as they inched closer.
For the third time in the last hour, Jesus roused his sleeping disciples, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46). With their hearts heavy from sorrow, and their eyes heavy from sleep, the disciples struggled to make sense of the scene unfolding before them.
Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, knew the place Jesus liked to go to pray. Under the cover of darkness, he led a small army into the grove of olive trees to arrest him.
They came with torches to apprehend the Light of the World, and clubs and swords to carry away the Prince of Peace. Judas’ betrayal was thick with irony and revealed how little he understood who Jesus was, and why he came.
Unimaginable Privilege & Unparalleled Hypocrisy
For three years, Judas had a front-row seat to the most spectacular display of divine power, love, and grace the world had ever known. He saw storms stilled, the dead raised to life, blind receive sight, and lame legs restored. A recipient of unimaginable privilege and he responded to it with unparalleled hypocrisy.
His greed and hatred for Christ remained hidden behind his obviously adept acting skills, and ability to fly under the radar. He was so non-threatening, that he was named the group’s treasurer (but he was embezzling the whole time).
Yes, Judas was the master of deception and trickery. He had been looking for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the Sanhedrin. Now, being possessed by Satan, his opportunity had arrived.
Uninvited Squatter & Unexplainable Confusion
Being betrayed feels like a squatter has moved into your house and set up camp in your living room. Its presence is undeniable, and you can’t maneuver around it easily. Every time you pass by, you’re repulsed by its stink, and angry it’s even there in the first place. Its presence is confusing. The more you think about the betrayal, the more confused you are about the past. How can you make sense of the good times? What was real, and what was part of the charade?
Set up. Sold out. Deceived. Tricked. Double-crossed. Betrayal leaves a wake of trauma and wreckage in its path.
The Psalmist saw into the future that the Messiah would be betrayed by a familiar friend. “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers” (Psalm 55:12-13).
Stabbed in the Back vs. Shot by an Arrow
A stab in the back from a friend is more painful than an arrow shot by an enemy. If you’re suffering from the fallout of betrayal in your life right now, know that Jesus understands your pain. He’s been there. How reassuring that we have a high priest who knows our weaknesses and temptations and yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15)!
Our human (and sinful) response to betrayal is to retaliate or hurt those who’ve hurt us. How differently Jesus dealt with the betrayal of Judas! When you look at all four gospel accounts you see a fuller picture of the majesty of Jesus compared to the monstrosity of Judas.
4 Ways Jesus Confronted Betrayal
1. Jesus acted on his troubled spirit.
So often we talk ourselves out of our gut instincts. Something doesn’t sit right with us, and we make excuses for someone else’s behavior. But Jesus didn’t do that, his troubled spirit prompted him to action.
Right before the first Lord’s Supper, John 13:21 says, “…He was troubled in his spirit, and testified, Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Jesus, knowing all things, kicked Judas out of his supper with the disciples and told him to do his deed quickly. (John 13:27).
Obviously, the difference is that Jesus knew what Judas was doing. Even if you’re unsuspecting, listen to your instincts. If your spirit is troubled, dig deeper to understand why.
2. Jesus walked toward his betrayer.
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking” (John 18:4)?
What strength! While Jesus was subjecting himself to human authority, it’s clear he was the one in control, not them. He didn’t wait for Judas to come to him, he boldly stepped toward him, and didn’t run away. The kiss was the signal to identify Jesus. Since he stepped forward, this made the kiss unnecessary, and even viler.
The lesson for us is not to ignore or turn a blind eye to a betrayer in our midst. Acknowledge the squatter and deal with it. As difficult as it may be, it’s important to show strength and resolve by moving toward the offender and not away.
3. Jesus protected his disciples, even when under arrest.
Jesus knew that his disciples weren’t strong enough to endure being arrested, so twice he made the soldiers identify who they were seeking. Even under duress, Jesus was protecting his disciples.
“So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one” (John 18:7-9).
Jesus never loses any of his true disciples.
Are there others impacted by the betrayal you’ve suffered? It’s important to protect others if you have an opportunity to do so.
4. Jesus was always gracious, even to Judas
After Jesus’ arrest, Judas realized he stood condemned and tried to return the thirty pieces of silver. Maybe he tried to alleviate his inner turmoil by finding one good reason Jesus deserved to be handed over? But try as he might, it was an exercise in futility. Jesus had never done one evil deed or said one less-than-gracious thing to anyone.
Jesus even knew who Judas was, and still washed his feet, and called him, “Friend.”
As impossible as it sounds, we are exhorted to respond like Jesus when we are mistreated.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:18-20)
The Traitor’s Heel to Heal Traitors
For three whole years, Judas heard all the sermons and saw all the miracles, yet his heart was hardened and evil. He’s a fascinating character because he’s just so hard to understand! How could he sell out the perfect Son of God, and damn his soul to hell, for a measly thirty pieces of silver? It just doesn’t make sense. But then again, betrayal rarely does.
In the darkness of night, when the Son of Man was betrayed by a kiss, it seemed that hell had won. But the story didn’t end there. He was being betrayed, forsaken, and abandoned so that you and I wouldn’t have to be. He bore the wrath that should’ve been ours.
We were once his enemies too, but we’ve been reconciled to him through his death. (Romans 5:10). Judas’ betrayal wasn’t just one more insult to add to the litany Jesus endured for us. Rather, it provides real-life encouragement and hope as we seek to heal from the wounds we’ve all suffered at the hands of others.
Greg Morse put it this way, “He absorbed the traitor’s heel so that he could heal traitors.”
Trust him with your own heartbreak, and may he heal you as you look to him.
Sola Deo Gloria,
P.S. My friend Caitelen wrote this moving song. We watch this video every year at Easter. But since I’ve been blogging through the book of Luke, and the scenes in the garden, it’s as relevant as ever. I pray it causes you to marvel at the finished work of Christ on your behalf.