15.02.06 Jn. 18:2-3; Mk. 14:43-44; Lk. 22:47-48; Mk. 14:45 (See also Mt. 26:47-50a)
JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS
Jn. 2 Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 So Judas took a company of soldiers and some temple police from the chief priests and the Pharisees and came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Mk. 43 While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. With him was a mob, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 His betrayer had given them a signal. “The One I kiss,” he said, “He’s the One; arrest Him and take Him away under guard.”
Lk. 47 While He was still speaking, suddenly a mob was there, and one of the Twelve named Judas was leading them. He came near Jesus to kiss Him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Mk. 45 So when he came, he went right up to Him and said, “Rabbi!”— and kissed Him.
“A company of soldiers … temple police from the chief priests and the Pharisees” While John did not make a distinctive identification of the soldiers, it is almost certain that he was speaking here of Roman and temple soldiers. A company or detachment consisted of 200 to 600 men, depending on the interpretation of the Greek word speira, meaning a detachment of Roman soldiers. The commander was probably an archegos (747) who was in charge of the praetorian cohort. The chief priests called for the sagan (from strategos 4755), a deputy or captain of the temple, who in turn brought forth every available temple guard (Levites) to arrest Jesus. The temple police, or huperetas, had limited authority outside the temple, but moved Jesus within the temple where the Roman soldiers could not enter. The passage implies that Pilate was awake and waiting for Jesus to be brought to him, as only Pilate had the authority to send a detachment of soldiers. Furthermore, Pilate was not permitted to send soldiers to arrest anyone, unless there was a charge made against that person. Clearly, Caiaphas was at work behind the scenes to insure that all requirements for a Roman trial were met, as both Roman soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus. They came with torches and lanterns, as no priest could walk safely in this area at night since area was filled with tombs, and it was believed that walking over one would cause defilement and prevent service in the temple. But at this point, a very Hellenistic Caiaphas didn’t care about tombs – he had a very important mission to accomplish.
The Sadducees and the leading Pharisees were passionately concerned about the reaction of the public to their plans, once these became known. Likewise, they were fearful that Jesus might use His incredible power against them. Hence, they came to the Garden of Gethsemane with a detachment of soldiers. When Jesus realized they were coming, He could have slipped away as He had done in Nazareth, but He didn’t. Yet in light of all the miracles everyone had seen Jesus perform, it is amazing that the religious leaders believed their soldiers could overpower Him. But maybe there were other reasons for the all those soldiers – and two possibilities are as follows:
- That the leaders feared Jesus might join the Zealots and attempt an overthrow of Roman domination, or
- The greater possibility was that the massive crowds would awaken and come to the defense of Jesus and the disciples. The popularity of Jesus was still at fever pitch.
The Sadducees and leading Pharisees were aware that a revolt was highly possible. In this assessment they were, in fact, accurate, but the fact that Pilate could find no fault in Jesus caught them by surprise.
“Came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.” Few passages of the gospels reveal the fear the leading Pharisees and Sadducees had, better than this one. Everyone was well aware of the character of Jesus and His disciples, so why were weapons needed? They weren’t. Yet those who travailed in fear and evil did not take any chances and came fully armed. They also came with lanterns and torches – strips of resinous wood tied together to burn brightly.
Passover is celebrated only when there is a bright full moon and when the rainy season is over. Therefore, the sky is always bright and clear in Jerusalem on Passover. This writer has often enjoyed full moon evenings when it was bright enough to walk outside without a flashlight. After twenty minutes outside in the dark, the eyes adjust to the moonlight. No doubt lanterns and torches were brought in case Jesus and the disciples were hiding in a cave. Whatever the reason, they were absolutely determined to rid themselves of Jesus even if it meant bringing along equipment and troops that were not needed.
“The One I kiss.” To give a kiss on the cheek was, and continues to be, a common greeting in many Middle Eastern countries. It is called a “holy kiss” or “kiss of love” in Paul’s epistles as well as in 1 Peter. But on this night it was Satan’s kiss of betrayal. The phrase has lost its meaning in Western culture.
15.02.06.Q1 Why would Judas have wanted to betray Jesus (Mk. 14:43-45)?
The possible reasons are as follows:
- Judas may have become disillusioned with Jesus as the messiah, since He was obviously not the expected military-messiah who would overthrow the Romans. Ironically, if the Jews would have accepted Jesus as their Messiah, then the one-world government of the Romans would have been overthrown.
- Judas had witnessed Jesus perform many miracles and never considered the possibility that the real Messiah would die on a Roman cross. This would be especially true, since it was well known that anyone who died on a tree was cursed.
- Some have argued that Judas betrayed Jesus out of greed. Suppose Jesus did not rise from the grave. Judas would then have clout and status with the religious leaders beyond anything he had experienced in his life. Thirty pieces of silver would not have been worth the effort, but status among the religious leaders would have been priceless.
“Are you going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” The betrayal becomes more significant when the Greeks word for kiss is examined. The normal Greek word is philein, but Matthew used the word kataphilein, which means to kiss repeatedly and fervently as with deep affection. It is the same word used of the tender caress of our Lord’s feet by the woman in the Pharisee’s house (Lk. 7:38), of the father who kissed his prodigal son (Lk. 15:20), and the farewell kiss the elders of Ephesus gave to the Apostle Paul when he left them (Acts 20:37). When Jesus called Judas “friend,” He did not use the usual term philos, meaning friend, but Jesus referred to him as a comrade or companion, with the Greek word hetairos.
A kiss on the cheek was a sign of the discipleship a man had with his mentor and rabbi. It was the symbol of the highest degree of devotion and trust. As such, when Judas approached Jesus, he placed both hands on the shoulders of Jesus. Therefore, the kiss of Judas was not an ordinary greeting between to friends who have not seen each other for a time, but a kiss of betrayal of the highest order that, in today’s Western culture, has no equal. When Jesus asked the question, He extended love to him that he might repent.
. Scholars believe it was a Roman cohort of approximately 600 Samaritan soldiers, headed by a Chiliarch, or commander. No Jews were permitted in the Roman military.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 368.
. Vine, “Captain.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:88.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 367-68; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:415.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 369-70.
. Vine, “Lantern.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:352.
. Be sure to see 14.01.12.Q1 “Why was Judas needed to betray Jesus when everyone easily recognized Him?”
. See also 15.03.12.Q3 “Why did Jesus choose Judas for a disciple?”
. Barclay, “Matthew.” 2:290; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 367.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 367.
. Barclay, “Luke.” 273.
. The proverbial “kiss of betrayal” was known among all people groups in the ancient Middle East. See Gen. 27:26ff; 2 Sam. 15:5; Prov. 7:13; 27:6.