April 8 – Judas the Traitor

“He who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ And immediately he came to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ ”

Matthew 26:48–50


Judas Iscariot, in his attitudes and actions, is a classic example of the false believer.

As one of the Twelve, Judas was extremely disappointed at the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be. Instead of teaching the disciples how to conquer and control, Jesus taught them how to submit and serve. Any ambitions Judas might have had for gaining wealth, power, or prestige by being a close follower of Jesus were frustrated.

Judas’ compulsive unbelief, combined with his relentless greed and ambition, found a perverse, temporal fulfillment when Satan entered him, and he struck a deal with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus for money (Luke 22:3–6). As one possessed by the Devil, Judas’s evil actions were no longer his own, though he was still responsible for them.

Judas could have chosen any of several ways to identify Jesus to the mob, but under Satan’s direction he selected a kiss. This kiss was normally given as a sign of affection between close friends or between pupil and teacher. In the context of Judas’ scheme, however, the kiss could hardly have been more despicable because he twisted its meaning so cynically. It is hard to imagine what grief Jesus must have felt when the one who had been treasurer for the Twelve brashly came forward, said “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed his Master.

Judas’ situation was unique, but his basic attitude is typical of all false believers. The church has always had those who hypocritically profess allegiance to Christ but at heart are really His enemies. Whether it is to advance their business or profession, gain social acceptance, or salve a guilty conscience, hypocrites identify with the church for various reasons. But like Judas, their basic motivation is sinful self–interest.

May God give us the courage to examine our hearts and repent of such traits, and the discernment to deal biblically with false believers in the church.


Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to graciously protect the integrity and purity of your local church.

For Further Study: Read the Epistle of Jude, and list the key traits of false teachers. ✧ What should you know and do regarding such people (vv. 17–23)?[1]

The Kiss of the Traitor

Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whom-ever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” (26:48–50a)

Judas had left the upper room after dark (John 13:30) and gone directly to the chief priests, with whom he had already consummated the agreement to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14–16). He had been looking for “a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the multitude” (Luke 22:6), and now was the ideal time. Judas rightly surmised that Jesus would later go to the Garden of Gethsemane (see John 18:2), which was well away from the crowds of Jerusalem. Pilgrims thronged the streets throughout most of the night during this high time of Passover week, when the two days of sacrifice overlapped (see chap. 12 of this volume). Only in darkness and in such a remote place as this could they take Jesus captive without arousing attention.

Judas was severely disappointed that Jesus did not turn out to be the kind of Messiah he expected. Jesus did not overthrow Rome or even the powerful Jewish religious leaders, and consequently He had acquired no positions of prestige and power with which to reward His disciples. Instead of teaching them how to conquer and control, Jesus taught them how to submit and serve. Instead of Judas’s being richer than when he began to follow Jesus, it is quite likely he was poorer-except for the money he stole from the group’s treasury (John 12:6).

Judas was already possessed by Satan (Luke 22:3), and therefore what he did was no longer under his control. Yet it was under the compulsion of his own unbelief, greed, and ambition that he had opened himself to Satan’s presence.

Delivering up Jesus was in the mind of Satan, the mind of Judas, the minds of the Jewish religious leaders, and in the mind of Rome. But it was in the “predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” ages before it entered the mind of Satan or the minds of those godless men (Acts 2:23). Even while doing Satan’s business, Judas and his co-conspirators were being used to fulfill a divinely ordained plan that would result in the salvation of sinners like the very ones set on killing Him.

Because it was dark and because many in the multitude probably did not know Jesus by sight, Judas, the one who was betraying Him, had prearranged a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.”

Kiss is from phileō, a verb referring to an act of special respect and affection, much as is still displayed today in many Arab cultures and even among some Europeans. In the ancient Near East such a kiss was a sign of homage.

Because of his lowly status, a slave would kiss the feet of his master or other notable person, as would an enemy seeking mercy from a monarch. Ordinary servants would perhaps kiss the back of the hand of the one they greeted, and those above the level of servant would sometimes kiss the palm of the hand. To kiss the hem of a persons garment was a sign of reverence and devotion. But an embrace and a kiss on the cheek was the sign of close affection and love, reserved only for those with whom one had a close, intimate relationship. A kiss and embrace were an accepted mark of affection of a pupil for his teacher, for example, but only if the teacher offered them first.

Therefore, of all the signs Judas could have selected, he chose the one that would turn out to be the most despicable, not because of the act itself but because he perverted it so hypocritically and treacherously. He could have pointed out Jesus in countless other ways that would have been just as effective. For whatever debauched reason he may have had, Judas chose to feign his innocence and affection before Jesus and the disciples to the very end. It is hard to imagine that even so wicked a person as Judas could have flagrantly displayed his treachery in the very face of the one who had graciously taught and befriended him for three years. But Satan, who filled him, knows no embarrassment and has no restraint on his wretchedness.

The raucous cries of the crowd to crucify Him must have been painful to Jesus’ ears. He had taught them, healed them, and offered them the very bread of life, and yet they had turned against Him in contempt and derision. Even the hatred of the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees was painful to Him, because He loved and would have redeemed even those wicked men. The brutality of the soldiers who would beat Him, spit on Him, and place a crown of thorns on His head was painful to Jesus’ spirit as well as His body. Even the cowardly indifference of Pilate would wound Jesus heart, because He came to forgive and to save even that pagan Gentile.

But Judas must have wounded Jesus more grievously than all the others together, because he had been a disciple and friend, an intimate with whom Jesus unreservedly had shared His love, His companionship, and His truth. It is impossible to imagine what our Lord must have felt when Judas brashly approached Him and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Yet His grief was not for Himself but for this man who was so engulfed by greed and self-will that he would stoop to betray the dearest Friend he ever had or could have.

Kissed translates an intensified form of the verb used in verse 48 and carries the idea of fervent, continuous expression of affection. It was the word used by Luke of the woman who came into the Pharisee’s house and kissed Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with perfume (Luke 7:38, 45). It was also used by Luke to describe the father’s reception of the repentant son in the parable of the prodigal (15:20) and of the grieving Ephesian eiders on the beach near Miletus as they bade farewell to their beloved Paul (Acts 20:37). It was just such intense affection that Judas reigned for Christ.

Judas was so caught up in his deceitful display that even Jesus’ sobering words, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) did not deter him. It is probable that Judas was now so much under Satan’s domination that his actions were no longer voluntary.

In deep sadness, but with perfect composure in the face of Judas’s perfidy, Jesus said simply, “Friend, do what you have come for.” The Lord did not use the usual word (philos) for friend, which He used of the Twelve in John 15:14. Instead He addressed Judas merely as hetairos, which is better translated “fellow,” “comrade,” or “companion.” Jesus had offered Himself to be Judas’s friend, and more than that, to be his Savior. But the opportunity for salvation had passed, and in light of Judas’s unspeakable treachery, even fellow was a gracious form of address.

Do what you have come for was Jesus’ farewell statement to the son of perdition. For Judas those were the last words of Christ, and one can imagine that the words will ring as a torment in his ears throughout all eternity in hell. Judas exposed himself outwardly as the enemy of Christ he had always been inwardly, and until the end of history his name will be synonymous with treachery.

Judas’s betrayal not only reflected the wickedness of the sinful world but the wretchedness of the false disciple. He is the epitome of a sham believer, the quintessence of a spurious Christian.

A false Christian is first of all motivated by self-interest, which for Judas was exhibited most obviously in his greed, because he was a thief (John 12:6). But it is likely that he also craved prestige, glory, and power, which he expected to share with Jesus when He overthrew Rome and established His earthly kingdom. He sought to use Jesus for his own sinful ends, and when he discovered that the Lord would not be so used, he turned on Him in open rejection and betrayal. He was like the seeds planted in rocky soil that spring up for a little while but wither when exposed to the heat of the sun (Matt. 13:5–6). When disappointment and testing came, he fell away (see vv. 20–21). He is the fruitless branch that is cut off and burned (John 15:6).

Second, a false disciple is also marked by deceit and hypocrisy. He masquerades in the guise of devotion to Christ, His Word, and His church. He is like a tare planted among wheat; only God can with certainty distinguish him from the real thing. He pays homage to Christ on the outside but hates Him on the inside. Like Judas, his outward signs of affection for the Lord cover a heart that despises Him.

But when a false believer is confronted with a price to pay for his association with Christ, his superficial interest in the church and the things of God invariably withers, and he is exposed as the impostor he has always been.

Judas’s particular act of betrayal and its direct consequences were unique, but his basic attitude toward Jesus is characteristic of every false believer. Every age has foundJudases in the church, those who outwardly feign allegiance to Christ but who at heart are His enemies. They identify themselves with the church for many different reasons, but all of the reasons are self-serving. Whether it is to get ahead in business by appearing respectable, to gain social acceptance by being religious, to salve a guilty conscience by means of pretended righteousness, or to accomplish any other purpose, the underlying motive always is to serve and please self, not God.

Judas is the archetype of Christ rejecters and the supreme example of wasted privilege and opportunity. He is the picture of those who love money, having forsaken the priceless Son of God for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Matt 13:22). He is the classic hypocrite, who reigned love and loyalty for Christ even as he delivered Him up for execution. He is the supreme false disciple, the son of Satan who masquerades as a son of God.[2]

48–50 The need for pointing out the right man was especially acute, not only because it was dark, but because, in a time long before photography, the faces of even great celebrities would not be nearly as widely known as today. To identify Jesus, Judas chose the kiss (thereby turning it into a symbol of betrayal). “Greetings, Rabbi!” (v. 49; see comments at 8:19; 23:8), a tragic mockery, was for the crowd’s ears, not Jesus’.

“Friend” (v. 50) is an openhearted but not intimate greeting. Brown (Death of the Messiah, 256–57) stresses the ironic function in all its uses in Matthew (cf. 20:13; 22:12). The next words, eph ho parei (“what you came for”), are notoriously ambiguous. If the relative pronoun ho functions as a direct interrogative pronoun, the expression means “Why [lit., ‘for what’] have you come?” (NIV text note; cf. Zerwick, Biblical Greek, para. 223; Turner, Insights, 69–71; idem, Syntax, 49–50; BDF, paras. 495–96), and some verb like “do” must he supplied (NIV text; cf. BDF, para. 300 [2]). If the clause is an imperatival statement, its force is like John 13:27 and reflects Jesus’ newly regained poise and his sovereignty in these events. If it is a question, it elicits no information but administers a rebuke steeped in the irony of professed ignorance that knows very well why Judas has come.[3]

26:48 Judas would use a kiss as the sign to help the mob distinguish Jesus from His disciples. The universal symbol of love was to be prostituted to its lowest use.

26:49 As he approached the Lord, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” then kissed Him profusely. Two different words for kiss are used in this passage. The first, in verse 48, is the usual word for kiss. But in verse 49 a stronger word is used, expressing repeated or demonstrative kissing.

26:50 With poise and convicting penetration, Jesus asked, “Friend, why have you come?” No doubt the question came with scalding power to Judas, but events were moving fast now. The mob surged in and seized the Lord Jesus without delay.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:47–48). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 612). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1303). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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