127: Betrayed with a kiss
The stillness in the garden of Gethsemane was broken by the sound of many feet and voices. With torches swaying in the darkness, a band of dark figures moved between the trees and approached Jesus.
Judas Iscariot was with them. He had come to carry out his horrible mission. He knew that Jesus would go to Gethsemane after the meal with His disciples. In the middle of the night he had gone to the chief priests and scribes to tell them that they now had their opportunity to arrest Jesus without stirring up the people.
Hastily they called some armed servants together and summoned the temple guard. Was that group large enough? What if the disciples put up a fight and ran to get help? Many Galileans had pitched their tents close to Gethsemane. They had accompanied Jesus on His triumphant journey to Jerusalem.
The arresting party would have to be strong. They quickly sent a message to Pilate, the governor, to ask for a company of Roman soldiers to help them arrest a dangerous rebel.
The Jewish servants, the Roman soldiers with their captain, and some of the chief priests marched together into Gethsemane. It was a strong band of men armed with swords and clubs.
How would the servants and soldiers know which man to arrest? How would they know Jesus in the darkness of night?
Judas solved the problem for them. "I'll act as if I'm still His friend," he told them. "I'll go ahead of you, as if I've come to warn Him. I'll greet Him with a kiss. The one I walk up to and kiss is the one you are to arrest."
The traitor knew the garden well, for he had often been there with Jesus. When he saw Jesus standing before His disciples, he hurried over to Him as if he was happy to see Him.
"Greetings, Rabbi!" he said, and he kissed Him.
That was the most cruel kiss anyone on earth has ever received. It must have burned into Jesus' face. His soul must have been filled with loathing at this treachery.
He asked Judas simply, "Are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?"
Judas shrank back in confusion. He hid among the servants and soldiers who arrived on the scene with their swaying torches.
The soldiers stood there looking. They did not know what to do next. Judas had gone too far ahead of them, and they had not seen him kiss Jesus. Which of those men were they supposed to arrest?
Then someone stepped forward. He stood clearly outlined in the light of the moon and asked calmly, "Whom do you seek?"
"Jesus of Nazareth," they shouted.
The man standing before them said, "I am Jesus."
Those simple words had an amazing, mysterious power. The armed men and Judas all shrank back. They stumbled and fell to the ground.
When they got back on their feet, they saw that Jesus was still standing at the very same spot. They were anxious and frightened as they looked at Him. They realized that they were powerless before Him.
He asked them again, "Whom do you seek?"
"Jesus of Nazareth," they stammered.
Jesus replied, "I already told you that I am the one you are looking for. Therefore let these men go." He pointed to His disciples, who stood behind Him, trembling with fear and anger.
He was thinking only of them, for He wanted them to be spared. He would go along with the soldiers without a struggle.
The soldiers finally stepped forward and took hold of Jesus.