The Betrayal

And he that betrayed Him had given them a sign, saying: "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He; lay hold on Him, hold Him fast, and lead Him away cautiously." And when he was come, immediately going up to Jesus, he said: "Hail, Rabbi", and he kissed Him. And Jesus said to him: "Friend, whereto art thou come? Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him. - Matthew 26:48-50; Mark 14:44-46; Luke 22:48

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1. It has been said by some, as a sort of defence of poor Judas, that he hoped by this act of betrayal to give Our Lord an opportunity of vindicating Himself before the people; that he had grown tired of this long waiting for the Kingdom of God to come, and intended, as it were, to compel Him at last to show His power and declare Himself. But the wording of the text does not seem to give much sanction to this theory. At the beginning we are distinctly told that Judas had at last come to prefer silver and gold to Jesus Christ; he made a deliberate choice between two alternatives, and bartered one for the other. Again, Our Lord's dealing with Judas in the Supper-room shows deep hardness of heart; it is hard to believe that Judas did not know that Our Lord understood. Finally, here the fear of Judas is, not that the treachery should succeed, but that it should fail. He takes every precaution, and, to make himself doubly sure, he trades upon the tender affection of Our Lord, which could be counted upon to help in the betrayal rather than to frustrate it.

2. It was as if he said: "Though, Rabbi, You might save Yourself for Your own sake, yet let Yourself be captured for mine." And the greeting of Our Lord confirms this view. With the greatness of a hero, He lets things take their course. Had it been Herod, or a stranger, or the scribes and Pharisees alone, He might have resisted. He might have "passed through their midst," as He had done on a former occasion when they wished to take His life. He might have flogged them from before Him, as He did that day when the zeal of His Father's house devoured Him. He might have left them on the ground where they had fallen. But the traitor is His friend; the traitor is the trusted Judas; He can only feel shame along with pity; He can only show His greatness against Himself now, keeping down the nausea He must have felt when the traitor's lips touched His cheek.

3. And the multitude seem to feel the same. It is difficult to imagine that they would not have known Our Lord without any special notification from the traitor. He tells them Himself a little later that He is perfectly well known to them, and has been among them every day of late. They had seen Him, they had heard Him, they had spoken with Him often enough; He had Himself already told them who He was, and His word was better than the word of a traitor. But with one of His own at their head they had a certain sense of security. If He were inclined to touch them, He might be deterred from the sight of him. If they had any doubts of their own, the traitor at their head would seem to justify their proceedings; they could silence their own consciences, by throwing on him the responsibility. So the world has hidden and clothed its malice under the name of some traitor to Our Lord.


1. The betrayal of Our Lord would seem to have been deliberate and intentional.

2. Our Lord yields to the treachery of a friend, when He had not yielded to enemies.

3. The multitude, powerless of themselves, hid them selves beneath the traitor's name.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier