Judas’s role in the crucifixion of Jesus has always fascinated me. What could have compelled him to betray the Lord? The Bible tells us that the devil entered into his heart; and that must have been the case. How else could someone live so close to Jesus—hear him preach, see him heal, eat from the five loaves and two fishes he multiplied, even do miracles in Jesus’ name—and then sell him out for any price? The name Judas means “Praise;” but instead of praising Jesus, Judas betrayed him.
And the tactic of Judas’ treachery is the most surprising to me.
And while [Jesus] yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
Of all the things that you could have used as a sign of your sedition, Judas—did you have to use a kiss?? You could have pointed. You could have described the clothes he wore—you were just sitting at the table with him; don’t you remember what he wore? Now thanks to you those clothes will be gambled for as Jesus hangs on the cross. You could have approached him and spit on him or hit him like so many others will do now, thanks to you. Why a kiss, Judas? Why did you choose an emblem of love to show your disregard, your contempt?
“You’re betraying me with a kiss, Judas?” he asked you. You ripped his heart out, Judas. Couldn’t you hear the pain in his voice, Judas? I can hear it. I can hear the agony as Jesus sees unfolding before his eyes what he told you would happen. I can hear him groan this question as he thinks, “I knew you would betray me, Judas, but did you have to use a kiss??” The sign of love, from The Worshiper, becomes a sign of betrayal.
As I was reading this passage in my Greek NT last year, something stood out to me about this passage; the word for “to kiss” in verse 47 is φιλέω (philéō). This word does mean “to kiss;” but the most common definition of this word is “to love.” This is the word that the Bible uses to describe the Father’s love for the Son (Jhn5:20), Jesus’ love for Lazarus (Jhn11:3), a believer’s love for Jesus (1Cor16:22), a Christian’s love for his fellow believers (Tit3:15), and Jesus’ love for his church (Rev3:19). The idea of kissing is a secondary, extended meaning of φιλέω. The basic meaning of this word is “to feel love for;” kiss comes about as a definition because it is an outward display of the affection implied by the word.
The use of this word represents a major irony here. Judas kisses Jesus; but he doesn’t love him. He gives an outward sign of his love; but while he gives a public display of affection, he is inwardly betraying his Lord. He was only doing half of what this word means.
Whenever I saw this, I was immediately convicted. So often we all do this same thing; I include myself. We kiss Jesus with our mouth, but we do not truly love him in his heart. It’s lip service, not true devotion. Like Judas, and the people that Isaiah prophesied about, we honor him with our lips but our heart is far from him (Mar7:6, Isa29:13).
Kissing Jesus isn’t wrong; in fact, it is the right thing to do. But it is only half. “Kiss” is the secondary, outward meaning of φιλέω; the primary meaning is “to love.” So much of the time as Christians we get stuck doing the outward, secondary things like going to church or dressing modestly. But none of those things have any meaning unless they come from a heart filled with love. If they don’t, they are like Judas’ kiss—a sign of betrayal that grieves the heart of our Savior.
As we prepare ourselves for this Easter season, let’s take inventory. We love to think, “I would never betray Jesus like Judas did!” And yet we all do so often. We give a public display of affection, but have no private devotion. We pray at church, but not at home. We amen the preacher, but we live unholy Monday through Saturday. We quote a Bible verse and then curse like a sailor.
We kiss him, but we do not love him.
Of all the ways you could have betrayed him, Judas, did it have to be with a kiss? Of all the ways you could have betrayed him, child of God, did it have to be with a hymn sang? With a prayer uttered? With a verse quoted? With an outward display of Christianity, but no love for Christ inside? We say we love him—but do we crucify him with a kiss?