While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
(Matthew 26:47-56 ESV)
Yesterday we learned that a great multitude (perhaps 600 or more) of armed soldiers and civilians came to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. Since it was dark (these events took place after midnight) and most of these people didn’t know who Jesus was, Judas (the betrayer) had given them a sign. The one he would kiss would be Jesus.
While those of us in the west might find this strange, it is not uncommon for men in the Middle East (and even parts of Europe) to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, especially if they are very close. This makes Judas’ sign all the more despicable because a kiss is a sign of a close relationship between people who care about each other.
In addition Judas offered a friendly greeting (“Greetings, Rabbi!”). He continued to feign innocence and to pretend to be Jesus’ close friend throughout Jesus’ arrest. He didn’t want the other disciples to know what he had done. He also didn’t want Jesus to know. But, being God, Jesus already knew.
But notice something very interesting. Jesus’ greets Judas not by calling Him “traitor” or by denouncing him. Instead He calls Him “Friend“. Right up until the end Jesus invited Judas into a real, personal relationship with Him.
The collection of writings known as The Bible were physically written by human hands but these authors were led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit (who is God) led the 40+ different human authors to write the precise words we read today. So the account of the events in the Bible, including this scene, are recorded exactly as God wanted them to be recorded. They tell us how God views the events, and more importantly, the people in them.
Despite Judas’ treachery and lies, the Holy Spirit did not direct Matthew to write any critical words about Judas in his gospel. While many people throughout history have had very harsh words for Judas the Bible never does. This is because God loves everyone He has ever created, even the ones who don’t love Him back; even the ones who ridicule Him, undermine Him, or even hate Him.
God is grieved by the words and actions of those who reject Him. But He is not grieved for His own sake. He is grieved for those people. It breaks His heart to see people reject Him because He knows what the future holds for those that do. God doesn’t get bitter. He doesn’t respond to hate with more hate. He always responds to hate with more love [Psalm 86:15; Ephesians 2:4-5].
Some of you may think that you are a hopeless case. Perhaps you mocked God in the past or denied His existence and now you think God cannot love you. Not true. I did these things and I know God loves me. Perhaps you’ve done something pretty bad and think God can’t love you. Maybe you spread a lie that damaged someone’s life; maybe you had an abortion; maybe you murdered someone. Judas sent God’s son to His death and God continued to love Judas. No matter what you’ve done God is always willing to forgive [1 John 1:9].
God created every human being intentionally so that we could spend eternity with Him, if we so choose [Psalm 139:13; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9]. To that end, He will never give up on anyone. He gives each of us – even those who hate Him – every opportunity to be repent and be saved, right up until our last breath.
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