All the Way to Calvary: Betrayal

We last noticed our Lord in Gethsemane, but it is necessary to flash back to His hours spent in the upper room before He departed for the garden.

Unnerving Announcement

Having washed the feet of His disciples (including Judas Iscariot), the Passover meal began. There were likely some confusing thoughts swirling through their minds when Jesus told them they were not all clean (Joh 13:11), but as with so many of His prior announcements, they didn’t grasp its significance. He even told them that Scripture was about to be fulfilled (Psa 41:9), which says, “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (Joh 13:18).[1] He let it sink in for a moment; then, while they were eating, Jesus dropped a bombshell, plain enough for any of them to understand – “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (Mat 26:21).

There must have been a noticeable change in the Savior’s voice, for He was “troubled in spirit” (Joh 13:21) when He disclosed this revelation. But the disciples were also troubled. Matthew tells us “they were exceeding sorrowful” after He broke the news to them. Their questions began right away: “Lord, is it I?” (Mat 26:22). Judas also inquired, but addressed Him as “Master” (or “Rabbi”). Handing Judas the dipped bread, the Lord answered his question: “Thou hast said” (v25). “And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas” (Joh 13:27-28 NET).

Unknown Plot

Only Jesus knew who Judas really was and what he had been planning. Much earlier, He asked, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (Joh 6:70). The other disciples were certainly in the dark about Judas. Although his official act of betrayal had yet to occur, his plot was well underway, unknown to the men with whom he had spent the last few years. Before the Passover meal, Judas had already consented to deliver Jesus to the chief priests for an agreed-upon price, but he was waiting for the right opportunity to hand Him over. As Jesus was constantly surrounded by crowds of people, he had to find an occasion when such crowds were absent (Luk 22:6). He knew where to go and when. Since this visit to Jerusalem, the nightly practice of Jesus was predictable. He would be in the garden, away from the multitudes (cf. Luk 21:37; Mat 26:30; Joh 18:2). What Jesus told him to do quickly was now set in motion. It was night. Judas left the table and made his way to the chief priests.

While Judas was selling Him out, Jesus was singing with the remaining eleven. The singing of the Hallel Psalms (113-118) would bring their time at the table to a conclusion. As nightfall marked the beginning of a new day, our Lord would sing, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa 118:24). There would never be a day in history like this one. They finished the song and made their way to the garden. Jesus would not change the usual location of prayer to evade Judas nor the authorities eager to apprehend Him.

Unnecessary Kiss

The ordeal in Gethsemane behind Him, Jesus announced the next development to the eleven: “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Mat 26:46). No sooner had He spoken these words than a crowd assembled, armed with swords and clubs. Judas was leading the authorities to the place where he knew Jesus would be. The officers could probably identify Him, but Judas made it easy, following through on the agreed-upon signal (v48): “He walked up to Jesus to kiss him” (Luk 22:47 NET). Earlier in the upper room, Jesus would have kissed Judas upon arrival; now Judas kissed Him.

Accompanying the kiss was feigned affection, along with the greeting, “Hail, master” (Mat 26:49). But the Lord was not deceived by the “warm” reception, and responded: “Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luk 22:48). Although the answer to Jesus’ question was obvious, perhaps it would awaken Judas to the dastardly nature of his deed and reveal to his own soul the true nature of his condition before God. But Jesus didn’t ask him to abandon his plan. Graciously, the Savior called Judas “friend” and instructed him, “Do what you are here to do” (Mat 26:50 NET).

It soon became plain that the kiss of identification was unnecessary. Jesus stepped forward to address His would-be captors: “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he” (Joh 18:4-5). He willingly revealed His identity, and they would move forward with their plan. Judas would collect his coins.

Unspent Silver

We may never know how Judas the traitor planned to spend his “reward.” Neither do we know how Judas the treasurer spent what he had stolen more than once from the moneybag of the twelve (see Joh 12:4-6). But what we do know is that he never spent the 30 pieces of silver received for betraying Jesus.[2] As it became more and more evident that Jesus was not going to overthrow His captors nor summon heaven’s legions to deliver Him, Judas returned to the authorities and threw the coins into the temple, with an admission that he had betrayed “the innocent blood” (see Mat 27:3-10). What he did spend was his soul, making an awful and deadly bargain with the powers of darkness and throwing his life away in a manner almost as frightful as his betrayal of Jesus.

But before Judas left the garden, he would observe once more the remarkable power of Jesus of Nazareth, who was slowly, but obediently, taking yet another step that would lead Him all the way to Calvary.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.

[2] A comparison of Matthew 27:3-10 with Acts 1:18-19 indicates that the Jewish leaders bought land in Judas’ name with the 30 pieces of silver.