“Judas’ kiss didn’t just send Jesus to the cross, it also spared us the cross.”
The Arrest of Jesus
by Mark Karapetyan
It is a dark, chilly, April night – the first day of the unleavened bread. The upper room is crowded as Jesus and His disciples are gathered to celebrate the Passover. Peter and John were summoned earlier by Jesus to prepare the Passover meal. They were instructed to go to the city and follow a man carrying a water jar to a house (to this day, the identity of this man, his relationship to Jesus, and the location of this house remains a mystery). Alas, Peter and John do as their rabbi says and follow this man. They are introduced to the owner of the house, whom the Bible tells us nothing about. The owner shows them a guest room – a large, furnished room on the upper level, isolated from the rest of the house. Perhaps this arrangement was to allow Jesus some private time and one final dinner with His beloved disciples. Not many places in the times of Jesus fit the description of this large, furnished, upstairs room; this room must have belonged to someone with political or financial influence.
The room is buzzing and loud! Peter and John are preparing the meal; James is washing the pots and chalices; Matthew is laying on the floor singing to himself, waiting for the delicious food; Andrew is arm-wrestling Philip; Judas is playing dice with Simon; the others are talking, joking, and having a great time. Jesus, on the other hand, is quiet – He is not saying much, for He knows the sorrow that will come soon. Nevertheless, He composes Himself and decides to get the best of the last hours with His friends.
Finally, the supper is ready!
John is a terrible cook, but Peter knows his way around the kitchen. They both deliver the hot, steaming meal and set it right in the middle of everyone. There are all kinds of food: unleavened bread, fish sauce, wheat, barley, olive oil, bitter herbs, plenty of wine, and of course, lamb meat. The irony of this is that to celebrate the Passover, an innocent lamb had to be sacrificed for the sins of the people of Israel. Yet here sits Jesus, an innocent man, the Lamb of God, who will later be sacrificed for the sins of all people.
Everyone is sitting in reclining positions on the floor on cushions and carpets. It is unlikely that people used tables to eat on during those times. Jesus is most likely in the center, surrounded by His closest: John, James, and Peter (and Judas). Jesus pauses for a moment with His eyes closed and prays.Then, everyone dips in…
The way I envision the scene, I see Matthew shoving food really fast in his mouth, for he is the one who eats the most in the group. Peter mocks Matthew and points to the food stuck in his long beard. Philip, on the other hand, eats one bite at a time, chewing the food slowly as if he had all the time in the world. For this reason, the disciples call him the “thin one.”
The atmosphere is euphoric. The guys are having a blast! However, Jesus is not Himself. A few times He is asked if He is alright. Jesus replies with His usual smile. According to Jewish tradition, the door of the room (house) must be opened in the middle of the meal in anticipation of the arrival of the prophet Elijah, the forerunner of the coming Messiah. This, however, is not necessary today for Jesus, the promised Messiah, is present in the room!
While they are eating, the expected happens, as with all other dim-witted, arrogant men. The disciples start arguing over who the greatest among them is. Jesus has been teaching these knuckleheads important life lessons for three years, and now He must teach them a lesson in humility. Jesus knows that actions speak louder than words. He arises from the supper, lays aside His garment, takes a towel, and wraps Himself around the waist. He then pours water into a basin and starts washing His disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel He has wrapped around His waist.
The disciples are stunned! They are speechless…
The man who brought the dead back to life, opened the eyes of the blind, healed the sick, commanded the winds to be still, and walked on water is washing their dirty feet with His bare hands. The master teaches His friends a perfect lesson in humility by demonstrating it, not just talking about it. This lesson will echo throughout eternity – if you wish to be the greatest, then serve one another!
No one dares utter a word about greatness now. They look at each other and continue eating. Peter, however, is a firecracker. He never thinks before he speaks, and now he proves it yet again: “You shall never wash my feet,” he dares!
Jesus gently reminds Peter that He must wash his feet or Peter will not be a part of His group.
“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head,” Peter pleads.
Knowing that Judas is standing behind Him and listening, Jesus looks at Peter and comments: “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”
Judas is exposed. The master knows his evil plans; Judas says not a word…
They all go back and continue eating, but time is running low. Jesus is aware that His father’s will must be done. He asks everyone to be quiet and pay attention: “One of you will betray Me.”
At first, the disciples are caught off guard and are clueless to what Jesus is saying, but then they finally understand the seriousness of the accusation. They look at one another, trying to figure out of whom Jesus spoke. They even start doubting themselves and individually asking Jesus if it is them whom He spoke of.
Jesus is calm and composed. He looks directly at Judas and sighs: “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” Immediately, Jesus breaks a small piece of bread, dips it in the fish sauce, and hands it to Judas Iscariot.
Finally!!! The betrayer has been identified!
Jesus stares deep into Judas’ soul and awaits a response, perhaps an apology or even a regretful reaction. But Judas is cold as ice!
A single tear runs down Jesus’ cheek as He remembers the early morning by the mountainside, years ago, where He called Judas to follow Him and become His disciple. Jesus is emotional. His thoughts are pulling Him in all directions. All the good and bad times they have spent together make this betrayal a hard pill to swallow. Judas, however, is unfazed. He slowly takes two steps back, puts his worn sandals on his feet, walks closer to the main entrance of the room, and disappears without saying a word…
This comes as no surprise, for Judas Iscariot was a zealot revolutionist. He hails from the town of Kerioth (notice his similar sir name, Iscariot), south of Judah. The people of this town were known rebels who had been anxiously waiting for the coming messiah to save them once and for all from the evil Romans. Judas was no different. He too hoped that Jesus was indeed the promised messiah who would finally restore the kingdom of Israel, especially after walking with Jesus for three years and witnessing His miracles and healings. Within this Zealot group existed a smaller group called the Sicarii, from Latin, meaning “dagger men.” These fanatical Zealots carried knives with them and would attempt to assassinate Romans or those Jews who had gone over to the Roman side.
When Jesus eventually failed to deliver the Jews from the Romans, Judas started doubting the messiahship of Jesus and His ability to save Israel. Out of anger and disappointment, Judas decided to avenge his people by plotting to have Jesus arrested. Little did he know that the Pharisees were not just planning on rebuking Jesus or making Him stop preaching. They had execution in mind! The Pharisees were aware that Judas was displeased and disappointed with Jesus. They met with Judas several times and convinced him to hand over the master. Judas simply became the open door to allow them to pursue this course of action. We must also not forget: Judas was a known thief!
As soon as Judas leaves the upper room, he rushes to the Jewish Pharisees to finalize their devious plan. Meanwhile, Jesus is still in the upper room with His eleven. While they are eating, Jesus takes a piece of bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to His disciples: “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” He then takes the cup, gives thanks, and hands it to them saying: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”
In Jewish tradition, four cups were offered during the Passover meal. The Cup of Sanctification, the Cup of Thanksgiving, the Cup of Redemption, and the Cup of Acceptance. Jesus offers His blood represented in a cup for redemption for their sins. The cup Jesus offers His disciples is the third cup.
The silence in the room is deafening. It is getting darker and colder in the room as the flames from the torch are flickering away. Matthew decides to sing an old, Jewish hymn that Jesus loves. Everyone joins in, but no one is in tune. Everyone is out of sync, especially Peter, with his horrendously loud voice that makes the deaf complain. Alas, Jesus is pleased.
Then they are done eating and singing. The hour is near. Jesus knows He will soon be arrested and handed over to the authorities. Jesus must move quickly. He takes His disciples over the brook Kedron, on the Mount of Olives, and enters a garden filled with olive trees that they frequently visit. Gethsemane (oil press) is its name.
It is late at night, and everyone is exhausted and tired from overeating. But not Jesus.…
He asks Peter, James, and John to stay awake and pray with Him. But the guys are sleepy and cannot keep their eyes open. Three times Jesus comes to wake them up and ask them to pray, and every time He finds them asleep. With friends like these, who needs enemies? But Jesus realizes the limitations of His disciples. He knows each and every one of them intimately, so he holds nothing against them.
Jesus withdraws a stone’s throw from them and collapses on His knees: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Never before has Jesus felt this much pain and agony. Never before has Jesus feared the future. The God-man feels everything you and I feel; He is terrified! In fact, He is so scared that His sweat becomes like great drops of blood and falls to the ground.
Out of the other gospel writers, Luke is the only writer to mention this crucial detail. Luke is a medical doctor. Perhaps he is the only one capable of making the connection between Jesus’ anguish and the drops of blood. That is why he reports it.
Today, we know from the medical field that what Jesus was going through is called Hematidrosis: “An extremely rare condition characterized by the sweating of blood, which occurs when a person is facing death or highly stressful events. It has been seen in prisoners before execution and during wars.” (Zugibe, 1988). Even the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci wrote about a soldier who had bloody sweat after battle.
While Jesus is speaking to Peter, James, and John, Judas comes to the garden leading a detachment of (400-600) soldiers, Jewish leaders, and Pharisees, carrying lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Imagine, hundreds of trained, strong Roman soldiers with weapons appear to arrest one unarmed man. What is interesting is that the Jewish leaders and Pharisees do not wait until the morning to arrest Jesus. They want to avoid the multitude who love and adore Him. Just a few days ago the multitude welcomed Jesus during His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders were there and witnessed it all. They know Jesus is liked by the people. So, they wait until the night when no one is around and Jesus is alone.
Judas approaches Jesus and kisses Him on the cheek. Nothing pierces Jesus’ heart more than this kiss of betrayal. In those days, a kiss on the face from a friend meant genuine, honest, trustworthy friendship. Yet here is Judas ensnaring Jesus with a kiss. This kiss was a token, a pre-planned signal between Judas and the Jewish leaders to identify Jesus personally.
“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.”
Something here needs more clarification: If the Jewish leaders and Pharisees followed Jesus around for three years to trap and arrest Him, it is reasonable to assume that they knew what He looked like. Why, then, did they not know who Jesus was or what He looked like and need Judas’ help to personally identify Jesus with a kiss?
The answer to this puzzle is three-fold. First, it was late at night and dark, hence the lanterns and torches the Jewish leaders and the Roman troops brought. It was hard to see faces, let alone pick out one man among many. Second, the Roman law demanded that a prisoner must be personally identified by others. No hearsay or lucky guesses were allowed. The Jewish leaders knew this; therefore they arranged for Judas to personally identify the accused – Jesus. Remember, the Bible says that the kiss was a pre-arranged token – a signal Judas and the Pharisees agreed on prior to leaving for the garden. Third, Judas knew the exact location of the garden since he regularly went there with Jesus and the other disciples. (John 18:2)
The moment Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss, Jesus stares at Judas and accuses: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” The tables are turned around now! Jesus is the one who is identifying Judas when He calls Judas by his name, and then exposes his action of betrayal.
Jesus steps forward and faces the authorities: “Who is it that you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth” they reply.
“I AM” Jesus assures!
The moment Jesus utters the words “I AM,” the soldiers, the Jewish leaders, and the Pharisees draw back and fall to the ground.
The Roman soldiers most likely are unaware of the significance of these two words. The Jewish leaders and the Pharisees, however, know well enough that Jesus is equating Himself to the I AM of the Old Testament. Startled and confused, the soldiers get back on their feet to arrest Jesus.
The selflessness of Jesus never ceases to amaze. Even at His darkest moments, even when He needs to think about Himself first, He always shows love, mercy, and compassion toward others and seeks their well being first: “I have told you that I AM. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” Jesus demands. By “these,” Jesus means His disciples.
Immediately, Peter draws a knife and cuts the right ear of Malchus, one of the Roman soldiers. Jesus rebukes Peter: “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” Before everyone’s eyes, Jesus performes His last healing miracle and heals the severed ear of Malchus. Jesus does this in front of the Jewish leaders and Pharisees to make them re-think their position and reconsider their plans. But the Jews are having none of it. They want Jesus and they want Him dead!
The Pharisees give the signal. Instantly, the Roman soldiers surround Jesus in a circle formation to prevent Him from running away. Judas has seen Jesus perform supernatural miracles; he is aware that Jesus can do anything He wishes. Judas is afraid Jesus might escape. That is why he instructs the soldiers to “hold Him fast” in case Jesus tries one of His tricks. (Matthew 26:48)
The Roman guards take Jesus’ right wrist and twist His arm behind His shoulder blades, and then tie the other arm with a noose around His neck. This was the manner in which the Romans assured their captive never escaped.
Judas watches His rabbi get arrested. A moment of regret, or perhaps of fear, strikes him deep. He later lashes out at the Jewish leaders with whom he planned Jesus’ arrest and throws the thirty pieces of silver before them: “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
The pain of betraying Jesus is too much for Judas to bare. For thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave at the time, he hands over his Friend to the Jews. In a hurry, Judas leaves the scene and hangs himself from a tree.
As expected, all the other disciples flee in fear and vanish, including Peter, the firecracker who always acted brave. Jesus is left alone with no friends. He is terrified. He is anxious.
And just like that, in the middle of the night, the Romans arrest Jesus and take Him away to face the first of His six illegal trials.
To be continued…
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
Zugibe, Frederick. (April 11, 2019). “Meditate-How did Jesus sweat drops of blood in prayer?” Intothewaters.com (Accessed April 27.2020).
Dr. Zugibe summarizes Jesus distress in the garden of Gethsemane by stating the following, “The severe mental anxiety due to a profound fear of his prescient sufferings stimulated the fear center of the brain (amygdala), which sent out a general alarm to all centers of the brain, invoking a full scale fight or flight reaction. This reaction lasted for hours resulting in a total state of exhaustion, only to end abruptly in a severe counter reaction after the angel came and ministered to him, and he accepted his fate. This caused severe dilation and rupture of the blood vessels into the sweat glands, causing hemorrhage into the ducts of the sweat glands, and the subsequent extrusion onto the skin, exactly as St. Luke described it.”
APOLOGETICS - ARTICLES AND INFORMATION
- What is Apologetics?
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