Open Your Bible
Matthew 10:1-4, Luke 22:1-6, Matthew 26:17-25, John 13:2-29, Matthew 26:47-50, Matthew 27:3-10, Romans 2:5-8
Have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? I know I have. And I’ve been on the other side, too. Betrayal seems to be woven into the thread of humanity after the fall; we disappoint others and turn our backs on them, and they do the same to us. Oftentimes apologies and reconciliation follow, but sometimes the cut is just too deep to heal without an ugly, nasty scar on the relationship.
Judas and Jesus were friends. Judas was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples, the group of men who traveled around with Him as He taught and preached. These disciples had great responsibility—they were chosen by Jesus to be fishers of men, to be by His side as He worked to spread the good news. They were even with Jesus during His last days on earth.
The story of Judas betraying Jesus is familiar to me. I heard it all the time growing up, particularly around Easter time while studying the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Wicked Judas, betraying his Teacher for thirty pieces of silver. There are a couple of things that prick my heart every time I read this story. The first is that Judas tells the chief priests that the one he kisses is the person to arrest. A kiss, a sign of affection, turned on its head and used for unspeakable means. And even more poignant is that in the midst of betrayal, Jesus calls Judas “friend” (Matthew 26:50). Jesus knew exactly what Judas was there to do—He even hinted at it during the Last Supper in the upper room (vv.20–25). Jesus knew He would be betrayed, and He knew Judas was going to do it.
These two things—the kiss and the use of the word “friend” to describe Judas—communicate to the reader that Jesus was being betrayed by someone who He’d been in relationship with. Jesus’s disciples saw Him in some of His darkest moments on earth. They were with Him when He went to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:11–16) and when He ate His last meal (Matthew 26:26–35). Friendship is an intimate, sacred thing, but in the end, Judas betrayed his friend.
And when Judas led the chief priests and elders to Jesus, greeting Him with a kiss and setting His arrest into motion, that is how Jesus addressed him:
“Friend,” Jesus asked him, “why have you come?” (Matthew 26:50).
Jesus knew exactly why Judas had come, yet He called Judas “friend”—perhaps giving him a chance to choose differently, to choose reconciliation instead of betrayal, though we may never really know. What we do know is that the character of Jesus does not change (Hebrews 13:8). And while you and I and all of humanity were still sinners and enemies of God—that is when Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8–10).
He died for our reconciliation to God. He died to bring us into a right and lasting relationship with the Father, so that we could be called “friends” of God (John 15:15).