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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Matt 26:47-50 And while He yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him. (Also See Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2-9)

Because this event in the life of Jesus was recorded by all four gospel writers, each will be referred to a number of times where additional information, further discussion, and more descriptive narration adds to the completeness of this study. However, the initial basis for this lesson will come from Matthew's inspired account. The two verses found in Matthew, which precede the lesson text, tell us that Jesus realized the hour was at hand when He was to be betrayed by Judas into the hands of the Jewish leaders. These scriptures then tell us that He led His apostles out of the garden of Gethsemane to a remote place but still near Jerusalem. In John's account we know that Judas also knew the place: for Jesus offtimes resorted thither with His disciples (John 18:2). Judas arrived at this place accompanied by a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Again, from John's account, the multitude accompanying Judas was identified as a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they came armed with lanterns and torches and weapons (John 18:3). Some bible scholars contend that this multitude accompanying Judas was made up of officers dispatched by the Jewish Sanhedrin, as well as a military detachment of the Roman army.

Regardless of the makeup of these armed officers, they were certainly sent by the Jewish leaders to capture Jesus as soon as He was identified by Judas, with this pre-conceived sign, which was a common salutation among friends:Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He. Matthew wrote that after this identification, those accompanying Judas were to take Jesus by force and hold Him fast, while Mark said Judas told them to take Him, and lead Him away safely. And immediately Judas came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. Under Jewish custom, this was a usual greeting among friends to celebrate a joyous reunion after a long absence from one another. One cannot imagine a more hypocritical act than this greeting, to betray another under the guise of a close, loving relationship. Even Jesus recognized this pretentious characteristic of him by asking this rhetorical question, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss (Luke 22:48)? Being assuredly identified, the officers and soldiers laid hands on Jesus, and took Him.

Looking at John's account (18:2-9), we do not find the betrayal of Judas discussed in detail. Here we find Jesus asking the multitude, Whom seek ye? Having spent His lifetime on earth knowing this day would come and He must suffer death, it seems that Jesus was making it easier for them to identify Him and carry out that which He knew was predestined to take place. By asking this question, He was ready to render a positive identification of Himself. Since Judas was standing by them when Jesus asked this question, it is probable that Judas had already identified Him by his kiss. When asked this question, They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus answered them by affirming that I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground. The exact reason for this occurrence is not given. Speculation gives many reasons, but the one that seems to fit the context is that it was a miraculous act of God that demonstrated the power He could execute on them, and in doing so, allow Jesus to escape from their presence. The fact that He did not do so assured some of those present on that day, and certainly convinces us today, that Jesus knew His time was at hand. He was ready to submit to the will of God, be taken as a lamb to be slaughtered and, in extreme human agony, to be slain on the cross of Calvary in order to bring God's plan of salvation to the world.

Recovering from their fall, the armed multitude sent by the Jewish leaders to take Jesus, were asked once again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Having demonstrated His miraculous power, noted in verse 6, Jesus identified Himself again, and, with authority, demanded the safety of His apostles: if therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way. Their safety was required, because their preaching, beginning on the Day of Pentecost, was necessary in order to carry out God's plan of salvation through Christ Jesus, and offer redemption to the world. Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him.