The Taking of Christ (Judas kiss)

Outline/Summary

The Arrest of Jesus

After Jesus predicted the disciples would betray him, they all went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus told them, “Sit here and wait while I go over there and pray.”

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he became troubled and sad. He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

Then Jesus returned to the disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus went away and prayed a second time. “Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink from it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found the disciples sleeping because they were very tired. So he left them and went away at once and prayed a third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and asked them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

While he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve Disciples, arrived. With him was a large group armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

Now, the betrayer had arranged a signal. “The one I kiss is the man you seek. Arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

The men stepped forward and seized Jesus, and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out, and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who live by the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”

Then Jesus asked the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day, I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place so the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Then the disciples deserted him and fled.

What the story means to us today

The solution to human weakness – prayer

It is touching to see Jesus’ need for companionship during the heartwrenching moments before his arrest. But despite the disciples just arguing they would never betray him, God’s plan required that they sleep while they should have been on watch and helping to defend Jesus.

Jesus tells the disciples to “watch and pray” so they do not succumb to temptation. He warns them, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus knew the disciples desired to do good, but they were only human, The solution to their weakness? Prayer. Jesus instructs them to watch and “pray” to overcome the temptation to sleep.

Deeper thoughts and additional considerations

Was Jesus afraid to die?

We cannot be certain if Jesus were afraid to die, although the normal human response would be to feel fear. And he clearly asked God if there was some other way to initiate the New Covenant, possibly in a manner that did not include so much pain and potentially did not involve death. But the verses say he was sorrowful and make no mention of fear.

Certainly, Jesus knew death was imminent and a required part of God’s plan, but God did not reveal every detail of his plan to his Son. In Matthew 24:35, Jesus says, “About the day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, the Son, but only the Father.” There were some things God did not reveal to Jesus. Jesus may not have known the manner and method of his demise.

What we know for sure, is that Jesus faced his executioners with bravery and poise, even instructing the disciples to remain calm and not resist his arrest. Despite whatever emotions he may have felt, he accepts what God expects of him.

What did Jesus want God to do?

The “cup” that Jesus refers to was the violent wrath and suffering he was about to experience. Earlier, Jesus told the disciples to “Take this cup and drink from it. It is the blood of the new covenant.” Jesus clearly knew that death was coming. At the time, he was experiencing the most pain and torment he had ever felt in his life. Can you imagine any greater pain than knowing with certainty you are about to die? Jesus hoped that there may have been some other way to carry out God’s plan for the new covenant. Still, Jesus submitted to God’s purpose.

Judas’ role in the capture and arrest of Jesus

Judas betrayed Jesus, identifying him to the crowd with a kiss, a typical greeting at the time. In the days before photography, even a famous person like Jesus could go unrecognized in public, and since it was dark at the time, Judas’ role in Jesus’ capture and execution was required.

Notice that Judas addressed Jesus as “my friend,” not as “rabbi,” “my Lord”, or another reverent title. This hints that Judas may not have fully believed was Christ or, at the least, carried some doubts. For reasons that are not entirely clear, he betrayed his Christ. However, he would soon regret his actions and be dealt so much grief, he would choose to take his own life.

Who was the “crowd” that arrested Jesus?

The Bible tells us that Judas arrived with a “large crowd carrying swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.” That they were sent by the chief priests tells us that they were likely not Roman soldiers, although a few Roman soldiers may have accompanied them to help maintain order. Most were probably temple police, clergy, and lay members of the Sanhedrin (a group of people that served as the judicial authority for the Jews).

Who were the “sons of Zebedee” and why did Jesus trust them for protection?

Although this section of Matthew only mentions Peter and the “sons of Zebedee” accompanying Jesus in the garden, other verses tell us that Zebedee’s sons were James and John, the brothers whom Jesus found mending a net in a boat with their father. Together with Peter, these three formed a sort of “inner circle” that was sometimes privy to events and details before the other disciples. It would make sense that this trio accompanied Jesus during this precarious time.

Live by the sword, die by the sword

Luke tells us that together, the disciples had two swords among them. When the elders attempted to arrest Jesus, one of the disciples drew a sword and cut off the ear of a high priest’s servant. John 18:10 expands on the attack. The disciple who struck the servant was, of course, Peter, and the servant’s name was Malchus.

Jesus had already told Peter that he would ultimately deny the Son of God, so it would make sense that Peter would jump at the chance to prove himself to Jesus. We do not know if the disciple was arrested for the act (the verses do not explicitly state such), but Luke tells us that Jesus immediately healed the man’s ear, likely preventing any retribution.

Jesus told Peter, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” a phrase that promotes pacifism. Some scholars argue that this is not the case since earlier, Jesus had suggested the disciples carry swords in the group. However, we know Jesus was a peaceful man. There may have been times when self-defense was required (hence the reason he suggested the disciples carry swords), but the arrest of Jesus was a required fulfillment of prophecy and not the time to fight back.

What prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus’ capture and arrest?

Our story concludes with Jesus querying the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” implying they could have taken him at any time but that they waited until nightfall, to make the arrest under the cover of darkness. But Jesus made it clear that he would offer no resistance.

Once Jesus indicated he would go willingly, we are told that “all the disciples deserted him and fled.” All of the disciples fleeing into the darkness had just been predicted by Jesus in the face of the disciples’ misbelief when he told them, “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.” Jesus was referring to Zchariah 13:7 (“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones”), a long-standing Old Testament prophecy related to the coming Christ.

Another Old Testament prophecy particularly appropriate to this event is Isiah 53, which talks about the “servant” that will be “raised and lifted up and highly exalted” but who was also “despised and rejected by mankind, a “man of suffering” that “took up our pain and bore our suffering” – all of which must have been especially puzzling to Old Testament readers.

Isiah speaks of a messiah who was “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities” and “led like a lamb to the slaughter.” The crowning jewel in his prophecy reveals what must have been most puzzling to ancient readers – that “it was the Lord’s will to cause his suffering” but that “after he has suffered, he will see the light of life.”

The science behind the story

Gethsemane

The name Gethsemane means “oil press,” an applicable name for an olive garden. It was a popular place for Jesus and the disciples. Gethsemane is found on the western slopes of Mount Olivet, separated from Jerusalem by the Kidron Valley.

A “legion” of soldiers

When Peter attempted to intervene, Jesus told him to put away his sword and avoid interferring with Jesus’ arrest. After all, as Jesus pointed out, if he truly needed to escape, he could have called upon twelve legions of angels to his side. A legion of Roman soldiers numbered between 6,000 – 6,500 men.

Translation notes

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”

The phrase “to the point of death” appears to be a common Old Testament phrase. Jesus uses it to indicate the depth of his sorrow.

Bible text

NIV

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” 

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” z 

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” 

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. 

NET Bible

26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and became anguished and distressed. 26:38 Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” 26:39 Going a little farther, he threw himself down with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 26:40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour? 26:41 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done.” 26:43 He came again and found them sleeping; they could not keep their eyes open. 26:44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same thing once more. 26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is approaching, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 26:46 Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!” 

26:47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 26:48 (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him!”) 26:49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed him. 26:50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and took hold of Jesus and arrested him. 26:51 But one of those with Jesus grabbed his sword, drew it out, and struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear. 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword. 26:53 Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and that he would send me more than twelve legions of angels right now? 26:54 How then would the scriptures that say it must happen this way be fulfilled?” 26:55 At that moment Jesus said to the crowd, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple courts, yet you did not arrest me. 26:56 But this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. 

NKJV

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

The Message

      36–38 Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

      39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

      40–41 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

      42 He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”

      43–44 When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.

      45–46 When he came back the next time, he said, “Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it? My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s get going! My betrayer is here.”

      47–49 The words were barely out of his mouth when Judas (the one from the Twelve) showed up, and with him a gang from the high priests and religious leaders brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a sign with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him.” He went straight to Jesus, greeted him, “How are you, Rabbi?” and kissed him.

      50–51 Jesus said, “Friend, why this charade?”

      Then they came on him—grabbed him and roughed him up. One of those with Jesus pulled his sword and, taking a swing at the Chief Priest’s servant, cut off his ear.

      52–54 Jesus said, “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords. Don’t you realize that I am able right now to call to my Father, and twelve companies—more, if I want them—of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready? But if I did that, how would the Scriptures come true that say this is the way it has to be?”

      55–56 Then Jesus addressed the mob: “What is this—coming out after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. You’ve done it this way to confirm and fulfill the prophetic writings.”

      Then all the disciples cut and ran.

KJV

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

47 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. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Image Credits:
• Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss via Wikimedia Commons by Fra Angelico with usage type - Public Domain, circa 1437-1446
• The Taking of Christ (Judas kiss) via Wikimedia Commons by National Gallery of Ireland with usage type - Public Domain, 1602

Featured Image Credit:
• The Taking of Christ (Judas kiss) via Wikimedia Commons by National Gallery of Ireland with usage type - Public Domain, 1602