Kiss of Judas
Judas Icariot is one of the biggest tales of betrayal of Biblical times (at least in the Christian faith). I heard the story many times, and even had a study group that focused on it for a couple of weeks before moving on to the crucifixion. When I reflect on the story of Judas’ betrayal, I feel a twinge of empathy for Judas, confusion over the idea of free will, and wonder if perhaps Judas’ role wasn’t more obligatory and consensual than what is on the surface.
The story of the Passover supper, for those not familiar, is when Jesus and his 12 disciples were celebrating the Passover dinner (at that time, it was a Jewish-only festivity). In Matthew 26: 20-25 Judas’ betrayal is introduced.
20 ”When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 “They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.
24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
Essentially, Jesus apparently already knows that Judas is going to betray him, and even tells Judas (and the other disciples). The story goes on to explain that after Judas’ betrayal gets called out in front of everyone, they leave for the Mount of Olives, then to Gethsemane.
Then, Matthew 47-49 explains Judas’ plan of ultimate betrayal.
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.
Then, of course, Jesus gets arrested and ultimately stands before Pilate. What about Judas? Matthew 27: 3-10 describes what happened to the ultimate betrayer, Judas.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.
4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
In the end, the chief priest took the 30 pieces of silver that were originally given to Judas after Judas died and used the silver to purchase a field which would be used to bury foreigners. They could not put it back in the treasury because it was “blood money” (ironically, blood money THEY created).
It is easy to see how people would chastise Judas and condemn him. The man single handedly betrayed Jesus (regardless of religion, most people can empathize with being betrayed by a dear friend). He lied, he plotted, and he sealed the fate of the Christ that was told centuries ago. But, did Judas have free will?
Without getting too convoluted about free will and destiny, it really seems to me that Judas, even though he did not know at the time, was ultimately going to betray Jesus. Jesus knew this, and foretold it to not only Judas, but to the disciples at the last supper. Why then did Judas continue with his plot? If someone told you that they knew you were going to hire a hit man to kill them (and you knew that was your plan, too), would you still run out in the middle of your dinner together to go pay the hitman? Especially if someone like Jesus told you this? I think I’d postpone the plan, but Judas didn’t, he carried out his plan. WHY?
There have been countless theories applied to the “Kiss of Judas,” and lots of theology applied to the concept. But ultimately, did Judas exercise free will, or was he fulfilling a prophecy? Do we as a people have free will, or are we too here to serve a prophecy?
I feel sad for Judas because I feel like he was the catalyst which brought about the crucifixion. Perhaps it was his destiny, but if it was, why then the wrath from God/Jesus? If Jesus knew of Judas’ plan, why did Jesus allow it? Judas played a pivotal role in Christian history in being the single person that would ignite the chain of events that led to the death of Jesus, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the Old Testament.
Those who are relatively faithful believe that Christ’s crucifixion would happen regardless of what event led to its fulfillment. He had to die as the prophecy had dictated, because anything less would not have been the fulfillment of God’s word, thus destroying the foundation of the Christian religion and beliefs. I did a Bible study called, “The Will of God” some years ago. It was an interesting perspective.
According to this concept (The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead), there are 3 types of wills: God’s Intentional Will, God’s Permissive Will, and God’s Ultimate Will.
1. God’s Intentional Will – These are the desires of God’s heart for us, His ideal plan,
flowing out of His goodness, such as that none should be lost [Mat. 18:14].
2. God’s Permissive Will – This is what God will accept, given our choices, good or
bad, in particular circumstances, so as to not limit the free will He has given us.
He accepts that some will be lost [1 Cor. 1:18].
3. God’s Ultimate Will – This is how God achieves His ends, given man’s choices, be
they good or bad. He works all things together for the good of those He called, who
love Him [Rom. 8:28]. This means he can ultimately get His good in spite of man’s
Basically (according to my understanding), Intentional will is what God wants for you, me, and the entire human race. It’s like a father’s dream for his children. Permissive will is what God will take into consideration when looking at your life and your situation. Obviously, if you live in the remote reaches of Africa and have never heard of God, he’s not going to hold you to the same measuring stick as someone who was raised in a church their whole lives. Ultimate will is how God is going to take all these things into consideration and still suit His purposes.
In terms of being a parent, Intentional will is what we think about when we have a baby. We want the best for them. We want them to be faithful, studious, courteous, contributors to the world, etc. I believe God is our father, and his dreams for our lives are not much different than what we want for our children. Not riches and an easy life, but living a life of honesty and integrity while being the best person they can be. Permissive will would then take the form of adjusting those dreams to our reality. Maybe I want my daughter to have a big family, but as it turns out, she cannot due to medical concerns. I have to alter that particular desired dream to accommodate her circumstances. It’s wanting the best for them despite the cards they’ve been dealt genetically, environmentally, financially, etc. Thus, there’s a purpose for every life. Finally, there is Ultimate will. Ultimate will belongs to God. God has the final decision in all things of man. It is tough to equate this to a parent because we cannot see the universe for what it is (not in the literal sense). Using the examples above, it would be as if the ultimate goal for my daughter is to have a big family. That was my intentional goal as well, but I had to make some adjustments due to her medical condition which made her barren. So, I let her adopt children, thus my ultimate will has been fulfilled.
Of course, this would be only if we could control the lives of our children, which we cannot.
So what of Judas? God’s Ultimate will was to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament through his son Jesus, which meant that regardless of the circumstances going on at the time, Jesus would have had to endure his crucifixion (you can read all of Matthew for a full understanding). So I understand the ultimate will, and the intentional will, but I get turned around on the permissive aspect. Why did it have to be Judas? Why could it not have been someone not so close to Jesus? Why not Pilate (who himself was ambivalent towards Christ more so than Judas). Why not the Sanhedrin who were already enemies of Jesus? Why was it one of his 12?
I have secretly though that perhaps prior to the supper, Jesus and Judas conspired together. Like, perhaps Jesus told Judas beforehand that he knew of his plot, but that he understood and allowed it because he actually needed Judas to fulfill the prophecy. After Judas asks directly if he was the one that would betray him at the supper, Matthew 26:25 “Jesus told him, ‘You have said it.’” It could be read that perhaps they already had this arrangement previously. Maybe by Jesus saying, “You have said it,” Jesus is reminding Judas of the pact made prior to that moment. Judas never objected, argued, or denied. To me, it seems as though this was already confirmed either in secrecy or it was just never written in the story.
I suppose we can all relate to this story in some form or fashion. We’ve been the friend that trusted only to be burned. We’ve at some point broken the trust of a friend, or worse, sold their secrets to someone else. We know the heartache it brings regardless of which side of the fence you are standing. Judas did this to Jesus, his teacher, the son of God. The real question is, was it Judas’ free will, or was he playing out the role assigned to him before his creation?