Judas had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I go over and give him the kiss of greeting. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Teacher!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Mark 14:44-45 (NLT)
I guess, because I am a theater person, I see this event a little differently. I see it as staged theater, a kind of street theater, and Judas is directing the play. Judas is telling the guards what the stage blocking will be – I’m going to walk up to Jesus and kiss him, and then you will come and take him away. Then Judas tells them what the lines in this scene are – I’m going to say “Teacher!” His play-acting is the worst hypocrisy, for that is what hypocrite means in the Greek – an actor under an assumed character, or stage-player.
Not being a very good actor, Judas overplays his part. The word for a normal kiss in Greek is phileo, but the word here in this verse is kataphileo – to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly and earnestly. This is the same way that Mary kissed Jesus feet, wiping them with her hair (Luke 7:38). This is the same way the father kissed the prodigal son when he returned (Luke 15:20).
Maybe Judas wants to make sure there is no mistake about the identity of Jesus, but in the process commits a most horrible blasphemy. To pretend that kind of passionate love and to do it right in the Face of God, the Presence. Imagine the power of the love that must have shielded Judas from instant destruction right there. Imagine how Judas’ treachery must have broken Jesus’ heart.
But even as Judas betrayed Jesus he was unwittingly prophesying Jesus’ glorification. For the name Judas means “he shall be praised.” It comes from the Hebrew name Judah, which means praised. He shall be praised! Maybe, through all the betrayal and heartbreak this was a comfort to Jesus. Like a secret message from the Father. “This is my beloved Son. He shall not return to me empty, but he shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which he was sent.”¹
He shall be praised!
¹ Matthew 3:17, Isaiah 55:11
Image in the Public Domain. Jesus and Judas, by Giotto (Scrovegni Chapel, Padua)