Luk_22:48. Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
VIRTUE is best discerned when it is subjected to the heaviest trials. The stroke of the hammer displays the excellence of the diamond; and the furnace ascertains the purity of the gold. Meekness and patience are mere dormant qualities, till injuries or misfortunes call them into exercise. Let our character be blasted, our interests ruined, our person injured; and then it will appear how far these qualities exist within us, and to what extent they will enable us to support our burthens. Had our blessed Lord himself been viewed in a season of perfect tranquillity, his unrivalled glories would have shone only as the sun behind a cloud: but when he laboured under severe and complicated afflictions, then his brightness beamed forth in its meridian splendour. His circumstances were peculiarly painful at the time when he uttered the words before us. He had been sustaining a conflict with all the powers of darkness, and drinking that cup of wrath which his Father had put into his hands. He had seen with grief the supineness of his three Disciples, who, notwithstanding his repeated warnings, had consumed in sleep the time which should have been spent in watchfulness and prayer. To add to his sorrows, Judas now approached him at the head of an armed band, and by a treacherous kiss betrayed him into their hands. Behold then our Divine Master under these accumulated troubles! What might we expect to hear from him on this occasion? Methinks his address to Judas, whose treachery he was aware of, could be no other than that of Paul to Elymas the sorcerer, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,” art thou come to betray me? But however this address became an Apostle, when zealous for the honour of his Lord, the Saviour himself, when personally interested, saw fit to speak in milder accents, that he might set an example to his followers to “shew all meekness to all men:” “Friend,” says he, “wherefore comest thou?” “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?”
We shall consider these remarkable words,
In reference to the traitor Judas—
That we may have a just view of the wickedness of Judas, let us notice,
The light he resisted—
[He had attended our blessed Lord during the whole course of his ministry: he had heard all his discourses; and had received from him in private a further exposition of the truths which had been more obscurely delivered to the proud, captious, and malignant auditors that flocked around him. He had seen innumerable and most beneficent miracles wrought in confirmation of the Messiahship of Jesus: so that there could be no doubt upon his mind but that Jesus was “the Son of Man,” “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” Had he entertained any secret suspicions that Jesus was an impostor, he would have had some excuse for his treachery: or if he had enjoyed but few opportunities of instruction, his guilt would have been less heinous. Pilate, who was an ignorant Heathen, sinned grievously in not executing strict justice: but the sin of those who had delivered Jesus unto him was incomparably greater [Note: Joh_19:11.], because of the superior light which they enjoyed. In this view therefore the sin of Judas was exceeding great.]
The obligations he violated—
[Judas was “one of the twelve,” who were called to a more intimate acquaintance with our Lord; and was selected from among them to be his purse-bearer and almoner. He had been sent out, like all the other Apostles, to preach the Gospel, and to work miracles in the name of Jesus. He had seen diseases and devils yielding to his word; and had probably been instrumental in converting others to the faith of Christ. How was he bound then to “shew all good fidelity,” and to maintain to the uttermost his Master’s cause! But besides all this, Jesus, within the space of a few hours, had acted towards him the part of a menial servant, and had condescended to wash his feet: should not such love have called forth his tenderest and most faithful regards? Moreover, Judas had, on that very occasion, pledged himself to die with Jesus rather than deny him: yet behold, this man, almost immediately after uttering these words, leaves the room, in order to betray his Lord! What impiety was here! If woe was denounced against Chorazin and Bethsaida for not improving the mercies vouchsafed to them, what woes must belong to this unhappy man for violating the strongest obligations which could lie upon him!]
The manner in which he violated them—
[Jesus, it should seem, had permitted his Disciples to express their regards to him by the affectionate and endearing token of a kiss: and this was the sign by which Judas undertook to betray him into the hands of his enemies! What horrid perfidy! to make an expression of love and friendship a signal for his apprehension!
But mark the peculiar aggravations with which this perfidy was attended! It was altogether a voluntary act. The Chief Priests and Elders could never have entertained a thought of prevailing on one of Christ’s own Disciples to betray him: they could expect nothing from them but the most vigorous and determined opposition. Methinks they could scarcely believe their own senses when they heard the traitor Judas making the proposal. If indeed they had seized on Judas, and threatened to put him to extreme torture if he would not further their designs, we might offer some little excuse for him: but who could conceive that the proposal should originate with him, and that he should be a volunteer in such a service?
It was immediately after he had received an express warning respecting it. Our blessed Lord had, but a few hours before, told his Disciples that one of them would betray him: and upon being interrogated by each of them, “Lord, is it I?” he told them all, that it was the person to whom he should give the sop [Note: Joh_13:26.]; and told Judas in particular that it was he; and that since he was thus bent on the commission of this sin, it would have been better for him that he had never been born [Note: Mat_26:21-25.]. Would one not have supposed that such a warning should have diverted him from his purpose? Yet, instead of being checked by it, he went out “immediately” under the cover of the night, that he might execute his plot without delay.
We cannot but be astonished for how small a consideration he was induced to do this. Had he been promised great riches, sufficient to keep him in opulence and splendour all his days, we should have wondered less at the power of the temptation: but it was only “thirty pieces of silver [Note: Compare Zec_11:12-13. with Mat_26:15.],” (the price of a slave,) that he was to receive for his recompence: so little a value did he set upon his master’s life.
The diabolical malignity which he expressed on the occasion, is a yet further aggravation of his guilt. When agreeing with the Chief Priests, he gave them a strict charge, “Take him, hold him fast, lead him away safely [Note: Mat_26:48. Mar_14:44.].” As Ahithophel, the treacherous friend of David, counselled the rebellious Absalom: “Give me twelve thousand men, and I will come upon him while he is weary and weak-handed, and I will smite the king only [Note: 2Sa_17:1-2.];” so did Judas respecting the true King of Israel: he reminded the Chief Priests how often he had escaped out of their hands; and, that they might secure him now, he charged them to use the utmost vigilance and circumspection.
Such was the sin of Judas; a sin unparalleled in the annals of the world.]
Let us now extend our views, and consider the text,
In reference to traitors of every description—
Though the precise sin which was committed by Judas never was, nor will be, committed by any other, yet are there too many who follow his steps, and betray the cause and interests of their Divine Master. There are different kinds of traitors:
[Many pretend to be followers of Christ, and yet deny every fundamental truth of his religion. The fall of man, and the guilt and corruption consequent upon it; the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ in the place of sinners, and our reconciliation to God by the blood of his cross; the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, together with all the inward life and power of godliness; all these, I say, are denied and held up to ridicule and scorn: and yet the people, who thus expunge from their system almost every doctrine that distinguishes our holy religion, will call themselves Christians. But are they really friends of Christ? Are they not rather enemies and traitors? Even the followers of Mahomet express as much regard for Christ as they: the Mahometan allows that Christ was a prophet; and what do these infidels allow him more? Truly their kisses are perfidious; their professions are a lie.]
[There are two kinds of Antinomians; systematical, and practical: the former are very zealous for the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; but they carry them to an undue extent; and erase from their system all the obligations of the moral law. We hope and believe, that all who embrace this system are not so regardless of the law in practice, as they are in theory: nevertheless their sentiments are most pernicious; and their professed attachment to Christ is constructive treason. It is certain that, however exemplary some of these persons may be, others (and we fear by far the greater part of them,) take encouragement from these licentious tenets to live in sin. If they do not give way to those grosser propensities which would expose their profession to universal contempt, they are at least distinguished by a proud, contentious, worldly spirit, and by irreverence and undue confidence in their transactions with God.
As for practical Antinomians, the great majority of nominal Christians are of this class. They object not to the leading truths of the Gospel: having been educated in the belief of them, they acknowledge them as points which they are not disposed to controvert. But to yield to their influence, and to bring their souls to a state suited to them, they have no mind. They wish for nothing beyond this world; they think of nothing but what relates to the body. Whether their outward conduct be more or less correct, they consider it as of very little importance. Some can run to the greatest excess of riot, being wholly addicted to worldliness or dissipation, and yet account themselves very good Christians. Others, who are restrained from such excesses, can content themselves with “a form of godliness, while they utterly deny its power;” and though they never smite upon their breasts with contrition, never flee to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, never devote themselves in earnest to the service of their God, they imagine that all is well, and that they are to be reckoned among the friends and followers of Christ. But their profession serves only to lower Christ in the estimation of the world, and in many instances to till heathens themselves with an utter abhorrence of his name.
We must acknowledge, indeed, that neither the one nor the other of these characters have the malignant designs of Judas: but the ultimate effect of their conduct is to betray him with a kiss.]
[These come the nearest of all to the character of Judas: and many there are to whom this designation properly belongs. In every age there have been some who have joined themselves to the Church, while yet they felt only transient impressions, and had no root of grace in their hearts. Of them, some cast off all profession of religion, and go back again to the world: others continue their profession, but indulge habits altogether inconsistent with it [Note: Eze_33:31.]. Hence they are found deceitful in their words, dishonest in their dealings; and less worthy of confidence than the generality even of avowed worldlings. For a time they wear the mask with success: but at length their true character appears; and they make religion “to stink in the nostrils” of all who know them. It is almost superfluous to say that these are traitors: for they not only deliver up Jesus to the scorn and contempt of his professed enemies, but lay a stumbling-block in the way of his friends, and cause many to wax cold in their attachment to Christ, if not also utterly to renounce him. “Woe unto the world because of them! but woe be more especially to those by whom the offence cometh!” In a little time, if they repent not, they will “go to their own place,” and participate with Judas the just reward of their deeds.]
Let us not be offended with religion on account of the faults of those who profess it—
[It would manifestly be absurd to make the treachery of Judas a reason for rejecting Christ: for the Scriptures, yea and Christ himself, foretold, that “one who should eat bread with him should lift up his heel against him.” And do not the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament declare, that “false brethren should come in,” and that “by means of them the way of truth should be evil spoken of?” The very existence therefore of traitors and hypocrites in the Church, is a proof of the truth of our religion; and should confirm, rather than weaken, our attachment to it. If indeed the Gospel gave licence to such characters, that very circumstance would be a just ground for doubting its Divine authority, and withholding from it our approbation: but if it invariably inculcate holiness both in heart and life, then let the blame of hypocrisy rest on those only who are guilty of it; and let the offence that is occasioned by some, be a stimulus to others to adorn the Gospel.]
Let us watch against our besetting sin—
[Judas from the very beginning was addicted to covetousness. To gratify this propensity, he took advantage of his office as the purse-bearer to steal from time to time a part of the money entrusted to his care. Had he been told on the first occasion to what this covetous disposition would ultimately lead, how little would he have been able to credit the assertion! But thus it is with sin; it is like a breach in a bank, which, if not stopped at first, will soon be widened by the current, till the whole country is overflowed. When once a man harbours any secret lust, it will gather strength, and gradually obtain an entire ascendant over him. Whatever, then, be our besetting sin, whether lewdness, or covetousness, or any other, let us watch and pray against it; lest we prove at last a scandal to our profession, and, after having instructed others, ourselves be cast away.]
Let us get a real and firm attachment to Jesus Christ—
[There is a sense in which we may say to all of you, “Kiss him, apprehend him, hold him fast.” The Psalmist bids us to “kiss the Son, lest he be angry;” St. Paul speaks of “apprehending that for which he had been apprehended of God in Christ Jesus;” and exhorts us to “lay hold on the hope set before us.” We are commanded also to “cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.” And should not we be as earnest in this good work as Judas and his band were in their evil work? If they plotted by day, and watched by night, to destroy the Lord Jesus, should we be averse to labour and watchfulness, to obtain an interest in his salvation? Let us get a love to him in our hearts as deeply rooted as their enmity against him was, and we shall account nothing too much to do or suffer for him; nor will the whole world be sufficient to suspend or lessen our fidelity in his service.]