The Kiss of Death
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
The Divine Drama of Christ’s Passion now kicks into high gear. Judas’ plan to push Jesus into the kingdom he wanted to see happen (and the bonus of 30 pieces of silver) is launched with a kiss. In the ancient world, a kiss was a common greeting between those who shared fellowship and intimacy. The same holds true today. In some cultures a kiss is a very commonplace way of greeting almost everyone. Whenever you get that close to another person, intimacy and trust are conveyed. That Judas would choose such a vehicle to signal the soldiers of their target is almost inconceivable. Here we come by the cliché “the kiss of death.”
The Gospels all record this event the same way but with different details. Here in Luke we learn that it was the right ear of the servant that is cut off. (A detail shared by a doctor!) In the other Gospels we learn that it was Peter who did the cutting (Mark and John report this) and the servant’s name was Malchus (John reports this). Of course Jesus returns the man’s ear to his head, fully restored and healed. One can only speculate about the future of Malchus and belief in Jesus as Savior.
Ultimately what we find in this passage is the resignation of Jesus to the battle between Satan and God. Satan has taken over Judas and is certainly influencing the other disciples. They have surrendered to fear and now stand in opposition to God’s plan of salvation. Jesus is finally and utterly alone.
The bloody, earless slave represents the kind of kingdom the confused disciples would have brought if Jesus had permitted them to continue their ignorant endeavors. The pathetic scene captures the depth of the disciples’ failure to understand the nature of Jesus’ messianic mission. [As for those who have chosen to arrest Jesus] and by treating Jesus as a robber, they place him in a category in which they themselves belong.
Just, A. A., Jr. (1997). Luke 9:51–24:53 (p. 866). St. Louis: CPH.
This is one of the climactic points in the story of Jesus death. In this moment, He who “knew no sin” carries our sins on Himself. Paul points this out in his second letter to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This beginning of Jesus' arrest story brings home again the fact that He wasn’t arrested for His own sin but for ours. Even His own disciples were living proof of our need for a Savior in the midst of this miscarriage of justice. Jesus had never committed a crime and yet He is led away by those for whom He will die. For this one brief moment Satan believes he will win. But the joke’s on him because Jesus was still firmly in charge of the entire proceeding and that strength would result in Satan’s defeat and our salvation.