Matthew 26:47-49. “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. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus and said, Hail, Master: and kissed Him.”
Not too long ago, I heard this even taught including Roman centurions. I’ve searched all four gospels, and I find no mention of Rome at this point. This was strictly a Jewish matter still. No appeal to Rome was made until the final decision was made to kill Jesus, and then the appeal was made because the Jews did not have the right under Roman rule to perform executions without Roman sanction.
The scriptures clearly state that the crowd was made up of the people from the chief priest and elders. This was a religious matter, and of no particular interest to Rome until accusations were made that Jesus was teaching the overthrow of Rome and the setting up of His own kingdom.
The most important piece in these verses, though, is the behavior of Judas. Determined to earn his 30 pieces of silver, he had agreed with the priests and elders that the One he would greet with a kiss would be Jesus, and they were to arrest Him immediately.
How do you think Judas approached Jesus at that moment? Was he bold, swaggering, defiant? Timid, cautious? Hesitant? Angry? Taunting? I can’t imagine, really. Surely he must have known that Jesus could stop him with a word or a glance. Surely he was fearful of the reactions of the other disciples. Was he insane? Or was he simply an evil man with an evil heart, willing to take a great risk to gain a bagful of silver coins?
He approached Jesus, kissed Him on the cheek. This was not an unusual greeting between two men in that time and place. The greatest irony, to me, is that he then said, “Hail, Master!”
“Master”? Really? No, not even close. Of course we know that Jesus was and is always the Master; however, Judas had certainly not allowed Jesus to be the Master of his own life, of his heart, of his thinking.