A church-related assignment led me recently to a rereading of the Gospel of John. I came to Jesus’ passion in the garden of Gethsemane, but was startled to find that there was no kiss!—no record of his being thus identified by Judas as Jesus (John 18: 1–12). So I quickly thumbed through Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and sure enough—there was the famous kiss of betrayal in each account.
John’s version records Judas’ entry into the garden with “a band of men and officers.” Jesus went forward and asked the men for whom they were looking. On being told it was Jesus, he said, “I am he.” He identified himself before Judas had the chance. The record then says that they “went backward, and fell to the ground.” Jesus asked them again, “Whom seek ye?” When they said again that it was Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus responded, “I have told you that I am he; if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:” and John comments in the next verse, “That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.” After Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, and Jesus healed him, the band took Jesus and bound him.
It seems to me that Jesus was trying to save Judas from himself, from the awful betrayal he was about to commit and the terrible price that Jesus must have known Judas would ultimately have to pay. He was doing this by surrendering himself boldly, that he might lose none of his disciples to treachery and deceit.