Question: "What is the significance of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss?"
Answer: Judas Iscariot was one of the original twelve disciples who followed and were taught by Jesus. Being in Jesus’ “inner circle,” Judas had a closer relationship to Jesus than most people during His ministry. Judas betrayed the Lord to the Jewish authorities. The pre-arranged signal was that the person Judas kissed was to be arrested and taken away (Mark 14:44). In this way the Son of Man was betrayed with a kiss (Luke 22:48).
In the culture of first-century Israel, a kiss was not always a romantic expression of love; rather, a kiss on the cheek was a common greeting, a sign of deep respect, honor, and brotherly love (see Luke 7:45; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). For a student who had great respect for his teacher, a kiss fell well within the healthy expression of honor.
What really stands out in the mode of Judas’s betrayal is that Judas used such an intimate expression of love and respect to betray Jesus. Judas’s actions were hypocritical in the extreme—his actions said, “I respect and honor you,” at the exact time he was betraying Jesus to be murdered. Judas’s actions illustrate Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Often, foes disguise themselves as friends. Evil often wears a mask to conceal its true purpose.
In Luke 22:3, we see that Satan entered into Judas before Judas went to see the chief priests and set things up to betray Jesus. Satan possessed Judas in hopes of using him to destroy Jesus’ ministry and get Him out of the way, and Satan used a kiss—a sign of affection—to unleash a surge of hatred. However, there is nothing the Evil One does that God doesn’t know about or have complete control over. God allowed Satan to possess Judas and use him to betray Jesus in such a deceptive and hypocritical way in order to bring about our redemption. The betrayal itself was prophesied hundreds of years before its fulfillment (Psalm 41:9).
When Jesus was betrayed by a kiss, He identified with the troubles of David, who wrote, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers” (Psalm 55:12–14). Job’s emotional pain also foreshadowed Jesus’ sorrow: “Those I love have turned against me” (Job 19:19).
Once Judas gave the kiss, the deed was done. Jesus was betrayed into the government’s hands to be crucified. Judas was “seized with remorse” (Matthew 27:3) over what he’d done. He gave the money back to the temple authorities and hanged himself out of guilt (verse 5).