Who you calling friend, friend?

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. (Matthew 26:48-50)

There’s one word, within one phrase, that strikes me from this little section; verse 50’s word “friend.” It’s not so much the simplicity of the title, the word actually means comrade, partner—the thought in the Greek language being not just a pal, but more so—my “good friend.” The idea of this word is one of incredible intimacy mixed with companionship. Yet, this is not what I find salient. What’s astounding about this one word is the context of its direction—the betrayer! Judas had just delivered the proverbial “kiss of death” and Jesus’ response to this treachery is to call the traitor a “friend” of the most cherished type.

The Savior knew the meaning. He understood the ramifications of Judas’ betrayal. Yet, He answers the conspirator with the most affectionate of terms. We see no hostilities from the Savior; neither do we witness any emotional guards up! We read just a word defying every known logical response to the most thorough of betrayals history has ever known. Surely we could all show a little understanding towards the Savior if He flashed a hint of anger and frustration toward Judas, but that was not to be the case. Even in the most complete of rejections Jesus is composed and a lover, not only of Judas, but also toward all humanity with its agenda of treachery.

How does He do it? What’s the method He uses to make the most poignant of situations possible? I believe the answer is found in looking at what happened just prior, in Gethsemane’s garden. The whole heartbreaking incident of perfidy unravels as He returns from a brief but effective moment of prayer with His Father. We witness His supplications playing the substantial part in the whole drama when He concludes, “not as I will, but as you will.” In fact, as He walked that lonely path back to His point of origin, His words to those He’d brought along to watch and help—Peter, James and John—are found in verse 46:

“Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Through prayer Jesus was so completely surrendered to the Father’s will that He knew, understood, and could face what was ahead in the compete confidence all was committed to the higher plan. He knew what was coming and faced it head on. In reading this passage we discover that even in the most difficult of circumstances it is possible to not become rattled. His trust never wavered and His faith in the Father’s will never faltered. In truth, His very attitude toward the betrayer, the last time we read of Jesus seeing his face, is to remind all present that Judas was His “friend.” What an example to emulate!

J. Robert Hanson

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