So far we have looked at how the Gospels of Mark and Matthew portrayed Judas Iscariot. In Mark he is simply the foil of Jesus and he only says but one thing: “Rabbi!” In Matthew, Judas has a few more lines and his character as a greedy deceiver becomes more prominent. Today we will look at Judas through the lens of the author of Luke’s Gospel.
JUDAS ISCARIOT IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
As was the case in both Mark and Matthew, the first time we see the name Judas Iscariot is in the list of disciples featured in Luke 6:12-16: “and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” You might recall that in both the Gospels of Mark and Matthew Judas was referred to as one who “betrayed” Jesus, employing a form of the Greek verb paradidómi. Luke, however, refers to Judas as a “traitor,” using the word prodotés. In all of Luke-Acts, prodotés is only used twice: here and in Acts 7:52 where it refers to the Jews who had “become [Jesus’] betrayers and murderers.” Whatever the reason Luke had for changing the Markan narrative, the effect is still the same: Judas Iscariot would be the one who became a traitor to Jesus.
Then Satan Entered Judas
Judas is not mentioned again by name until the Passion narrative. As in Mark and Matthew, the chief priests had begun “looking for a way to put Jesus to death” (22:1) around the time of the Passover. But whereas Mark merely tells us that Judas “went to the chief priests in order to betray [Jesus] to them” (Mark 14:10; cf. Matthew 26:14), Luke writes, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve” (22:3). Now the betrayal of Jesus is couched in terms of demon possession and not merely an act of greed as in Matthew’s Gospel. And it isn’t just any demon who is possessing Judas: it is the devil himself.
Our first encounter with the devil in the Gospel of Luke comes in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (4:1-13). Luke writes, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time” (4:13). This is clear foreshadowing of the events leading to Jesus’ death which Luke has couched in terms revealing that Jesus’ death was not merely the work of human hands but was also part of a plot by Satan himself, by “the power of darkness” (22:53; 22:31). In possessing Judas Iscariot, Satan found an opportunity to confront Jesus after his dismal failure in the wilderness.
Luke has changed the order of events from Mark’s version. In Mark we read that the religious authorities had begun to plot Jesus’ death (14:1-2), then we read that Jesus goes to the house of Simon the leper where he is anointed (14:3-9), and then Judas goes to the religious authorities to betray Jesus (14:10-11). In Luke, on the other hand, we read that the religious authorities had begun to plot Jesus’ death (22:1-2) and then we read that Judas goes to the religious authorities to betray Jesus (22:3-6). Gone is the story of Jesus’ anointing in Bethany.
There is another major change Luke has made. In Mark we read of the preparation for the Passover (14:12-16), the sharing of the Passover meal (14:17-21), and the institution of the Lord’s Supper (14:22-25). It was during the Passover meal itself that Jesus reveals that he will be betrayed by someone eating at the table with him, one for whom “it would have been better…not to have been born” (14:21). But Luke has changed this. Following the preparation for the Passover (22:7-13), we come immediately to the institution of the Lord’s Supper and it is after that he tells the disciples, “But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to the one by whom he is betrayed” (22:21-22). Then the disciples begin to ask about whom Jesus could be speaking (22:23).
Suddenly a Crowd
As in Mark and Matthew, Luke does not tell us when Judas goes to find the religious authorities to bring them to Jesus. Instead, we have a narrative similar to Mark’s and Matthew’s where Jesus goes off to pray but the disciples can’t seem to stay awake (22:45-46). As he chides the disciples, Luke writes that “suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them” (22:47). Judas approaches Jesus to kiss him but Jesus stops him and says, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” (22:48) This is decidedly different from both Mark’s and Matthew’s version.
First, in both Mark and Matthew, Judas kisses Jesus to reveal that he is the one the authorities are to arrest. Not so in Luke. Second, in both Mark and Matthew, Judas refers to Jesus as “Rabbi.” Not so in Luke. Third, in Mark Jesus says nothing to Judas while in Matthew he says, “Friend, do what you are here to do” (Matthew 26:50). In Luke, Jesus says to Judas, “Is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” (22:48)
There is a lot we could explore here but I want to focus on why Judas doesn’t kiss Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. I think it has to do with the intimacy of kissing and what it represents.
Earlier I said that whereas the Markan and Matthean narratives have Judas go to the chief priests after the scene in Bethany where Jesus is anointed, in Luke the story is gone. I was fibbing just a little. Luke hasn’t removed the story altogether. Instead, he moved it to earlier in his Gospel and has changed it from the house of Simon the leper to the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Luke has also made other interesting changes to the story.
As Jesus is sitting at the table in Simon’s house, a woman “who was a sinner” learns that Jesus was there and takes her alabaster jar of ointment to him (7:37). She then stands behind Jesus and weeps and with her tears she washes Jesus’ feet and then dries them with her hair. Then she kisses Jesus’ feet and anoints them with her ointment from the jar (7:38). At this point, Simon says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner” (7:39). To this Jesus replies with a parable and a question.
A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (7:41-43)
Jesus then turns to the woman but continues talking to Simon.
Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. (7:44-48)
In other words, this sinful woman has treated Jesus with more kindness and love than Simon could have! Simon did not even greet Jesus with a kiss on his cheek but this woman had been kissing Jesus’ dirty feet from the moment she arrived. Kissing, then, is a sign of admiration and love. It is a sign of loyalty to Jesus. Simon was not loyal to Jesus and so he did not kiss him. Simon doubted who Jesus was.
And this is why Jesus did not allow Judas to kiss him in Luke’s Gospel. Judas was not loyal to Jesus. He was now the agent of Satan having been possessed by him. Since Satan stood against Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, he was not about to allow the devil to betray him with a sign of loyalty and friendship. John Nolland writes, “This verse has no counterpart in Mark. The image of betrayal that it creates stands as one of the most powerful ever to have gripped the human imagination.”  Nolland isn’t wrong.
In our next post we will examine how the book of Acts portrays Judas as well as how it has a version of Judas’ death that differs from what we read in the Gospel of Matthew.
 John Nolland, Luke 18:35-24:53, WBC vol. 35c (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 1,088.
Featured Image: By © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro /, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52229165.
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