“Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him” (Matthew 26: 49-50).

There are some sins against friendship in which the manner is harder to bear than the substance of the evil. It must have been a strangely coarse and cold nature that could think of fixing on the kiss of affection as the concerted sign to point out their victim to the legionaries. Many a man who could have borne to be betrayed by his own friend would have found that heartless insult worse to endure than the treason itself. Yet Christ’s words show no agitation in them but carry a grave rebuke as it appeals to former companionship. Christ still recognizes their bond and is true to it. He will still plead with this man who has been beside Him so long, and though Jesus’ heart is wounded, He will not cast Judas off. We are now in the presence of the solemn greatness of divine love. Surely if ever there was a man who might have been excluded from the love of God, it was Judas.

Sin is mighty; it can work endless evils on us; it can disturb and embitter all our relations with God. But one thing it cannot do: make God cease to love us. Love is the very being of God, and He loves us not for reasons in us but in Himself. His love abides with us forever and is granted to every soul of man. Even at the very instant of highest treason, Judas could not escape the lingering tenderness of Jesus and the merciful hand that was extended. Is there a worse man on earth at this moment? If there is, he, too, has a share in the love of God. Prostitutes and thieves, murderers on death row, souls tormented by unclean spirits, the wrecks of humanity whom respectable Christianity passes by with averted heads and uplifted hands, all have a place in His heart. And we, as individuals, have a place in that royal, tender heart. His love is mightier than all our sins and waits not on our merits nor is turned away by our iniquities. He does not begin to love because of anything in us; He will not cease because of anything in us. Let us always yield to His patient pleading.

Adapted from In His Presence