“Right away, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him came a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and experts in the law and elders. (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him and lead him away under guard.’) When Judas arrived, he went up to Jesus immediately and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him” (Mark 14:43-45 NET).
Betrayal. How does it feel when a friend betrays you? It may be that he has betrayed your confidence by telling others something very private that you confided in him (or her) alone. It may be that as a friend they have not supported you. It could be any number of ways that a friend has betrayed us.
But how would it feel to be betrayed by using something that meant you were a friend? In our text we read that Judas prearranged with those with him that he would betray Jesus with a kiss.
Kisses mean different things to different people in different cultures. In some cultures, a kiss is something you give as a greeting to someone you have at least some regard for. When visiting Christians in Europe, the common greeting is a kiss, either on both cheeks, or both cheeks plus one more on the first cheek. In some families, hugs and lips meeting are the common greetings because you are family. And of course you kiss people in different ways, depending on how close they are to you – you wouldn’t kiss your children the same as you kiss your wife.
With a kiss we can express sentiments from romantic love to affection to friendship. The New Testament talks about a kiss between Christians as a common greeting: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). Notice that this is not a romantic kiss or a lustful kiss, but a kiss of friendship, a kiss of affection.
Judas took this sign of friendship and affection and used it as a sign of betrayal. Having identified Jesus, those with him seized him. Jesus even commented on this, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
When you think about it, what terrible a thing Judas did! He came out with a mob, armed with swords and clubs (see Mark 14:43). And he used something that said they were good friends to identify Jesus to those with him (they very well may not have known what he looked like). I get the impression, from reading John’s gospel, that Judas hesitated when it was time to go through with it, because Jesus had to question the mob as to who it was that they were after (see John 18:4-11).
Although most of us would like to think we would never betray Jesus in such a way, are we aware that we can still do this? What if we betray our fellow Christians, acting when we are in their presence like we are close friends or family, but when separate we gossip and say all sorts of terrible things about them. Jesus said that when we do and say bad things about Christians we are actually doing these things to him – see Matthew 25:41-46 and Acts 9:4-5.
Rather than damaging each other and Jesus, we need to learn to show love to each other so that the entire body grows in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). Think about these things.
Readings for next week
17 November – 1 Peter 1
18 November – 1 Peter 2-3
19 November – 1 Peter 4-5
20 November – 2 Peter 1
21 November – 2 Peter 2-3