Jesus asked the piercing question of the disciple-turned-conspirator: “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” (Luke 22:48)
Why a kiss? Would not a slap or pointed finger or clinched fist be more appropriate means of betraying Jesus into the hands of his opponents? But, no! Judas betrayed with a sign of affection!
Upon closer reflection, however, Jesus’ question is appropriate for all who claim allegiance to him. We rarely, if ever, hear expressed outright hatred or denunciation of Jesus. Yet, we all betray!
Most often our betrayal takes the form of declared affection for Jesus. Here are a few ways we betray Jesus with a kiss:
- Singing “O How I Love Jesus” while hating those who are different
- Declaring “Jesus Is Lord” while prioritizing partisan politics above the common good
- Claiming Jesus’ forgiveness but holding grudges and seeking vengeance
- Affirming love for God while despising neighbors near and far
- Singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World” while failing to provide all children with access to education, medical care, safety and love
- Proclaiming “God is Love” with anger in our voices and hate in our actions
- Honoring him with our lips while our lives are far from him
- Saying “Lord, Lord” and failing to do what he says, go where he goes, and welcome those whom he loves
Judas resides in all of us! We, too, betray with a kiss!
But Judas wasn’t the only disloyal disciple present in the garden when Jesus was arrested. Luke tells us, “One of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear”(22:50).
Jesus responded resolutely, “No more of this!”
The kiss and the sword have much in common as forms of betrayal. History is replete with efforts to violently defend Jesus.
The Crusades were fought in name of loyalty to Jesus. Scientists were burned at the stake under the guise of protecting religious doctrine. Preachers used the Bible to promote slavery! Klansmen terrorized and murdered with burning crosses and prayers of devotion to Jesus. The Bible has been used as a sword of discrimination against women.
Defending Jesus with physical, verbal, and emotional swords is a pervasive means of betrayal. Could these be subtle contemporary examples of betrayal with swords?
- Using Scripture as a weapon for exclusion, hatred, and discrimination
- Promoting hatred of Muslims, immigrants, gays, and others in the name of defending the Christian faith
- Applauding the Sermon on the Mount while defending possession of assault weapons as a “God-given right”
- Proclaiming God’s preferential presence in “the least of these” while advocating public policies that damage the poor, vulnerable, and powerless
- Increasing spending for weapons of war while decreasing support for education, healthcare, housing, and food for the under resourced
But the final word in the Christian gospel isn’t betrayal! It’s forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing.
In Matthew’s account of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus calls him “friend.” Judas’ kiss may have been betrayal, but Jesus’ response was one of steadfast love.
After admonishing the disciples against violence, Jesus healed the victim. The final word was/is healing, not violence.
From the cross, Jesus spoke the ultimate response to all forms of betrayal: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Whether betrayed with a kiss or a sword, Jesus forgives, reconciles, transforms.