The Second Station: Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, Is Arrested
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” (NRSV)
In the culture of Jesus, a kiss was a sign of love and loyalty. A disciple might indeed kiss his master to signify the specialness of their relationship. There was nothing sexual about the kiss. It was the sort of kiss that a son might give a father.
I wonder why Judas chose to identify Jesus, indeed, to betray him, with a kiss. After all, he could have simply pointed to Jesus, or called out his name, or said to the soldiers: “He’s the one over there.” Yet Judas chose a kiss. Why?
Of course, we don’t know for sure and can only speculate. I wonder if Judas was saying to Jesus: “I’m doing this because I committed to the coming of the kingdom. I’m forcing your hand, Jesus, so that you’ll reveal your true messianic ministry and call up legions of angels to defeat the Romans.” Or perhaps Judas’ kiss meant: “I once believed in you, Jesus. I loved you. But you betrayed me. You held out the promise of the coming kingdom, and I bought it completely. But then you started talking about your death, just like a defeated man. And everything started to unravel, including my hopes for you. So I still love you, Jesus, but I can no longer support you because you betrayed me and our cause.”
From our perspective, it’s easy to condemn Judas. Few people in history have been more despised, and for good reason. Yet by heaping still more disdain on Judas, we miss the chance to confront the Judas in ourselves. What about our own mixed responses to Jesus?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How many times have you betrayed Jesus, not in the obvious and literal way of Judas, but in your hearts and actions? How many times have you confessed Jesus as Lord, only to enthrone yourself as the true lord of your life? How many times have you worshiped Jesus with your lips, not with a kiss, but with words, songs, and prayers, only to reject him in your heart and in your actions?
PRAYER: O Lord, as much as I hate to admit it, to myself and to you, there is a bit of Judas in me. Forgive me for the times I have pledged my love for you, only to reject you in the way I live. Help me to see where my commitment to you is mixed, where my heart is divided against itself. Set me free to be wholly devoted to you, even when I don’t understand you, even when I’m afraid that following you is too risky. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: You can view Linda's painting of the Second Station here.