Part 1: The Palm Sunday reading was from Mark 14:1-15:47 and it outlines the Passover, Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, Judas’ Betrayal, and Christ’s Passion & Death.
The part of this reading that struck me this year was Judas’ Betrayal. It made me think of something I hadn’t before.
Why must Judas betray Jesus by a kiss?
It seems so unnecessary that Judas “point out” who Jesus was via a signal.
Isn’t this the crowd that had been plotting to kill Jesus? (John 11:53)
Isn’t this the crowd who already knew who Jesus was?
Jesus even says to them “Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area.” So surely these chief priest, scribes, and elders would recognize Jesus without Judas’ need for a signal, right?
I think if I were plotting to kill someone I’d know who the person looked like. I’d know them by name. I’d be able to tell who they are even in the dark of night. After all I hated them so much that I had schemed and schemed and bribed Judas and waited for the perfect moment to exact my hatred. Can one hate someone so vehemently without even knowing what that person looks like? Perhaps it is possible, but I think in all likelihood that person’s face is so seared into your brain that you don’t need some third-party to point out who that person is.
I’m sure there are scholars who can explain the importance of this betrayal of Jesus via a kiss. But this was the first time I think I thought about how very strange it was for Judas to need to have a signal in the first place.
Part 2: I have heard priests talk about the intimacy of Judas’ betrayal. How a kiss is deeply intimate. Judas had to approach Jesus, to get so close he breathed on him and then placed his mouth on him. Judas was committed to his betrayal so deeply that it wasn’t an impersonal far away statement of “That one is Jesus”, but rather he still called him “Rabbi” and then proceeded with choosing the power of wealth over the power of love. Judas chose the temporary gain over the eternal one.
Part 3: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) is one of the saddest Gospel verses. I think though that this one is right up there in the upper echelon of saddest verses: “And they all left him and fled.” (Mark 14:50)
I’ve heard this story year after year and yes it is always sad to read, but I think I also just think “I know what is coming. This happens and then that happens.” and then I know I am impatient with listening to it or reading it because I think “Sheesh. How much longer does this Gospel go on for?” …This is not something I want to admit, but I definitely get distracted from the depth of the verses by my inability to stay focused due to the length of the reading.
I know that in this moment everyone abandons Jesus. But I am also not sure I have ever really sat with that verse “And they all left him and fled.” for longer than the two seconds it takes to read it. But this year I sat with it churning over in my head. Oosh. That’s a great one-liner to express the agony of abandonment Jesus experienced in his greatest time of need.
Ok, so yes, basically in our human weakness we tend towards (always?) picking the temporary gain over the eternal one. We’re even willing to leave everything behind and run off naked all for the sake of saving our own skin.
John 11: 47-53; 57: So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come* and take away both our land and our nation.” … So from that day on they planned to kill him. … For the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should inform them, so that they might arrest him.
Mark 14: 43-52: The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus.Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.” He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the scriptures may be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.