It was night. Great was the possibility, probability of mistaken identity. Judas had to give some sign. But why so loving a sign. Why not throw an incriminating stone at Jesus or slap his face, punch his gut, pull his beard, yank his hair, kick his derrière?
Judas kissed Jesus. So, I wonder. What kind of kiss?
An apologetic brush against the cheek? Did Judas, whatever his reasons for betraying Jesus, have second thoughts about the rightness of what he was doing?
Was it a mercenary, bloodless, eyes-wide-open peck on the forehead? Did Judas, giving up everything to follow Jesus, then witnessing the mounting animosity of the authorities and foreseeing a disastrous end for Jesus and himself, try to make the best of a bad situation?
Was it a hopeful, soulful, soft, sincere caress? Did Judas, expecting to stand in the light of Jesus’ glory, but confused by Jesus’ slow (hesitant?) journey to Jerusalem, the political and religious capital, intend to force Jesus to confront the authorities and demonstrate, prove his power?
Was it a bruising, resentful crush of lips on lips? Did Judas, believing in God’s sovereignty, yearning to throw off Rome’s yoke of oppression, see in Jesus’ teaching and miracles the coming of God’s kingdom, but then as Jesus’ message changed, including predictions of his suffering and death, consider him a fraud, a false Messiah deserving punishment for his deception?
Whatever Judas’ motivations, in first century Judaism, the rabbi-disciple relationship was governed by well-defined rules. A disciple was not to greet the teacher first, implying equality. Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss. A signal to those who came to arrest Jesus and Judas’ calculated insult, premediated rejection of Jesus.
In this, Judas calls me, in my Lenten self-examination, to remember moments when I betrayed a relationship…
Saying, in so many words, largely to avoid honest disclosure (or, ambivalent, not sure what I needed to say or how), “It’s not you, it’s me…”
Or reticent to speak my truth for fear of how I’d be viewed, simply, silently walking away…
Or abandoning another in a needful hour. Like Peter, who, as Jesus faced death, denied his friend, declaring, “I do not know him” (Matthew 26.72).
In my remembrances, I dare not stand in judgment of Judas. Rather I must stand with him.
In this confession, I recognize anew that whenever I betray another, first and finally, I betray my self. My psyche, soul. My esse, being.
In this revelation, I behold a light leading me through my inner despair (where even in the shadows I see clearly the parts of me I despise) toward a new place to stand when I can choose to try again to be true to God, others, and my self.
Thank you, Judas, for compelling me to see me clearly. Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to believe in a God of second chances, who accepts me as I am without one plea and bids that I become fully who I already am, which is another way of saying, to get up and to try again.