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?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’
Kissing is an important action in Judaism, and is a widespread practice among Jews. There is no religious obligation to kiss a holy object, however, Jews believe kissing displays veneration and devotion and loyalty to God. We don’t know why Judas chose this sign but it may have been a way of confirming to Jesus, that he still believed that Jesus was the Messiah and wanted him to know it, and this was a secret and subversive way to pull wool over the eyes of the authorities. This was a statement; we might call it an ironic one. Those in the arresting party could have arrested him at any time, but chose to do it at night, in a quiet place, with a mob in tow. This could have been Judas’ way of thanking Jesus for all he had shared with him, because it was his final opportunity or, that he was signalling with this kiss, the veneration of Jesus, the word of God, as a priest might kiss the Torah, the words of living.
When I reread the reading I read the words, “Lord, should we strike them with THE WORD” rather than “Sword”. This got me thinking of the power of Jesus, the living word of God, there in their midst. Even at this crucial point in the proceeding Jesus stops to heal the wounded one. Jesus realigns the world by his presence, healing and speaking the truth about God, which is what those listening hate about him. Jesus never hid himself. He revealed God’s likeness and love in everything he said and did. The Pharisees and other religious leaders didn’t recognise God in Jesus, which is why he had to go. Maybe this was Judas’ last chance to kiss the holy word of God, and he took it!
Lord Jesus, you have the ability to change a situation by your presence. As we approach Easter, help us to be changed by what you reveal of yourself to us. This Easter Season help us to give our full attention to you, Jesus, living word of God for us. Amen.
The Rev’d Sue Chapman, Minister, Hove & Portslade Pastorate, East Sussex