“While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him.
Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'”
– Luke 22:47-48
We know the story. We know that Judas betrays Jesus, we even know that he does so with a kiss. But somehow hearing it makes it so much more painful. When I hear the story being read I’m standing (it is the Gospel, duh), and imagining the story play out before my eyes. Jesus, in the dark of night, is praying the Garden of Gethsemane. His beloved friends are falling asleep and all He wants is for them to stay awake and pray with Him. Then in comes Judas. He walks forward and kisses Jesus. Judas could have shook Jesus’ hand, he could have tripped him, he could have spat in his face. Judas could have alerted the guards to Jesus (as if they didn’t already know who He was) in a thousand different ways, and yet he chooses the most intimate option available: a kiss.
Doesn’t it break your heart? The Son of God, the only Son of God, the One who was to save us all is betrayed with a kiss. There is something so intimate, so tender about a kiss that simply can’t be replicated. Sure, you can pull someone’s hair like you did in elementary school, you can have a deep conversation, but it doesn’t replace the intimacy of a kiss. Judas had to get as close to Jesus as he could, look Him in the face, and betray him. It makes the betrayal that much deeper, that much more profound, and that much more infuriating.
As I stood on Palm Sunday, listening to the readings, I found myself growing increasingly angry at Judas for betraying Jesus in such an intimate way. How could he do such a thing?
Am I any different than Judas?
I pray to be close to Jesus, to bury my heart in His, and then I betray Him anyway. I turn away from Him in my sin, giving Him up just as quickly as Judas must have. I do so well at times, I follow Jesus around and do my best to walk as He walked, talk as He talked. Then, as quickly as the tides change or the winds blow, I’m betraying Him. Is my betrayal as bad as Judas’? I try to justify it, to say that I’m not as bad as Judas. I’m not selling Jesus’ whereabouts for a few pieces of silver…and yet my actions, my sins, my betrayal keep Him hanging on the cross.
God knows that sometimes I act just like Judas. I seek intimacy with Jesus and then I use that same intimacy to betray Him. I meet His intimacy and turn away from it in the same breath. I foolishly think that those pieces of silver will make me happy. I let myself believe that sealing my betrayal with a kiss is just an act, as if it means nothing.
I know, deep down, that I’m wrong.
I don’t want to be like Judas. I don’t want to betray Jesus with something so intimate as a kiss. So I run back. I run back like the Prodigal Son. I run back like Peter, even after he thrice denied Jesus. I run to the empty tomb, praying that I can find Him and tell Him just how sorry I am. Then I seal my apology with a kiss, praying that He’ll trust me and shower me with love anew. I pray that my intimacy with Jesus would be restored and deepened. With a kiss I seal my apology, and He accepts it as if I’d never betrayed Him in the first place. He meets my kiss with a love far deeper and invites me to the same.