“Jesus was still speaking, when Judas the betrayer came up. He was one of the twelve disciples, and a large mob armed with swords and clubs was with him. They had been sent by the chief priests and the nation’s leaders. Judas had told them ahead of time, “Arrest the man I greet with a kiss.” Judas walked right up to Jesus and said, “Hello, teacher.” Then Judas kissed him.” -Matthew 26:47-49
Betrayal: That Cold-Hearted Kiss
By Bishop Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
Betrayal, ah that cold-hearted kiss.
This time of the year, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, always makes us take a look at our lives or at least it does with me. I usually get somewhat introspective and hopefully a little intuitive during Lent often bringing home the message during Holy Week and Easter.
I often ask myself, “what has God been trying to teach me or show me this last year?” Sometimes I can recognize his hand at work in my life and get it but as likely sometimes I simply get in the way of myself and of God and I miss the point all together. The good news is that God is patient, the bad news is that God is patient and, as it were, when I don’t get it, I get to experience the lesson all over again, sometimes from the very start.
Such has been the case with betrayal, one of the more darker lessons we’ll learn in our life. As I read the Passion narrative the other day on Palm Sunday I was slapped in the face with the betrayal Jesus experienced at the hand of one whom he loved dearly, no, at the hands of many he loved dearly. You see, while Judas was the one we think of most, there were more. The Passion Narrative is rift with betrayal, complete in heart break, and seemingly adrift in hopelessness, that is at least until the bitter-sweet end.
As I read aloud the story, the deeper I went into it the harder is was to continue. When Fr. Ed had asked me to please read it for the service I thought to myself, oh dear Fr. Ed, you have no idea what you’re asking nor how hard I’ll sob before the task is finished. But he asked and dutifully I read…and sniffled…and wept…and snorted…and sobbed.
There are so many issues one could deal with in this passage, so much truth, beauty, and love which is echoed by pain, sadness, deceit, and betrayal but it’s betrayal, that bitter, bitter cup of tea that we all must sip from, that God has been working with me on. And so it was the utter betrayal of our Lord Jesus that struck me that morning. How his dearest and closest friends betrayed him and how we are still betraying him today with our actions or in-actions.
The thought that Jesus WILLINGLY allowed himself to be in that position, WILLINGLY loved enough to be betrayed, and was WILLINGLY faithful to his betrayers to the bitter end and beyond is what blows my mind. I’m sure there are better theological ways of explaining it but mind blowing is a phrase that fits what I felt, what I feel. What is even more mind blowing is what Jesus did after the whole crucifixion! What is even more mind blowing is how much Jesus still loved his betrayers and how much he still loves us in spite of our own betrayal of him and one another! Wow!
Here’s the question though… Here’s the hard part… He calls us to follow his example! He calls us to love enough to be betrayed and then he asks us, no he really commands us to LOVE AGAIN ANYWAY. How on earth?! Well exactly, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”
This is the lesson God has been working with me on over the last three years. Betrayal after betrayal and still I must love, and still I must forgive (and be forgiven I might add) and still I must risk it all again for Love’s sake, for Christ’s sake!
Overwhelmed by love once I sent an email to my mentor, Fr. Martin. Christina and I had been so touched by his love and so moved by his willingness to love that I confessed to him in that email that I found myself waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” He told me then that if I spent all my time waiting for that other shoe to fall I would miss out on the gift that had been given in the present, the PRESENT OF LOVE if you will, and he reminded me that love always requires that we take the chance of getting hurt!
I think of the love in my life, my family, my friends, my church and many other fleeting instances of love too numerous to mention and I have to count myself loved abundantly, generously and overwhelmingly. It is precisely in these loving relationships, person to person, that we can begin to experience, get into touch with, and make real God’s love for us. It is in being open to and loving one another that God’s love becomes real to our understanding and we can run into this broken world safe in the knowledge and experience of true love.
You see, the betrayed loved enough to be betrayed and so it is the betrayer who is the ultimate victim, it is the betrayer who ultimately loses out, it is the betrayer who has rejected love to his or her own detriment. The betrayer has ultimately betrayed him or herself. It is their heart which is broken and it is they who must live with the loneliness and humility of what they have done. It is they who deserve our pity and our prayers.
I feel sorry for Judas. The very short amount of life he had left was no doubt spent in misery, loneliness and regret. He betrayed Jesus for his own agenda, not understanding or wishing to force change upon the Messiah’s ministry. It is Judas who went into that “dark night of the soul” and who may have never emerged from that self-consigned hell.
We pray for the lonely during the canon of our liturgy and so too we pray for those who have betrayed us, just like Jesus prayed for us and prays for us even still. Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.