47 While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd appeared, and the one called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him.
48 Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Human One with a kiss?”
49 When those around him recognized what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we fight with our swords?” 50 One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.
51 Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come to get him, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, as though I were a thief? 53 Day after day I was with you in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But this is your time, when darkness rules.”
54 After they arrested Jesus, they led him away and brought him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed from a distance.
Throughout scripture, kisses are given by friends and family as a mark of commitment and loyalty. Take, for example, the kiss Joseph gives his brother Benjamin upon their reunion in Egypt (Genesis 45:14) or Aaron kissing his brother Moses after a long absence (Exodus 4:27). A kiss was an expression of affection and care. It was a common sign between family and friends, teachers and students, hosts and guests (Luke 7:45). It’s the exclamation point at the end of one of Jesus’ most famous stories (Luke 15:20).
That’s why Jesus is so shocked when Judas turns a sign of loyalty into a mark of betrayal. Jesus immediately recognizes what is about to happen. His dismay is palpable in his question to Judas: “Really? You betray the Human One with a kiss?”
Betrayal is devastating. In our families, friendships, romantic relationships – betrayal leaves scars that take a long time to heal – if they ever do. This is one of the most human dimensions of Jesus’ story as we experience it during Holy Week. His life’s work, even his life, is undone by the act of a friend in his innermost circle. We are not alone in having felt the sting of disloyalty – of being undermined, turned on, and stabbed in the back.
Some translations will render Jesus’ name for himself as “Son of Man,” but here “Human One” seems to drive the point home in an even more powerful way. Jesus is the “Human One” because he’s experienced everything that we experience. In our deepest pain, God identifies with us because Jesus has been there too.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Are there betrayals in your past that continue to affect your ability to trust others? How are those reactions affecting your relationships? Does knowing that this is part of Christ’s experience allow you to hand those feelings over to God?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we feel betrayed, abandoned, and alone, remind us that you know what it’s like. Remind us that we can trust you with our feelings, even when they are raw and painful. And remind us that we can trust you to lead us through them toward healing and wholeness. Amen.