“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48 (NASB)
I don’t know why, but for some reason this sentence caught my attention this past week. Like many of you, I also grew up in church, and I’m rather familiar with the account of Jesus’ arrest in the garden. Judas betrayed his teacher by walking up and kissing him on the cheek, signifying to the mob which one they needed to arrest. We’ve heard this part of the story before; it is nothing new. Yet, as I’ve pondered it more here recently, it seems to me that it should haunt us more than it does.
While John’s Gospel informs us that Judas was a thief (John 12:6), he was still one of the Twelve. He walked with Christ. He witnessed miracles, observed healings, heard our Savior teach, and experienced countless other conversations, discussions, and unrecorded moments. Yet, there in the garden, Judas sold Him out…and he did so with a kiss.
Judas’ kiss was the cultural equivalent of giving Jesus a hearty handshake or bro-hug. It was an outward expression of closeness and affection. It communicated friendship, respect, and the appearance of being on good terms. Hmmm… Is it possible that you and I could do the same today? Could we spend time in close proximity to the Lord without truly praising Him? Do we give the false impression that we dearly honor Christ?
I’m afraid that it is easier to look much closer to the God than we actually are. A little busyness, some religious activity mixed with an unhealthy dose of isolation, and before you know it, I’ve not only deceived others into thinking I’m walking with the Lord, but I’ve deceived myself as well. And that’s the point of tension for me. Could my good deeds and righteous actions betray our Savior? Is it possible for us to wind-up lost in our saintly duties and in so doing, betray our Lord?
Remember Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount? He says that many will call Him Lord; many will tell of all the mighty works they did in His name (Matthew 7:21-23). Yet when the strength to accomplish such deeds comes from outside of Christ, when the dependence is not solely upon Him, whatever is achieved is done in vain. So then, where is our hope found?
If we sing songs but believe no part of the chorus, if we take notes every sermon without so much as applying a single line to our daily lives, does it really mean much? If only exercised once or twice a week, I’d have to think my faith is fraudulent at best. Through contentment with our inconsistency we can and do play the role of betrayer. Praise be to God, we find ourselves on this side of the empty tomb!
Thankfully our lips cannot betray in the same kind of way. You and I will not turn Jesus over to the men coming with swords and clubs. However, Judas’ role does show us that one’s exterior actions are not always a clear representation of the heart, and our words our often hollow. Additionally, we see that we can be physically close to God and His people, yet find our souls far from Him. As we celebrate this blessed Holy Week, reminding one another of our Savior that was crushed for our iniquities, might we be found faithful. May we consider God’s lavish, scandalous grace and remember that it is only through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that we have hope. If not for the cross, we’d all be a Judas.
NBC Family Pastor of HS