“Faces of Our Faith – The Kiss” – Rev. Kevin Hay
Mark 14: 1-2, 10-31, 43-50
141It was two days before the Passover
and the festival of Unleavened Bread.
The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him;
2for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
10Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve,
went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11When they heard it, they were greatly pleased,
and promised to give him money.
So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him,
“Where do you want us to go
and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water
will meet you; follow him,
14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house,
‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
16So the disciples set out and went to the city,
and found everything as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover meal.
17When it was evening, he came with the twelve.
18And when they had taken their places and were eating,
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me,
one who is eating with me.”
19They began to be distressed
and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?”
20He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.
21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him,
but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!
It would have been better
for that one not to have been born.”
22While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread,
and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them,
and said, “Take; this is my body.”
23Then he took a cup,
and after giving thanks he gave it to them,
and all of them drank from it.
24He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many. 25Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them,
“You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29Peter said to him,
“Even though all become deserters, I will not.”
30Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he said vehemently,
“Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”
And all of them said the same.
43Immediately, while he was still speaking,
Judas, one of the twelve, arrived;
and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.
44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying,
“The one I will kiss is the man;
arrest him and lead him away under guard.”
45So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him.
46Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.
47But one of those who stood near
drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest,
cutting off his ear.
48Then Jesus said to them,
“Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me
as though I were a bandit?
49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching,
and you did not arrest me.
But let the scriptures be fulfilled.”
50All of them deserted him and fled.
The Kiss of Judas…
The Kiss of Death…
it’s an image that has been popularized by movies, books, and tv…
Mafia bosses – Kiss someone close to them
as a sign that a member of the mafia family
has been marked for death…
in The Godfather 2 – Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino
kisses his brother Fredo Corleone
after he discovers Fredo has betrayed him…
Hollywood has turned the image of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss
into a dramatic way for mobsters to seal the fate of a close friend…
only, in the movies, it’s typically done in response to betrayal
whereas Judas, kisses Jesus, as an act of betrayal…
but either way, it’s a dramatic moment,
rooted deep in betrayal
Judas takes the kiss of peace
something the early Christians often used to greet one another
as if they were family – the “holy kiss”
much like we do the passing of the peace by shaking hands…
Judas takes that kiss of peace, the “holy kiss”
and turns it around into the “kiss of death”
an image often depicted on the big screen…and today, it’s also depicted in the form of art on our bulletin cover.
an image that has been the focus of many artists over the years…
Lauren Wright Pittman created our image today
partially inspired by another painting she once saw in Florence, Italy
called “The Kiss of Judas” by Giuseppe Montanari
she describes the painting by Montanari saying
“It’s an ethereal, dreamy image of a tender moment.
Time seems suspended, stars twinkle in the sky,
and the figures of Jesus and Judas
almost float in the bittersweet haze of this passing moment.
Judas stands on his tiptoes, though he is larger than Jesus,
and kisses his teacher and friend.”
“If you didn’t know who these figures were,
you might think this was an idyllic, simple moment,
but it is so grievous and complicated.”
and it most certainly is grievous and complicated…
maybe that’s why so many artists
have attempted to portray this moment
and why Hollywood has adapted it to so many mafia storylines…
so grievous and complicated…
so many layers…
that no single movie or painting
can entirely shed light on the moment…
Judas is kissing his friend and his teacher
it’s such an intimate moment of affection
yet at the same time… such a deeply disturbing moment
as he uses this intimate moment of affection
to seal the fate of someone he loves
as a tear falls from his eyes in this moment of betrayal…
Lauren Wright Pittman
does a beautiful job of seeking to go deeper into the moment
portrayed by Montanari
views the kiss from a distance,
the characters are far off…
and it’s as if Judas and Jesus are all by themselves
sharing an intimate moment of affection
beneath a beautiful sunset…
but Pittman takes that image deeper
“that ethereal, dreamy image of a tender moment.
with the stars twinkling in the sky”
all of which is still captured in this image…
and then she focuses in
onto the face and the eyes of Judas
one of many faces of our faith…
as we see the tears in his eyes
the anguish on his face
the furrowed brow…
as he seals the fate of his friend and teacher…
but these 2 depictions still don’t quite portray
the full depth of this moment of betrayal
we have to look at this grievous and complicated moment
from many angles…
Julie and I saw another depiction
of this grievous and complicated moment this summer
during a quick visit to
the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin
where we saw a perhaps more famous version
“The Taking of Christ” by Italian artist – Caravaggio
and Caravaggio portrays a much different scene…
as opposed to being an intimate moment of affection
that ethereal, dreamy image of a tender moment.
with the stars twinkling in the sky”
like Montanari focused on…
or instead of
focusing in closer on the tears in Judas’ eyes
and the anguish on his face
like our bulletin cover today…
instead of focusing in on a moment between just 2 people…Caravaggio depicts a scene of chaos
focusing in on Judas
showing up with crowds of people
with swords and clubs – as our passage says…
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
as Judas makes his way to Jesus
as fast as he can amidst the chaos
“Rabbi!” as he kissed him.
and sealed his fate
as the swarming crowd of people with swords and clubs
arrested Jesus and swept him away…
a grievous and complicated moment
an intimate moment of affection
a moment of tears and anguish
between a teacher and student…
and yet also
a moment of determination on Judas’ part
amidst chaos and violence…
determination of Judas to save himself…
in the face of potential torture and death himself…
by aligning w/ Jesus
Judas turns to betrayal, to save himself…
so which image speaks to us the most?
which can we relate to?
the chaos and violence?
and how does this relate to our own lives and journey of faith?
I imagine it was probably a little bit of all of them…
and even more…
each portrayal sheds light on one aspect of the betrayal
but this grievous and complicated moment
is all of them rolled up into one
and then some…
but what’s all this matter to us?
We’re not the ones standing there turning Jesus in
to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
to save ourselves
and get some cash on the side…
We didn’t do this to Jesus…
but I think if we’re honest with ourselves
it has more to do with us than we might initially think…
Lauren Wright Pittman says
“I think we act like Judas in passing moments every day.”
“I feel like Judas represents those who are afraid to stand up against the powerful. He allows fear to move him.
He faces torture and death by aligning himself with Jesus
and does what I think a lot of us would do.
A lot of us would choose safety and betrayal
instead of pain and suffering
for a fight that seems impossible to win.”
“We act like Judas in passing moments every day.”
Do you think that’s true?
Do we betray Jesus in small ways every day?
Do we ever find ourselves with choices
between doing what’s right,
or looking out for ourselves…
Do you ever find yourself choosing between
standing up for what’s right…what Jesus would have you do
and turning a blind eye to avoid trouble and difficult consequences?
I know I have…
I think maybe Lauren’s right…
maybe we all act like Judas at times…
we all betray Jesus in both big and little ways…
we all go against what Jesus wants for us
and choose to look out for ourselves instead…
sometimes it’s a deeply intimate moment
other times, it’s a moment full of tears and anguish
and still other times
it’s an ugly moment of chaos, violence, and determination…
sometimes, it’s maybe even all of these emotions and more
all rolled into one…
we tend to always focus in on Judas in the story
but if you notice
Jesus said that everyone would become deserters
and even though Peter refused to accept this…
at the end of our passage, it still says
50All of them deserted him and fled.
in fact, the next 2 verses that we didn’t read
is my favorite part of the story
as it tells us…
51 A certain young man was following him,
wearing nothing but a linen cloth.
They caught hold of him,
52but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
one of Jesus’ followers, we don’t know which one
but one of them…
to the point of running off naked
when the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
came to arrest Jesus with swords and clubs…
not only did Judas betray jesus
50All of them deserted him and fled.
and even one of them
ran off naked…
now, we don’t come to this story to make ourselves feel bad
for the many ways we betray Jesus, big and small, every day
and we don’t come to this story to make ourselves feel better
by reminding ourselves
that even all the disciples did the same
in the biggest moment of Jesus’ life
just after sharing the Passover meal with Jesus…
I think we come to this story
to remind us why we ultimately need Jesus in the first place…
life – is messy
life – is grievous and complicated…
we may not all be faced with torture and death
swords and clubs
but we all make choices every day
where we betray Jesus
where we choose to look out for ourselves
in the face of persecution and suffering…
We’re all broken, sinful people
who do things to separate us from God’s love…
when Judas kissed Jesus
it was grievous and complicated
it was beautiful and intimate
it was full of tears and anguish
it was chaotic and violent…
and so is life
but in that grievous and complicated moment
Jesus said – “let the scriptures be fulfilled…”
as theologian Mark Davis reminds us in Feasting on the Word…
“It is one thing to say that the Scriptures are ultimately fulfilled
by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is quite another to look at each actor in this story and to say it.
In Judas, the Scriptures are being fulfilled.
In the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders,
the Scriptures are being fulfilled.
Even in the disciples’ failure, the Scriptures are being fulfilled.
It is a stunning profession of God’s providence to say
that in the midst of human schemes and sinfulness,
the Scriptures are being fulfilled.”
sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of our need for Jesus
and our need for the scriptures to be fulfilled…
as John 3:16 reminds us…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal life.”
in all of our moments of betraying Jesus…
in this messy
grievous, complicated… life…
Jesus says “let the scriptures be fulfilled”
even as we share the bread and the wine at the table today
sharing a meal
Jesus knowingly shared with Judas
and with all those who ultimately deserted him…
Just as we still do today…
“let the scriptures be fulfilled”
Thanks be to God!