Saturday, August 29, 2009

Betrayed by a kiss

Immediately, 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. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

- Mark 14:43-52

A sad passage, made more sad by the lonely place occupied by Jesus in his time of arrest. He is treated as if he is a thief or a lawbreaker, as if his teachings were in secret or what he did was done in stealth.

My study bible notes the character of the mob that has come to take him. The chief priests, scribes and elders have sent a crowd of servants to get Jesus. They do not even know who he is, although Jesus has taught openly in the temple all the time he has been in Jerusalem. The people arresting Jesus are armed Jewish servants, usually confined in the temple area to maintain order under the authority of the chief priests. According to John's gospel, a band of Roman soldiers collaborated with them. It is necessary for Judas to identify Jesus with a signal, because the people arresting Jesus have no idea who he is. He is betrayed by a kiss.

As Jesus is taken, we are told that "all of them deserted him and fled." Jesus' prophecy is fulfilled, that the sheep are scattered, just as the scriptures are fulfilled in his arrest. Betrayed by a kiss! Such a sad and lonely moment! We have to remember the tremendous ironies in this story, the depth of promise and despair mingled into one event. Transcending all experience, the story of crucifixion is much more than a simple narrative; it brings together the depth and height of experience, expectation, disappointment and tragedy. There are all things mingled here: as Deity Itself is in all things, made up of all dimensions of Being, so this story encompasses sublime triumph and terrible abandonment. Jesus' human experience encompasses every height and depth. It is all here for us in every word. But there is one small exception in the scattered flock we are told here, one young man followed Jesus. Most likely this is the author of this gospel himself, as he mentions the incident, but does not give his own name - a traditional way of talking about oneself.

In our own times of disappointment, betrayal or abandonment, we may feel this acute sadness and loneliness. We may remember that those who've come before us, especially the example of Jesus himself, have faced this time of abandonment and yet retained faith. Sometimes in the depth of that kind of aloneness, one finds God, and faith, as if the world's abandonment leaves us finally to rely on what is inside of us in relationship, "closer than our heartbeat." We take our example from Jesus' intimacy with God whom he called "Abba, Father" in his prayer before his arrest. We remember that strength comes out of this relationship - and watch Jesus conduct himself in faith as our brother who shares all of life's disappointments with us.

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