Week 4, Day 23
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.
There are two striking pictures in this passage. The first is the image of Judas approaching Jesus to kiss him, and Jesus’ penetrating response. When he confronts Judas, Jesus basically says, “Are you really going to betray God, and with an act so intimate as a kiss? Are you seriously going to do this?”
The other image is the violent act of the disciple—probably Peter—who cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. I think that most of us find this act, if we are really honest, quite admirable. It’s the same satisfaction we feel when the sidekick of one of our movie heroes lands a solid blow to one of the bad guys. In this case, a loyal disciple is willing to fight for Jesus, an act of loyalty and an attempt to protect their beloved master from the grim reality of this betrayal.
Have you ever been betrayed —truly betrayed– by someone you knew and trusted as a friend? If you have, you know that gut-wrenching emotional pain, the kind that feels like you’ve had the wind knocked out of you, and you might never catch your breath again. Jesus experienced this pain. He felt it the same way we do. Did the fact that he knew it was coming cushion the blow? I think we could argue that it only intensified that pain. His betrayal unfolded before him like a really bad dream that moves along in slow motion. But it was not a dream.
While the kiss that surely felt more like a slap is still stinging, Jesus amazes us one more time. Immediately after being stabbed with the emotional knife of betrayal, Jesus does not miss the opportunity to bless someone else. When he heals the high priest’s servant’s ear, he leaves an impression that could never be forgotten. Jesus never ceases to show compassion, just as he prayed for God to forgive those who were crucifying him. While we would quickly react in anger and justify vengeance, Jesus commands the disciples to stop, heals the wounded man, and gives himself over without a fight.
It is so easy for us to react harshly toward Judas’ act of betrayal. When are the times when we, in some way, also betray Jesus by what we do or do not do?
Jesus’ act of compassion in healing the man’s ear left a remarkable impression. What would happen if Christians lived out that type of compassion in the face of persecution or ridicule? Can you think of an opportunity that you might have to bless someone who has wronged you?
Lord, forgive us, for we don’t always know what we are doing. Forgive us for the times when we forget you, when we turn away from you, when we betray you. Jesus, may we follow you completely, and may we be the light of compassion and forgiveness in a world dark with violence and vengeance, just as you demonstrated so clearly on the day you were arrested. In your merciful name we pray, Amen