On the CHRISTwatch, in the CROSSwalk – The Insistent Witness

No puppets this week, unlike last. ‘Sorry about that. But I did think of outlandish costume and make-up! Imagine me standing hear lookin’ like a grease paint member of the Rock Band, KISS! I shudder at the thought. Or, I could have trotted out my renowned singing voice for a rousing rendition of Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On, Blow Me a Kiss From Across the Room, or something from Broadway’s redux of Kiss Me Kate. Mercifully, I demurred. But I am determined to at least talk about maybe the most famous, or infamous kiss and Kiss-er of all time. There’s barely a line Jesus speaks more filled with pathos, irony, sadness, piercing than this. “Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” We don’t talk about this much. For some of us, the thought is just too remote. Afterall, this has little to do with us. For others, maybe it’s a little too close to home. It makes us ask, like the disciples when they first heard, there’s a betrayer in our midst, “Is it I, Lord?”

For weeks, we’ve been on our way to Jerusalem with Jesus. On CHRISTwatch, in the CROSSwalk, so to speak. And we’ve been looking, really looking at those, like us, near to Jesus, along the way. We’ve been learning from them and their examples. Come this way. Walk by here. Don’t go there! Andrew and Peter, James and John. Matthew. (That ol’ tax collector!) Mary the Anointer, Mary Madeline. Jesus’ characters of the Godly Father, the Prodigal and Elder Sons. Now we’re down to some of those final hours. In the Garden. Gethsemane. A lonely Jesus at prayer; exhausted, distress-wearied disciples who can’t stay awake. And now. Now you can see that twisting line of torches walking out from the city gate, across the valley. Up the switch backed hillside. Closer. Ever closer. Near the head, a familiar face. It’s Judas! Iscariot. Keeper of the common purse. Treasurer: sorry Karen, Kermit, Terri. And on his lips he carries, of all things, not a curse but a kiss. A kiss, mind you. What’s he thinking?! Why would he? How could he?! But far more to the point today, could we?

Oh my! What about… Judas? There are three or four classic thoughts about Judas and that, that kiss. First, simple avarice, just plain greed gets him goin’ t’ward this awful kiss. You know the deal he makes with the authorities. 30 pieces of silver for Jesus’ head. The thought wows some, disgusts others. It might help to know. This is not a retirement account’s worth. Nor a king’s ransom. It’s the price paid for a common slave, not a Savior’s sum. It’s about a month’s wage in that day. In our day, it amounts to about 20 or 25 bucks! You gotta be quite a piece of work to sell out the Son of God for 25 bucks. You make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Mother Theresa! Maybe… this kiss puckers up on the lips of a disillusioned dreamer. Likely (from his name), Iscariot’s a zealot. ‘Attached to Jesus as the Messiah who will overthrow Rome, ‘give God’s chosen back their Israel. But Judas sees Jesus has chosen another way. “Peace, not the sword,” says Jesus. Grace not gore. Forgiveness not fear. [Matthew’s Gospel orders this whole story uniquely. Christ’s last great teaching: the Last Judgment… as you do to the least, last, lost, you do to me! Judas response: right on! Next, Jesus at Simon the Leper’s, poor man. (Illustrate.) The Lord lets a woman anoint him with oil… a sign of his coming kingship. Judas is appalled (like the 11). His heart turns. Maybe for him, Jesus has gone over to the dark side of the privileged, cf. the poor. The moment is a veritable enactment of Ps. 23 for Christ (quote). What’s next? Matthew has Judas plotting his plot and its sign, and next, approaching Jesus intent on that kiss… never delivered, by the way, at least Matthew deletes it. Hmmm.] There’s a 3rd view. Judas pines for a revolt, not a crucifixion /  resurrection. So he plots and kisses to force Jesus’ hand. He kisses and steps back, expecting all hell (or heaven) to break loose when Jesus and the angels finally claim their kingdom! Just one more view. It’s scriptural. The Devil gets into Judas. Literally. It’s like he has no choice. It’s foreordained. He’s no match for Satan! …OK. I do remind you. God is ever on the lookout for those who will serve Heaven. But there really is another presence, on the lookout for servants of the Southern Clime! Like the rest of us, Judas will have to choose. See, neither God nor the Evil One can enter, unless we open the door! I love the line that says, “There is no latch on the outward side of the door of human heart!” (Barclay) It’s only opened from within!

Know that, you can take your choice in knowing Judas. Know this,

too, before you choose. All our thoughts of why (with Judas) bear one common thread. It is the one that ties us to him. In every case, Judas is an insistent witness to Jesus. Insistent. He insists on his own upbuilding; his own opinion of the holy Way; his own control of God and good, outlook and outcome. And his own choice of whom to admit to his heart. …Now here is the key to the message: all of this brings all of us to ask, not of Judas, but of ourselves, what about us? Jesus asks us as surely as that other disciple (who’d walked with him for years, after all, just as we), “Would you betray me with a kiss?”

Oh my! What about… us? Few of us would knowingly trade Jesus for a mere month’s wages. But we regularly insist that our security depends on our own plans and programs, efforts and associations. Greed doesn’t fit us. But we do want more in this world with little thought to the next. And when asked how we’re doing, we are far more likely to compare ourselves to those with more, not those with less. How often or how rarely do we think with Scripture, “In Christ I have all things”? Are we not disillusioned sometimes? Insistent on/in our own way? We kiss Jesus with a betrayer’s kiss when we twist his gospel to fit our inclinations! Either we make Christ a capitalist or a socialist, a “lib” or a “winger”, a condemner or a condoner. It’s amazing how the gospels seem to say what we think, and history, holy or otherwise, is headed where we wanna go! It’s as though we approach him with a pucker, crucify him with kindness, follow him with false motives day after day. Give me mercy, Lord; give ME mercy! Old Iscariot is not alone in desiring to force Christ’s hand and arrange God’s outcomes. In our homes we’re always trying to change our partners instead of love them! With our kids, we overschedule them with activities, gorge them with gadgets and program them with propositions to get them to be what we dream, with scant discipline to help them discern what God made them to be and where Christ bids them to walk. (E. g., Mother Church here has not been pregnant with souls into full time Christian service in a long time.) And who here has not answered the door of their heart with intent to let in some ungodly presence. Who hasn’t asked, “Whatever got into me?” on the web, at work, over the phone, in the meeting… and not known… I answered to the wrong knock. I insisted on my own way. I would have stolen a kiss with Christ, but instead, welcomed the wrong Presence in the garden.

Judas remains a caution. Beware.

Insistent witnesses still give betraying kisses!

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