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Clearly a kiss of greeting, of welcome, of affection, is a good thing... but the most famous kiss in the Bible is the one given by Judas, when betraying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
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In the parable, when the father sees his prodigal son returning home, he runs to meet him and kisses him (Luke 15:20).

When Jesus is invited to eat at Simon the Pharisee’s house, the Teacher rebukes his host for giving him no kiss (Luke 7:45).

When Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian elders, they kiss him (Acts 20:37-38).

Four times Paul exhorts his readers to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26), and Peter says the same (1 Peter 5:14).  There are quite a number of similar instances in the Old Testament as well.

When a detail is reinforced six times, we ought to pay attention.

Clearly a kiss of greeting, of welcome, of affection, is a good thing.  But that’s not what you first thought of when you saw the title, is it?

The most famous kiss in the Bible is the one given by Judas, when betraying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.’  And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’  And he kissed him.” (Matthew 26:48-49)

Jesus knows he will be betrayed, and knows who will betray him.  He says it plainly, and more than once, at the meal we usually call “the last supper”.  But the ways he says it is, “One of you will betray me.”  Which causes all of them to question, “Is it me?”  It is surely Jesus’s intention that they do this self-examination, otherwise he wouldn’t say it this way.

He also predicts that they’ll all run away that night, and that Peter will deny him—both of which prove true.  It might seem reasonable to consider these as betrayals, but it appears Jesus doesn’t view these failures as being in the same category.

We might wonder why such a big deal is made of Judas’s betrayal by kiss.  The kiss is mentioned six times, across three of the four gospel records.  Why mention it at all?  It’s an insignificant detail, isn’t it?  The main fact is that Judas identified Jesus to the mob.  Why does the mechanism matter?

But there really aren’t details that are insignificant, are there?  The accounts we have preserved for us are greatly condensed, so the details that are included must have importance.  And when we find one reinforced six times, we ought to pay attention.

There is, for sure, a bitter misuse of a sign of affection.  Jesus seems to point this out when he asks, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48)

I think there may be more.  Jesus provokes self-reflection for all when he says, “One of you will betray me.”  He commands that his followers reenact this meal, “as often as you do it, in remembrance of me.”  It seems to me that he wants us also to think about the betrayal and ask, “Is it me?”

And because the kiss is emphasized so much as the mechanism of betrayal, I think perhaps our self-examination should include, “How might I be betraying my Lord with a kiss?”  That is, turning something that should reflect affection for him, into something far different.

Judas’s remorse when he saw Jesus would be condemned (Matthew 27:3-5) may indicate that he didn’t realize the depth of his betrayal.  Perhaps he actually thought he was doing Jesus a service, forcing a confrontation.  Might it be me, doing something similar?

“Is it me?”  A pretty heavy question.  As Jesus intends it to be.

Love, Paul


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