The Taking of Christ was painted by Caravaggio in1602, when he was at the height of his fame. Breaking with the past, he reduced the space around the figures and avoid any setting. We are directed to the action perpetrated by Judas and the Temple guards on an overwhelmed Jesus, who offers no resistance to his destiny. The fleeing disciple in disarray on the left is St John.
Mark 14 43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.
Prov 3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them round your neck.
The kiss of Judas! Long the theme of poetry and art! Long the arch symbol of treachery! Our fascination is not with the kiss. We are fascinated as to how Judas felt about what he did.
On the night of Christ’s betrayal, Judas arrived in Gethsemane and kissed the Saviour. This was nothing that the other disciples would have thought unusual. Kissing was the way people in ancient times greeted each other. But what the kiss said was that the person being kissed and the person doing the kissing were great friends. It was a loving gesture, an expression of warmth and familiarity.
The Judas kiss is a strong issue of duplicity that asks us to offer up our own definition of loyalty. Sometimes we may actually give the impression that we don’t know Jesus at all. Or we may be caught at some activity which others see. Then they wonder why our profession of faith and the living out of our faith dwell so far apart from each other. The only way to be of much use to God is to be sure that the image we project and the one we live out are the same. In our Gethsemanes we ought to be found as lovers of Christ.
Lord, help me to learn from Judas’ treachery. Help me take this bitter Easter moment deep into my heart, immunising my loyalties from ever being able to declare my love while defying your right to rule over me. Keep me honest in the ministry I offer you.