A homily preached by Intern Pastor Bob Schaefer
Fir-Conway Lutheran Church
Lent, 2001– Wednesday, February 18, 2001
Text: Luke 22:47-71
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” [Luke 22.47-48]
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” Judas, are you going to betray me with such a sign of love? Few more poignant words have ever been recorded. As the drama of Jesus’ last week unfolds with a terrible beauty, the tenderness and sadness of Jesus at the moment of his betrayal are powerful stuff.
If only Jesus were only betrayed once with a kiss! Even that is too much to bear, but how awful to be betrayed again and again by those who should love you best, and always betrayed with a sign of love–a kiss of death. Jesus is betrayed with a kiss every day that passes, dear friends, and it has been thus through all of history.
Almost as soon as the early church went from being a small, marginalized fellowship to the official religion of the Roman Empire, his supposed followers turned coat to betray him. Persecuting and killing in his name were commonplace, a horrible betrayal of the Christ who healed and saved...and always done with a bend of the knee, a fervent prayer, and a cross lifted high, the tokens of love.
This is an all too common story. The Crusades, missionaries accompanied by conquering soldiers...Jesus has suffered the kisses of many traitors through the ages.
Consider the strange case of Westboro Baptist Church. These friends of Christ have chosen for their official church web site the address: www.godhatesfags.com. In addition to the usual collection of sermons and photos found on most church homepages, you can also find a “gospel memorial” to Matthew Shepard, a young gay man brutally murdered almost three years ago. The “memorial” reminds us: “Matthew Shepard has been in hell for 892 days. Deal with it! All else is trivial and unimportant. All the fag caterwauling, candlelight vigils, court orders, etc., can't buy Matt one drop of water to cool his tongue.” Whatever your belief on homosexuality, it seems clear that the Church of Jesus Christ–a Church that consists of sinners who are healed and forgiven–betrays its very roots to speak in such a way. It turns to Jesus, kisses him piously, and leaves him to a cross.
The fact of the matter is that my kisses–and probably yours, too–have proven false. How familiar is it to find ourselves tempted to something, a sin which we absolutely know better than to commit. Yet, the temptation is so strong (or we are so weak) that we reason like this: Jesus will still love me and forgive me if I give in to this temptation. He came to forgive my sins... he’ll forgive this one, too. The evil deed is done, to the sound of a smack of our lips on Jesus’ cheek. He forgives, yes...but the betrayal is no less bitter for it.
Judas is not the only person in the Bible to have shown Jesus such a loving gesture. We are told that a woman with many sins came to the Lord, and wept so deeply that she bathed his feet in tears. She dried them with her hair, kissing him all the while. She gave herself completely into Jesus’ hands, the best she had and the worst. She laid them both at his feet with a humble kiss. And Jesus loved her and forgave her.
It turns out that the same word in the New Testament that means “betray” can also mean “to commit, to commend, or to give over into someone’s hands”. Judas gave Jesus over to the authorities with a kiss. This anonymous women gave herself to Jesus with a kiss. What kiss does our Lord desire from us tonight? The answer is so very clear.
Help us, Lord Jesus, as we lay at your feet, kissing you in humility and love. Amen.