Betrayal with Kisses

A Lenten personal reflection

Judas, accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, had told them, “The one I will kiss is the man. Arrest him.” Approaching Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him (Matthew 26.47-49; my revision)

In my continuing Lenten self-examination, I remember when I betrayed someone near and dear to me.

In some morbidly rewarding way, reflecting on Jesus’ experience, I’d prefer to contemplate times when I was betrayed. Though excruciatingly painful those moments, short of my vulnerability, thus, having had a hand in allowing myself to be hurt, I did nothing wrong.

But that is for another day. Today, it is Judas who beckons me to recall my acts of betrayal.

When, ending a relationship, I said, in so many words, largely to avoid honest disclosure or not being sure what I needed to say or how to say it, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

When I, in my anxiety, reticent to speak my truth for fear of how I’d be viewed, silently walked away.

When I – like Peter, whose earlier self-confidence (“Jesus, I’ll never desert you!”[1]) withered in the face of public pressure to claim his allegiance and, more, his inner cry for self-preservation, leading him to declare, “I do not know that man!”[2] – disavowed knowing another, particularly in a time of crisis.

As Judas calls to me, I cannot stand at a distance pointing a scornful finger at him. Rather in humility, I confess my sin.

In this admission, I recognize anew that when I betray you, first and finally, I betray myself – my psyche (soul), my esse (being).

In this revelation, I behold a light that leads me through the darkened tunnel of my despair, that inner place where even in the shadows I see clearly those parts of me I despise, toward a new place to stand of being true to you and, therefore, true to me.

This is far better than the denouement of Judas’ saga, who, seeing that an innocent Jesus was condemned to death, repented of his betrayal and, in his self-loathing, hanged himself.[3] (And I speak as one who has known moments of deepest, self-pitying sorrow when the first thing I contemplated, had I done it, would have my last act on this earth.)

Thank you, Judas, for compelling me to behold myself most clearly.

Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to believe that God, a granter of second-chances, accepts me as I am without one plea and bids that I become fully, faithfully, freely who I already am, which is another way of saying, to get up and to try again.

© 2023 PRA

Illustration: The Kiss of Judas (1437-1446), Fra Angelico (1395-1455)

[1] Matthew 26.33

[2] Matthew 26.72

[3] Matthew 27.1-5

3 thoughts on “Betrayal with Kisses

  1. Paul, it is refreshing and relieving for me to read your post accepting and affirming your kinship with Judas. I must admit he is a figure I have always had trouble simply dismissing and condemning, as much as the Christian world seems satisfied to do just that. I too feel joined with Judas in ways I don’t understand, except that by virtue of being human I guess we all have the capability of betrayal and have, without any doubt, acted upon it in our own relationships. Since I was a teenager I intended to write a play about Judas, but perhaps mostly because I found it too hard to examine my own faithless actions and directions, I have never done it.

    Thank you for your candid examination and confession. I’m very glad to have my thoughts brought back to Judas and my kinship with him during this Holy Week.




  2. Dear Paul and Karen, Thankful to be on this Holy Week journey with the two of you!! I think we’ve all felt some sort of connection to Judas. One of the things I always wanted to know was how long did Judas feel remorse before killing himself????? For all the people who have killed others or set people up for money I have always wondered if they felt any guilt at all. No amount of money is worth betraying anyone, especially if it leads to a death. Paul I appreciate your point so much that when we betray others we also betray ourselves. I think we all feel remorse for how some of our relationships ended, that we wish we could have a do-over. So I love this dialogue!! Karen I would have loved to have read your play about Judas!! WOW! Maybe one day you’ll still write it!!

    Love you both!!


  3. I’m with you, Loretta, in desiring that you, Karen, write your play about Judas. I would love (in the deepest sense of having my soul stirred with heightened devotion to a loving, forgiving God) to read and reflect on your probing the psyche and intentions of our brother, Judas Iscariot.

    Many years ago (in the 1980s), I wrote a play, “A 20th Century Trial of Jesus of Nazareth,” which allowed me the permission (or, rather, I engaged the permission) to employ my imagination to probe the hearts and minds of those involved in Jesus’ arrest, trial, conviction, and death. Incidentally (or, perhaps, not so incidentally) the Jesus character, when on the stand under examination and cross examination, per the scriptural warrant, said nothing, offering no word in defense.

    As for my brother Judas Iscariot, one of my deepening awarenesses is that I have little time or interest in considering, much less condemning the behaviors of others. (O, yes, I still flinch when my fellow human beings do what I view to be outrageous acts of disdain for the dignity of others.) Rather, more and more, I, in a self-reflective mode, intensely (at times, painfully) examine my own thought and feelings, intentions and actions. To some degree, at times, I think, feel that I am too hard on myself or, even worse, that I am employing entirely too much energy in so unvaryingly self-interested (self-centered?) an endeavor. On an immediate “other hand,” given my sense of myself (aye, my self) with thoughts and feelings I dare not allow to behold (or to be beheld in) the light of day for fear of public rebuke, I have come to prefer harsher self-inquiry, especially in respect to the person I’d like to be(come).

    Okay, that’s enough stream of consciousness from me!

    Love you two, each and both, to the moon and into the cosmos (for anyone can go — as many have gone — to the moon and back!)!


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