Mark 14:44

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them. “The man whom I kiss,” he had said, “will be the one; arrest him and take him away safely.”

betrayal beyond
a spur of the moment
requires exquisite finesse
to exact the greatest irony

where some have come
to touch a distant hem
this one intends a kiss
to mark a light year’s distance

where one released from chains
another orchestrates captivity
all merciful acts are reduced
to their most hurtful reversal

this ancient formula
turns fertile ground
to a salted desert
today and tomorrow

to rid us of tomorrow
every bit of the past
must be constrained
to its least meaning

Earlier, both the Pharisees (8:11) and the disciples (13:4)  asked about a sign to prove Jesus’ bona fides and identify the fall of the Temple walls which would be the end of life. The response was that there was to be no sign and so there was no one to give one.

Just like bills called delightful things like “Blue Skies” which turns out to permit more pollution we have a surprising sign of a kiss to indicate a treasonous act. Such a Judas kiss is made much of in mob or mafia movies, though there it is to identify a betrayer rather than be given by one.

Mann596 notes this kiss “of mutual respect” as a “calculated insult”. He writes, “According to contemporary usage, no disciple was permitted to greet his teacher first, since this would have implied equality.”

Perversely, Judas is the active watcher that Jesus was looking for in the Twelve. While others slept, he organized.

Myers189 reminds us:

The arrest scene reeks of the overkill characteristic of covert state operations against civilian dissidents. The coded signal, the surprise ambush in the dead of night, the heavily armed escort, and the instructions for utmost security measures imply that the authorities expected armed resistance.

“Dreams of a new social order are once again shattered by the brute force of … power.” [Myers190] Readers will need to wrestle with their own unanswerable prayers—will they stand with mercy or run?

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