2: Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested

The second Station of the Cross is the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.  The New Revised Standard Version has this text:

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.

And from The Message:

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a signal with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.” He went straight to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The others then grabbed him and roughed him up.

This is one of the saddest moments in the gospel story, when one of Jesus’ closest friends literally sells Jesus out to the authorities for cash.  Many scholars and writers and artists have speculated on what motivated Judas to do this.  Was he trying to help Jesus, in some twisted way?  Perhaps trying to scare Jesus into lying low and not rocking the boat for a while?  Was Judas caught up in the groupthink of the lawyers and scribes?  Or was he greedy for silver?  We don’t know, and in this world, we really can’t know.

It is easy to condemn Judas, especially because we know the rest of the story.  It is even easier when we know that he killed himself after this betrayal: see, he knew that what he did was wrong!  He was guilty! But the truth that we don’t want to confront is that each one of us has been in the place of Jesus before, betrayed by a friend, and each one of us has been Judas.  Whenever we think, I have to tell her; it’s for her own good! we are running the risk of being Judas to our friends and loved ones.  Of course, the problem is, sometimes it is for her own good.  So how do we know when we are Jesus and when we are Judas?

The answer comes down to love.  Are we truly acting out of love?  Or are we acting out of power — I know something you don’t know! — or pride or a desire to be included?  We have been commanded by Jesus to love everyone, including our enemies.  Love isn’t a sweet feeling, all cupids and hearts.  And love isn’t always pretty and nice.  Love is a decision, made with intention, and love always wishes the very best for others.  Judas may have thought he was acting out of love, but this was a twisted kind of love that selfishly needs to keep the other close, rather than allowing the other to be who he or she needs to be.  If Judas truly were acting out of love rather than from selfishness, then Judas would have let Jesus follow his heart.  Yes, Judas would grieve.  Yes, Judas might be angry or sad.  But love does not force others to our will.

To love a butterfly, you cannot imprison it within your hands.  Then, its very nature — the essence of butterfly — is denied by this prison.  No, to love a butterfly, we must leave it free to flit and fly and dart through the sky.  And to love Jesus, we must let him follow this Way of the Cross.  We can be sad, and we can be angry.  But to stop Jesus is to deny his very nature.


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