This is a difficult passage to process. It brings together so many opposing images and emotions - a passage of love versus hate, good versus evil. And as it concludes in verse fifty-six with the mob leading Jesus off and the disciples deserting Him, it exudes a sense of helplessness. It might seem that hate and evil win.
Judas is identified as part of the circle closest to Jesus. He is “one of the twelve” but this image changes to one of capitulation to the religious leaders and a mob coming to hunt Jesus down with swords and clubs. Then there is the kiss – a symbol of affection and greeting. But here the kiss holds no love - only treachery and deceit, a way to identify the betrayed Lord.
Jesus’ response is no less full of contradictions. “Friend” is how He addresses Judas. It seems as if Jesus is confronting the evil of betrayal with the persistence of his love for Judas. This love is more than the loving power of friendship, it is the sacrificial kind of love that turns the other cheek and keeps on loving. “Do what you must” He tells Judas. There is more at stake here than Judas knows. Perhaps Judas thinks that Jesus has deviated too far from what is acceptable to the God of his paradigm. By “friend” is Jesus saying, “This is a bad choice for you but… God’s plan to save even the likes of you will be initiated? In spite of appearances God’s plan is moving forward.”
The healing of the cut off ear seems to reiterate the fact that God’s power of love and healing, extends to all, even the betrayers and senseless mob, and He is still in control. Betrayal and violence cannot derail God’s intention to bring salvation to all the world. Love, mercy and justice will prevail. God’s plan will go forward. Jesus is arrested and led away as the disciples desert Him but this is not a helpless situation. All this has taken place so that the Scriptures will be fulfilled. God will redeem this chaos.
Jesus, Saviour, forgive our betrayals when we participate in acts, words, and thoughts, which do not reflect your love, mercy, and justice. Enter again into the chaos of our world with your redemption. Amen.
Prince Albert, SK