(Photo courtesy of Christian Week)
(Christian Week – April 2015)
MUKONO, UGANDA ✦ It’s easier to kiss a lamb than a lion, I suppose, even though I’ve personally never tried to kiss either.
Even in Africa all these years, I’ve never been that close to a lion. And the closest lamb I’ve seen is one moved recently from a living room wall to the bedroom, an innocent little lamb held by a Yemeni shepherd girl in a striking photo given to me by my wife shortly after we met.
Judas, on the other hand, giver of history’s best-known kiss, kissed what he thought was a lamb while crossing his fingers that it, or, more accurately that, “He,” might still turn into a lion.
It’s easy to be hard on Judas for this. He’s had a bad rap for a long time.
But Judas wasn’t chosen into Jesus’ preaching and healing possé, as treasurer no less, because he was some fool. If he didn’t have the potential as the rest of the 12, most who were later martyred for turning the world upside-down (Peter with the ignoble honour of crucifixion upside-down) then Jesus wouldn’t have bothered.
But Jesus did bother with Judas. He called him friend and confidant and showed him the secrets of the world.
The problem, if we believe one long-held speculation, is that Judas was terribly disappointed. He expected Jesus to lead a revolution more like Zeus would, thunderbolt in hand. Plenty of others wanted the same, the political overthrow of Rome.
But time dragged and the sorry truth eventually emerged. Judas would see no kingly crowning of this Messiah, no ministerial post in the new messianic government, no BMW, no fine-dining, no glory, no, not in this sense.
So after that dark kiss in the garden, Judas finally let go of everything, including the blood money, those silver coins left rolling on the floor, and ran off to hang himself. Had he stuck around another day, he’d have seen worse, how this Jesus who’d healed the sick and raised the dead and had a freakish power over all nature, really, how this God-Man would also, on a cross, hang dead.
This is the Judas who’s easy to write off, easy to turn our backs on. But don’t we all prefer our messiahs to show their power when we’re in a jam? Then when they don’t, isn’t anyone disappointed? Doesn’t anyone want justice? And other things?
I do. Before breakfast if possible.
You have to wonder about this beaten, old world and all the injustices piled over the centuries – here in Africa, there where you are, anywhere, really.
You have to wonder about where Judas’ story might have gone if he’d fought his fight while a little less full of his own expectations and a little more open to a God of other ways. You have to wonder, too, where any of our stories might go if we were a little less like Judas.
They call it good news for a reason, though. One is that God is not intimidated by any cruel kiss, or by arrogance or anything else. He’s not even beyond going to hell and back.
And this brought a different revolution, one of the human heart.
Because God loved the world. You might even say God kissed the world.
Yes, at Easter God kissed the world back with a wild and ferocious kiss, so unafraid that he even gave his Son, his precious Son, to take away the sins of Judas. And to take away the sins of us who aren’t really much different.