Thursday, April 1, 2010

Judas Kiss of a Friend?

Kiss of Judas * Giotto di Bondone

Image by Carla216 via Flickr

His betrayer had given them a sign: "The One I kiss, He's the One; arrest Him!" So he went right up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed Him. "Friend," Jesus asked him, "why have you come?" Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him.
Matthew 26:48-50 (HCSB)

In looking at the friends of Christ I cam across a very peculiar verse in which Jesus calls Judas a friend.  The timing of this statement is even more peculiar as it is the moment of Judas' betrayal of Jesus into the hands of the Pharisees.

I looked up the Greek in this case and the issue seems to be resolved in that once again English is a poor description of the Greek.  There are two Greek words that are both translated to friend in English.  The first one, philos, is the most common and fits with our usual meaning of the word friend, kindness, and affection (see Luke 14:12; Luke 15:6; John 11:11; John 15:14).  The second one, hetairos, which carries a slightly different meaning.  Here (Scroll down to hetairos) is a good section from a book that helps to draw out the difference.  It seems that hetairos is a companion and the nature of the relationship is derived from the context.  In other words you can have a companion that is a dear friend (philos hetairos), a companion that is joined together with you in a group or purpose (hetairos), a companion can be someone that you come together with (invite for dinner for example),  a companion can also be a person of bad reputation, a companion can be with a person that does not have your best interests at heart.  It is this generic hetarios that Jesus calls Judas.

It seems to me that this is more a verbal barb than a term of endearment in this case.  What makes this word even more interesting is that it is only used two other times (Matthew 20:13; 22:12).  In Matthew 20:1-16 is the parable of the vineyard owner.  In Matthew 22:1-14 it is the parable of the wedding banquet. 

In this the vineyard owner hires five different groups of laborers through out the day so that the first group hired works all day and the last group hired only one hour.  The first group negotiated a contract for a days pay.  At the end of the day the vineyard owner went to settle accounts.  He started with those that worked only an hour and ended with the group that worked all day.  He paid them all a days pay.  The ones that worked all day believed they were being cheated even though they were paid the amount that they agree to work for.  The vineyard owner calls the complainers friend (hetrairos).  We see this happen in church at times (sad to say) when we see God blessing someone else and feel that some how we have been cheated.  We should praise God for his generousness whether we are the recipient of that blessing or other are ones to receive.   Needless to say the complainers were not friends in the fondness or affection sense.

In the wedding banquet the King plans a celebration for his son.  He sends out an invitation; however the people are too busy to attend.  Another group kills the messengers and the king in turn destroys their cities.  He says that they are unworthy of coming to the banquet (either by neglect or by outright hostility) and so he send the invitation to anyone willing to come to the banquet.  Now this banquet was a very special affair and required the appropriate attire.   This presents a problem for those that are in the "general public" in that they do not have the appropriate attire.  The good news is that a appropriate suit was provided.  This friend (hetrairos) refused the offer and attended the banquet in his own clothes.  The application of this is that the garment is the righteousness of Christ/God (see Zechariah 3:4).  When this man showed up in his own street clothes he was saying that his righteousness was sufficient to be a worthy guest.  God says otherwise.  It is in this vein that Jesus calls Judas friend.

What can we take away from this.  Well Jesus companioned with people, by treating them with dignity, respect, and supplying their needs.  He even served Judas (see John 13:2, 3, 4).  In other words Jesus did not distinguish in behavior from a dear companion or a companion about to betray him.  However, he did have a difference in His heart.  Judas was not a dear friend, but rather a companion.  Jesus had guarded himself by putting Judas at an emotional distance.  Now it is fair to point out the Jesus was perfect and we are not.  But I truly believe that the events leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord are some of the most revealing of his humanity.  What is more if we get a glimpse of Jesus perfect in humanity then we get a glimpse for our own humanity as God intends for us.  If Jesus handled it in this manner then far be it from me (a follower of Christ) to suggest that he or I should handle it differently. 

May I have within me the Spirit of the Living God in such fullness that if I face a similar situation that His Spirit would guard my heart in the face of betrayal even betrayal of a dear friend.  May I be clothed in the righteousness of Christ so as to act in a saintly manner and perform works of goodness without regard to others status of friend or enemy.  It is a high calling; in my own strength I cannot, but with God all things are possible. 

Blessings to you!

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