What Are You Doing, Friend?

by Catherine McNiel on September 19, 2023

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”  Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.
                                                                    —Matthew 26:47-50a

 Today’s passage is hard to read. We all know, at some level, that death and suffering are unavoidable. Still, we try so hard to avoid them. But to have one of your closest friends cause your suffering and death? Not only cause, but betray you to your enemies?

 It’s hard to wrap our minds around the grief and betrayal in these short sentences.

 There are a few things of note in Judas’ greeting of Jesus. It is the custom in many cultures for friends to greet each other with a kiss—but the Greek word here indicates not a polite gesture but an elaborate show. This is the sort of demonstrative affection the father gave the prodigal son when he returned. Furthermore, Jesus had expressed concern with the term Rabbi, and nowhere else in Matthew do any of the disciples refer to Jesus this way.

 With this in mind, we can imagine Judas’ kiss quite differently. Both his gesture and word choice drip contempt, disrespect, and mockery (not to mention the large armed crowd accompanying him).

 How would you respond to such exaggerated mockery from someone so close to your heart? Jesus—who has and will continue to teach us how to love even our enemies—responds with gentleness.

 “Friend” Jesus calls him. Even now. Not merely after the betrayal, but in the midst of it. The words Jesus uses are difficult to translate, and many versions depict them as a question: What are you doing here, friend?

 Oh Jesus, Son of God. What a question.

 Questions for reflection and discussion: What do you see in Judas’ greeting, and in Jesus’ response? How do you respond to those seeking to harm you? Why is it good news that Jesus is gentle even with His unrepentant enemies? How does this change our view of God, or the way we represent God to the world?

 Church Bible Reading Plan: 2 Samuel 15; 2 Corinthians 8

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