Section from Kiss of Judas (1304–06), fresco by Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy
Mark 14:43-46 Immediately, while Jesus 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.
There’s something about the space between the lips of Judas and Jesus. A depiction of pause, hesitancy. It’s a masterful move by Giotto, famous for being the forerunner in Italian Renaissance painting and primary player in the shift from iconic Byzantine-style art to the life-like work of the Renaissance. For Judas to cross this threshold of space ignites his sin, the act of betrayal, the moment Jesus’ murder is released into play. It is the choice which indicates to Jesus’ enemies, here he is, he’s the one.
This space… this pause… this hesitancy… makes me think of my own moments before I make a move I know will betray Jesus. An act I know will turn against my God and grieve the one who I, like Judas, have been faithfully following all this time. And there is Jesus, staring me in the face with those penetrating eyes. My beacon of truth, of life, of loving and just choices. And there I am, staring back and still choosing to cross that threshold, to initiate that kiss–that act of sin, whatever it may be–against my best interests and better judgment.
Let us remember this image in the midst of our choices. Those times we come face to face with the threshold of sin, the moment before we demand unrealistic expectations of our loved one, or fail to act with compassion toward our neighbor in need, or withhold love or grace from ourselves, or ____, you name it! Let us take pause. Let us remember who we are facing, Jesus. Let us remember his eyes, those eyes which look deep into our soul and see and know we are better than our sin. Those eyes which see our best self and yearn for it, rather than sin, to shine forth. Those eyes which look on us with pure love, compassion and grace and invite us to continually turn from ways of sin to the life-giving ways of him.
Prayer: God of mercy, we thank you. We thank you that you see us and you know us. You know our deliberate and passive sins. You know our tendencies to act in ways which cause pain and harm to others and ourselves, even when we know better. You also continue to extend grace to us, giving us chances to change our ways the next time we face sin. Thank you for your faithfulness and provision to continue to lead us from choices which breed death back to choices which bring life. Help us remember to take pause at the threshold of our choices toward sin and instead choose your ways of love, compassion, and grace. Amen.
Kiss of Judas (1304–06), fresco by Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy
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