This morning the task was to discuss the story of Judas betraying Jesus with two separate groups of high school students.
We read John’s version, where the soldiers, police and Pharisees went after Jesus with lanterns, torches and weapons. Later, Simon Peter took out a sword and, before Jesus could tell him to put it away, he cut the ear off a slave named Malchus.
I held a tamer version of this story in my mind. When I pictured the betrayal moment, the sun was out, birds were chirping, and Jesus was praying quietly. Maybe the disciples were lounging on a blanket around a basket of food. When the authorities came, knowing what was to come, Jesus moved peacefully into their custody after an intimate kiss from his friend identified him. The arrest, in my mind, held a similar image to one I’ve seen on the news of rich white men being taken under custody for a white collar crime. Jesus is prepared and does not make a fuss for the cameras.
The torch- and weapon-bearing mob adds a darkness, a layer that makes us nauseous. The students likened the scene to Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, or Phantom of the Opera where a disgruntled group becomes certain that a misunderstood beast/man needs to die for our safety. A witch hunt. Or the horrendously violent moments of lynchings or public shaming overpopulating our past.