Remember Me, (I kissed him)
A kiss is just a kiss…..but a kiss can mean so many different things, depending on the people involved and the context. In these two stories from Scripture, two kisses show us Jesus at his most vulnerable and most human. I found it interesting to put Judas and the nameless woman side by side, and let them tell their stories. This was offered on Palm Sunday but could be shared any time during Lent. It calls for three readers– a man, a woman, and the narrator.
Remember Me, (I kissed him)
Mark 14:3-9 & Mark 14:3-10, 43-46
Woman: No one knows my name.
Judas: Everyone knows my name.
Woman: I entered the house where Jesus was eating with Simon the leper. It was a men-only dinner, according to the custom, but I walked right, in as if I belonged there.
Judas: I was part of the group, in Jesus’ inner circle. Wherever he went, the rest of us were right behind, to support him, to protect him. I belonged there.
Woman: It was almost the end. As Jesus’ popularity grew, crowds followed him, and the authorities feared him.
Judas: It was almost the end. He was provoking the rulers and revealing how corrupt they really were. I was frustrated by his seeming passivity in letting events unfold. I wanted him to take charge of the situation, to show everyone once and for all, that he was in charge.
Woman: I wanted to show him how much the ordinary people loved him. He was like a king to us. And so I anointed him. I got the costliest alabaster jar, filled with spikenard—an aromatic oil. I boldly entered the room where they lay reclining over their meal, and I broke the neck of the jar and poured it on his head. The room filled with fragrance. I massaged the oil into his hair, and the back of his neck. His muscles were tense, but I could feel them relax and he sighed with pleasure. The others looked at me with disdain.
Judas: First of all, a woman did not belong here. This gathering was for men. Only someone with a compromised reputation would be wandering around the city by herself at that time of day. Second, it was shocking how much that alabaster jar, and the ointment inside must have cost. I would estimate its value as equal to one man’s yearly salary. What a waste!
Narrator: Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor?”
Woman: “What a waste!” they said. I was silent. To this day no one knows why I came. Was I anointing him king, as had been done at the coronations of kings Saul and David? Or was I anointing him for burial, a full two days before his death? You will never know, because my story has disappeared, all but these few lines of it. No one even knows my name. But Jesus knew me.
Narrator: Jesus, aware of their conversation, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body, she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Woman: Remember me, for I loved him, and did the most extravagant thing I could think of, to show my love. Jesus understood what I was doing.
Judas: Remember me, for I loved him, and did the boldest thing I could think of, to show my love. And I think he understood why I did what I had to do
Woman: I broke the jar over his head, and let the fragrant ointment flow down. I wept as I worked the ointment through his hair. And before I left, I kissed him.
Judas: I was trying to force him to take control of the situation. I thought if they came to arrest him, he would perform some miracle so powerful, they would have no choice, but to acknowledge him as king and high priest all rolled into one. I believed in him that much!
Woman: I am forgotten, lost to history.
Judas: I am remembered by everyone—and not for orchestrating Jesus’ final triumph, but for bringing about his final betrayal.
Narrator: Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Judas: Now thirty pieces of silver is not much money. You could buy a slave with that. But I didn’t do it for the money. Maybe I did it to force Jesus’ hand. Maybe I did it out of frustration, because it seemed like he was not going to fulfill all the desperate hopes he had raised in us. Maybe I did it because it had to happen. He had to die in order for the rest of the story to unfold. Who knows why we do the things we do sometimes? I’m not sure I can tell you what my motives were. But I can say this: I would give anything to go back and undo what I did.
Woman: I kissed him, and his friends frowned at me. But I have no regrets.
Judas: I kissed him, and the authorities came forward, and put chains on him and led him away.
Narrator: While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve arrived. With him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him. At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
Judas: Later, I tried to undo it. I went back to the temple and told them I had made a huge mistake, and could they please take back the thirty pieces of silver and just let him go. But they laughed at me, and refused to take the money. And then I entered a pit of darkness so deep I could find no way out. I loved him and I betrayed him. I tried to make things happen, and everything turned out all wrong. I wanted to be remembered as a hero. And I am vilified forever, as the betrayer of God’s own son.
Woman: I “wasted” a beautiful alabaster jar, worth a year’s wages for a man.
Judas: I “wasted” two lives—my own and that of my teacher and master.
Woman: When he died, there was nothing left for me to do. I melted away into a vast group of unnamed disciples. I followed his teachings all my life, and I did not care if no one knew my name, or recognized the act of love I had performed for him.
Judas: When he died there was nothing left for me to do. I suppose I could have asked God for forgiveness, but I did not have the strength to return, after what I had done. I took my own life. It seemed only fair, after I had wasted his—for thirty pieces of silver, the value of a common slave. Jesus died for that! My life was over the day I betrayed him. The suicide only made it final.
Narrator: When Judas, the betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It’s not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners…
Woman: Of course the story did not end with us.
Judas: Of course the story did not end with us. My betrayal was not the end of Jesus’ power and glory, but the prologue to a new script. The disciples came back, after running away. Jesus rose again, although I was not there to see it. And the church was born, gathered around his shining presence.
Woman: The church was born, and into it disappeared thousands of men and women like me. You don’t know our names, but our faithfulness has built the foundation upon which you stand.
Judas: Even our betrayals, small and large, have been turned to good by God’s amazing love.
Woman: So remember me, and know that sometimes the most extravagant, seemingly wasteful acts, can give meaning to your whole life.
Judas: So remember me, and know how easily you can throw away everything, for a reward that turns to dust in your pocket.
Woman: What is the worth of a man’s life? Can it be offset by a year’s wages? The cost of a slave? How do you judge a life well used or wasted? You can measure your lives, by what you gain, or by what you give. You can tally up your regrets and fall into despair, or you can fall at the feet of the Savior and be healed by his endless mercy. You can strive to be remembered, or you can lose yourself in the stream of anonymous believers and followers.
Judas: I kissed him.
Woman: I kissed him.
Both: Remember me. Amen.
© Rev. Martha B. Peck, 2015