Imagine an Easter story where Judas is the hero.
Did that get your attention? It sure got mine the first time I read about it.
It’s the version chronicled in the book, Peace Child, by Don Richardson. In 1962 he and his wife Carol risked their lives to go and live with the Sawi people of Irian Jaya on the island of New Guinea. To these headhunting cannibals, heroes were the men who befriended their unsuspecting victims in elaborate ploys of camaraderie before turning on them.
Try and tell this tribe the Easter story and suddenly you have unwittingly raised Judas to hero status; his kiss an intimate act of brilliant betrayal.
Where deception is celebrated and trust impossible, there can be no peace.
Unless . . .
Out of the crowd a young man comes running. Feet pounding, chest heaving, his six-month-old-son clutched in his arms. And behind him the wails of a new mother rise into the sky, startling birds and alerting the family that the unthinkable has happened. A parent has offered his son in a last desperate bid for peace. The only kind of peace treaty respected by the warring tribes: a living child.
A life for a life, a child for a child, from one tribe to another. And as long as the children live safe in the arms of their enemies, a lasting peace is possible.
Because to harm a peace child is to harm your own child. It is the one unthinkable act of betrayal.
And suddenly in my mind’s eye I can see the Father-God diving toward earth, only Son clutched in His arms, desperately handing him over into the fragile flesh of humanity and entrusting him to the people He ached to give a lasting peace.
Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, God-with-Us.
And Judas betrayed him with a kiss. A kiss.
If anyone even breathed on one of my children with malicious intent I believe I would be capable of doing terrifying things in return. If they harmed them under cover of a kiss, the world might stand still.
But in a garden 2,000 years ago, our Peace Child and His Father kept walking inexorably forward. They followed through on every detail of the contract for peace. And when we did the unthinkable, when we killed the cornerstone of the contract, His Father raised Him up again so He could declare all the terms fulfilled.
In Sawi tradition, the only hope for mercy when faced with certain death was to “plead the Peace Child.” And although an ocean of time, distance and culture might separate us, I stand alongside the Sawis in their shared, awed discovery that there might be hope for a permanent peace beyond the lifespan of our children. So that we might stand around a table of bread and wine and plead the once-and-for-all Peace Child together.