His Kiss by Greg Albrecht
Friend and Partner Letter from April 2022
While I had many problems with Bible teaching when I was a teenager (particularly how it was interpreted and administered in the church my parents attended), I remember being in favor of one of Paul’s oft-repeated concluding statements in his letters. “Greet one other with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26) sounded like wise advice to me, particularly if the kiss involved an attractive female of my age.
But before my “gospel of kissing girls because the Bible commanded it” could ever pick up much traction, a stick-in-the-mud know-it-all explained that in “Bible times” a kiss was a culturally appropriate welcome, like a handshake or hug today. He explained biblical kisses were much like the kisses that people give in Middle Eastern countries, first on one cheek, then the other.
So, this teacher accurately concluded, a 20th century North American kiss was not the literal equivalent of the first century biblical kiss. I reluctantly agreed with his logic, but it took me many years to realize the church he represented failed to use the same methodology and perspective when it came to biblical proclamations (especially in the Old Covenant) that obviously, given the New Covenant, are not literally necessary or required for Christ-followers today. Like that holy kiss! But I digress…that’s another topic…or is it?!?
At this time of year we often think of two kisses Jesus received:
- a sign of devotion, by Mary, (not the mother of Jesus), as she kissed Jesus’ feet. Luke 7:36-50 calls this Mary a “sinful” woman—a woman whose profession caused her not to be recognized in polite, religious gatherings of that day.
- an ironic sign of betrayal, which Judas intended to identify Jesus to those who would seize, torture and then crucify him. Judas’ kiss was anything but a sign of deep affection or fidelity.
Let’s turn this thought around. Have you ever thought about being kissed by Jesus?
Being kissed by Jesus is a pivotal moment in a story told by one of my favorite authors. If you are a “long-suffering” partner in this ministry (thank you!) you may recall me telling this story in a sermon, a letter (most recently, in fact, in the July 2021 Friends and Partners letter!), article or in one of my books. I love this story and I will not ask you to forgive this repetition, but instead beg you to enjoy it again, and let its rich meaning and symbolism soak into your inner being.
There is no author who will ever match the beauty of the parables of Jesus, but in my mind the closest Christian story teller is the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. In his book, The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky weaves a story about religion encountering Jesus around a religious professional called the Grand Inquisitor. The story is set at the time of the brutal and barbaric Inquisitions in Spain, which started about 400 years before Dostoevsky died (1881). In the story Jesus returns to earth during these Spanish Inquisitions, healing the sick and comforting and providing for the poor.
Dostoevsky obviously chose the setting of the Spanish Inquisition for his fictitious story of Jesus’ coming because the people of Spain were afflicted and oppressed with religion just as much as the Jews were, when Jesus first came.
The major difference was that the religion that afflicted and enslaved the people of Spain called itself by Jesus’ name—pronouncing itself to be Christian. The story of the Grand Inquisitor is a story of an ongoing war waged by institutionalized big business religion against the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the first century Jesus was rejected and crucified by Jewish religious authorities, and Dostoevsky sees him receiving similar hostilities at the hands of “Christian” officials in 16th century Spain.
As Jesus walks through the streets of Seville, Spain, a mother whose child has just died appeals to Jesus to raise her little girl from the dead. At the very moment Jesus resurrects the young girl the Grand Inquisitor, an old man who was the epitome of religious power and authority, sentencing heretics to be burned alive, bringing fear into the lives of one and all, walks by. Seeing this resurrection, the Grand Inquisitor orders his soldiers to throw Jesus into prison.
A little later the Grand Inquisitor visits Jesus in prison and tells Jesus that he once believed in the glorious grace of the gospel, but eventually he came to see and believe that institutionalized religion with its laws, rituals and ceremonies was the only way to control people.
The Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus that religion is now ruling over people, using the name of Jesus, and therefore religion just cannot let Jesus return to this earth. He tells Jesus that his return will only get in the way of the missions and objectives of religion.
In effect, though Dostoevsky does not express it this way, the Grand Inquisitor is convinced if he lets Jesus live then Jesus will put religion out of business. Therefore, the Grand Inquisitor informs Jesus he will have to be burned at the stake as a heretic.
Jesus doesn’t say anything in response—what he does is his response. Jesus, the captive, leans forward and kisses his captor, the Grand Inquisitor, a tyrannical, feared religious authority.
Have you ever thought about being kissed by Jesus?
The prodigal son’s father “ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). As those who tortured and crucified him stood watching him suffer and die, Jesus effectively embraced, hugged, welcomed and kissed them all—he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Of course, not only did Jesus embrace and welcome, with his arms outstretched on his cross, all those who witnessed his crucifixion, he embraced and welcomed and kissed the entire world—past, present and future.
We have been kissed by Jesus. In addition, whether we like it or not, Jesus has kissed all who will receive and welcome His Kiss. He has kissed the Grand Inquisitor. He has kissed people we would never kiss—people we don’t really like—Jesus doesn’t ask our permission before he offers His Kiss. The gospel of Jesus Christ is His Kiss.
We see His Kiss on his cross—we see His Kiss when he rose from his tomb. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are more than historical events—they are the fundamental revelation of who God is! The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundational declaration of the unfailing and never-ending love of Jesus, who goes to his death for us, and returns again, for us… His Kiss.
His Kiss is, to borrow from Faith Hill’s lyrics in her song “This Kiss” and apply them to Jesus’ kiss for us, is centrifugal motion, it’s perpetual bliss, it’s that pivotal moment. With His Kiss in mind—with the pivotal moment of his death and his resurrection as the supreme demonstration of God’s love in mind, allow me to share another story. History tells us that in addition to institutionalized religion that has been at war with Jesus, governments and human political authorities have tried to subjugate and destroy Christ-followers as well.
Nikolai Bukharin was a Bolshevik revolutionary, philosopher and author. After the 1917 Russian Revolution he became a high-ranking politician and editor of the Communist party newspaper Pravda. Communism of course has always attempted to minimize or eradicate Christianity, and Nikolai was part of the attempt to destroy Christianity.
That much, about Nikolai Bukharin, the 1917 Russian Revolution and about Communism in general is historical fact. The story that follows may now be shop-worn urban-legend lacking historical authenticity, but its lesson is true, even if all the details are not accurate.
According to the story, Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address a commanded assembly where he would attack and ridicule the Christian faith. He ranted and raved for an hour, and then, before he concluded he asked if anyone had anything to say in defense of the Christian faith. An old priest raised his hand, walked up to the stage, faced the crowd, and dogmatically and defiantly declared, “Christ is risen.”
The massive assembly, the vast majority of whom had been raised in the Christian faith, recognized this traditional Easter greeting, and they were well aware of the traditional response. They rose to their feet as one, crying out in unison, “He is risen indeed.” They knew they had been kissed by Jesus, God in the flesh, and no one could take away His Kiss from them!
My friends, my sisters and brothers in Christ—we have been kissed and embraced and welcomed by Jesus. We are loved! For that matter, the whole world has been kissed and embraced and welcomed by Jesus. Whether anyone has accepted his love or whether they realize they are the object of his love is immaterial—they have been kissed—HIS KISS. That’s the good news of the gospel. He is risen!!
In the precious name of Jesus,