Wednesday. The calm before the storm.
With the previous three days filled with drama – Jesus’ triumphal entry, the temple cleansing and controversies – now Wednesday comes in darkness and betrayal.
The Church has often called Wednesday of Holy Week “Spy Wednesday,” as the dark plot against Jesus moves along, and not just by enemies on the outside, but now with a traitor on the inside. On this day, every key part comes together in the plot for the greatest sin of all history: the murder of the Son of God.
“Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.” (Mark 14:10)
At this point in Mark 14, we shift our attention from the chief priests and their bloodlust to a house in Bethany. Simon the leper was hosting a meal. Jesus, the disciples, and some others were reclining around the dinner table. Jesus was approached by a woman – we learn from John 12:3 that it was Mary. She took “very expensive ointment” and anointed Jesus. Many see this as a waste and object to it – John 12:4 says it was Judas objecting – “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” But Jesus doesn’t share Judas’s feelings. He finds this extravagance to be in its rightful place. Because for Mary, Jesus is worth every penny and then some. The Anointed Himself says what she did was “a beautiful thing.” (Mark 14:6)
Maybe Judas was seething from the shame he had received back at Simon’s house, maybe his love of money had darkened his thinking so much that he couldn’t get over the waste he had just seen. So, Judas continues on to the Holy City, and meets with the chief priests.
“When they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray Him.” (Mark 14:11)
Judas has promised to betray his Master, the Son of God, King of Kings. For thirty pieces of silver.
The story of Mark 14 revolves around two characters— the woman and Judas—and their opposing reactions to Jesus. But there is a third character, an antagonist both sinister and stealthy. Money.
And yet, the irony of Mark 14 is that Judas could see the value of the ointment running down Jesus’ head. But he couldn’t see the value of Jesus.
Spy Wednesday is a tragic reminder of 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”
But Spy Wednesday is also full of hope, because it shows us that the beauty of Jesus can break the spell of financial gain. See not only the value of the ointment, but love and choose first He who was anointed. For our Lord Himself said, this is “a beautiful thing.”
- Joel French