In case you’ve missed the aisles and aisles of candy, baskets, and eggs in all your local grocery stores, this is the Wednesday before Easter. Since our assistant pastor preached on this holy week in his sermon on Sunday, I have found myself digging deeper, intrigued by what events occurred during Jesus’ last week before His death and resurrection.
I may be a little behind, but I didn’t know that today is called Spy Wednesday or Holy Wednesday, depending on who you ask. How can this day have two such different names? I researched further. On the Wednesday before Easter, two well-recorded events took place. Two people were presented with the opportunity to show their loyalty to Jesus, and two different scenarios occurred.
The first person confronted with the choice to follow Jesus was a woman – most likely Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. As Jesus sits down with his followers in the house of Simon the leper, this woman steps forward and, opening a flask of alabaster oil, pours it on her Master. Of course, the onlookers, including the disciples, are appalled at her wastefulness. They can’t see her act as a sign of overwhelming devotion. They see a woman using money that could have helped many but, instead, uses it on One. But Jesus sees her. He knows her heart. And He rebukes those in their midst.
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to Me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me. 12 In pouring this ointment on My body, she has done it to prepare Me for burial.13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” – Matt. 26:10-13.
There was a commercial going around on social media awhile ago that showed the “ripple effects of kindness.” This video insinuated that just watching someone be kind would give a person the desire to be kind to the next person, and so forth. Going on that theory, then, you would think that the people gathered with Jesus that day would be humbled by this woman’s sacrifice and devotion and desire to show their loyalty as well. But that is not what is recorded. And for at least one person, this event actually was the last straw in turning him away from Christ. In the very next verse, we read:
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver Him over to you?” And they paid Him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment He sought an opportunity to betray Him – Matt. 26:14-16.
Two people who knew Jesus. Two people who sat under His teachings. Two people who had the opportunity to love Him and follow Him. Yet, two different outcomes.
It seems to me that today, Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday, should be a day when we search our own hearts. We all have the same choice. We are all presented with Jesus, to love Him and follow Him or to turn our backs on Him and betray Him. We have a choice to make.
What were the outcomes for those two people? One is still known today for her devotion to Christ. We still speak of the woman who used all of her money to buy an alabaster flask for Jesus. We use her as an example on how we should treat Jesus. We see her loving act and desire to be like her.
And what of Judas Iscariot, the spy in Jesus’ camp?
Then when Judas, His betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me” – Matt. 27:3-10.
Judas is now known as Jesus’ “betrayer.” He died with no friends or family around Him. Even the men he gave up everything for had very little reaction to his death. He sacrificed everything for thirty pieces of silver. And in the end, he regretted his choice.
I know that Easter has become just another fun tradition for many. The Easter Bunny has stolen the show. No one wants to think about sin, sacrifice, betrayal, and death on a week filled with candy and Easter egg hunts.
But I think we need to take back Easter. Today should be a day when you somberly look at your own heart and ask yourself which one are you – a loyal follower of Jesus or a spy and betrayer. This is the day that we can look back on and see as the turning point for Jesus to be crucified for our sins. In the days before that Wednesday, Jesus had been performing miracles, casting out demons, and proclaiming the Gospel – just as He had been doing for quite some time. He had even experienced a triumphant entry into Jerusalem with the Jewish people proclaiming, “Hosanna!”
How quickly things can change. How soon the crowd forgets who Jesus is! For just thirty pieces of silver, humanity was willing to turn their backs on Christ. But to follow Jesus cost all that one woman had, and she gained everything in return.
What’s your price? Will you turn your back on Jesus? Or will you give all you have to follow Him?