- HOLY WEDNESDAY / SPY WEDNESDAY
The previous few days have been packed with drama – Sunday’s triumphal entry, Monday’s temple cleansing, and Tuesday’s teaching. Now on Spy Wednesday evil is lurking in the shadows. Because of Judas Iscariot’s decision to betray Jesus, Holy Wednesday is sometimes called “Spy Wednesday”. The word spy, as used in the term, means to “ambush” or “snare”. Furthermore among Jesus’ disciples, Judas was the spy who chose to betray Christ. It is this day when the key pieces come together in the plot for the greatest sin in all of history, the murder of the Son of God.
- READ MARK 14:1-11
This small town of Bethany on the outskirts of Jerusalem had recently been shaken by one of the greatest miracles ever performed – the raising of a man who had been lying in a grave for four days. Lazarus was a walking miracle. A special meal was held in Bethany with Jesus as the guest of honour. Our text tells us that it was in the home of Simon the leper, who Jesus had presumably also healed. At this banquet two kinds of followers of Jesus are unmasked. We read in vrs 3 about a woman (Mary the sister of Lazarus – John 12:3) who had a devoted heart and in vrs 10 a disciples of Jesus, Judas with a greedy a heart.
a) A DEVOTED FOLLOWER WHO IS FONDLY REMEMBERED
At some point in the meal Mary took a jar of pure nard. Spikenard is a herb that grows at between 3000-5000 metres in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, China and India. It has a very aromatic root and the oil has a lovely rose red fragrance which was a favourite perfume of the times. Of course since it was imported from India it was very costly (one year’s wages according to John 12:5). Now what does Mary do with this bottle of perfume? She anoints Jesus’ head and feet. Why did she do it? Because in some tangible way, in a way that went beyond mere words she wanted to express her love and appreciation to the Lord. Her act not only cost her financially but her reputation. After Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet she proceeded to wipe his feet with her hair (John 12:3). Now this might seem rather innocuous to us but it was absolutely scandalous to the people of Jesus’ day. In that culture it was a shameful thing for a woman to let her hair down in public. Such people were considered to be of ill repute. But for a woman to go even further than that and wipe a man’s feet with her hair bordered on the scandalous. But Mary was so determined to show her love and loyalty to Jesus that she did not care what other people thought or what they might say behind her back. All that mattered was displaying selfless commitment to Christ. In vrs 8, 9, Jesus commends her by saying; she did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
b) A GREEDY FOLLOWER WHO IS TRAGICALLY REMEMBERED
How did Judas respond to Mary’s extravagant devotion? In John 12:5 he was indignant that the perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor. Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus doesn’t share Judas’s miserliness. He sees in Mary’s “waste” a worshiping impulse that goes beyond the rational, calculated, efficient use of time and money. For Mary, Jesus is worth every shekel and more. In Matthew 26:10 he says she had done “a beautiful thing.” Judas, on the other hand, betrays a heart of greed. Judas’s concern was not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. The traitor had long been on a trajectory of sin and hard-heartedness. Satan finds a foothold in this heart in love with money, and what wickedness follows. He goes to the chief priests and becomes the conspirator they are looking for. In Matthew 26:3 Caiaphas, the high priest, had assembled the chief priests and elders to plan Jesus’ arrest. Originally they did not want to do it during the Passover for fear of the crowds. They did not have all the pieces of the puzzle in place yet. Enter the traitorous “spy” Judas who would do it for a miserly 30 pieces of silver, which according to Exodus 21:32 was the price of the life of a slave.