Today is known in some Christian traditions as “Spy Wednesday.” It is a quirky name to give voice to the timeline between Palm Sunday and Easter. Today, according to the gospel of Matthew (26: 14-16), this is the day Judas makes the decision to betray Jesus. It’s called Spy Wednesday, as in the meaning of ambush or snare.
Leonard Sweet shared in a facebook post earlier today
Today is Holy Wednesday, when Judas resolves to betray Jesus. There is a sliver of Judas in each one of us.
There is an old legend in which someone has pictured the “Last Day,” the end of history. Everyone is celebrating, dancing in the street, shouting “hallelujah.” Everyone is caught up in the spirit of high jubilation, everyone, that is, except Jesus. Jesus is standing very quietly over in the shadows by the gates of paradise. When someone asks him why he is standing in the shadows, he says quietly, “I am here waiting for Judas.”
The quality of God’s mercy, the depth of God’s forgiving love, is unfathomable. But we have to accept it. We can choose to be estranged from God.
Dr. Sweet’s posts often make me stop and think. I have meditated on these words off and on for several hours. There is a similar legend that I often think of that has to do with the “heavenly banquet.” I can’t remember when I first heard the story, but it was at least 20 years ago. The Feast has been spread, Jesus is at the head of the table and the story goes, if even one person is not redeemed and has said “no” to the grace and mercy offered there will be such a cry from Christ that the heavenly banquet will be eaten in silence.
Both legends speak to the depth of God’s love and grace for all people, even those who would turn their backs on that love and grace. Holy Week is one way Christians can focus on our own personal brokenness. It is simple for me, maybe for all of us, to see others as some how more broken, more wrong, more immoral or sinful. But “there is a sliver of Judas in each one of us.” Perhaps more than a sliver.
Judas was the first to betray Jesus but not the last. His sin is often lifted up because he sold his his friendship with Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas later repents of his action, but the events are already sent into motion and his sorrow doesn’t change anything. There are two stories that share the end of Judas’ life, one he hangs himself, they other he falls down and dies. Either way, Judas’ part that is played in this divine drama is hard to ignore.
The rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar portrays Judas in a more friendly light, as one being driven to understand, as one who can see that what was happening and could be destructive for more than just the disciples. Judas struggles to try and figure out the best path. In the end, his decisions lead to the arrest, conviction and execution of Jesus.
I often wonder how I might have responded. Would I have done anything differently? Would I be more like Peter who would hide in the shadows and then openly deny Jesus? I would like to believe I would be more like the women and follow and be present for Jesus all the way to the cross.
“There is a sliver of Judas in each one of us.” I believe, we often sell ourselves, our faith, our convictions for “30 pieces of silver.” Perhaps not literally, but we give our lives away on things that do not matter and waste opportunities to be a part of something bigger, deeper and more in line with the reign of God. It is so easy, for me anyway, to not have enough time or enough energy, to turn away and be focused on the mundane and minutiae of life. Jesus offers a vision of something much deeper of something that offers grace, hope, peace and love.
Perhaps Spy Wednesday can be a time to find out what ambushes and snares me and keeps me from being faithful. Spy Wednesday can be a day to acknowledge that sliver of Judas that lives in me. Spy Wednesday can be a day to offer up to God those things that keep me from being loving, gracious, and faithful to the reign of justice and righteousness and peace.
During this Holy Week and on this Holy Wednesday, I am praying for God to create in me a “clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.”