A whole Holy Week. Sunday to Sunday.
This is a week set aside each year to follow Christ through the final week of His human life - to recall the events leading to His crucifixion and eventual Resurrection.
As I have been reflecting on this part of Jesus' life in this season, I've found myself repeatedly noticing how focused and intense His march to the finish line is. As though He marches into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, looks everyone around Him directly in the eyes and says, "Hey, Listen to me. Now. This is it. We're here now. This is really happening. It's hard, and it's unfamiliar, but it's the most important thing you will ever go through. Pay attention."
There is a laser-focused intentionality about how Jesus chooses to navigate the week leading up to Easter that is important not to miss. There is a steady urgency in His being throughout the whole end of His story - of course there is! He is willfully walking into the very end of His human life so that we can live forever. Easter is urgent - and it continues to be urgent - because our need for Jesus remains true to this day... and His victory holds steady, Thank God.
It is Wednesday today. Wednesday of Holy Week doesn't get as much press as Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday... but foolish would we be to miss it. Spy Wednesday as some denominations call it, represents the part of the story in Matthew 26 where two very important and seemingly unrelated things are happening:
6 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. 7 While he was eating,[b]
a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. 8
The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. 9
“It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.
Not every gospel presents these two events in the same order. We're not meant to read this as a perfectly linear narrative. We're meant to notice the juxtaposition of two parts of this story, placed right here - together - by Matthew (and two of the other gospels) to tell us something about how Jesus is approaching the end of His life.
First, Jesus is in Bethany with his closest friends, sharing a meal. A woman appears and begins to anoint Jesus with expensive perfume, preparing Him for burial. The men surrounding them think this is preposterous and wasteful, but Jesus commends her for her willingness to extravagantly honor Him with her attention. After all, Jesus had been telling His friends for some time that He would be done soon, but they weren't paying attention.
Pay attention, He said. You will not always have me.
And then the next thing happens: Judas Iscariot, one of these men Jesus is staring straight in the eyes makes the choice to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. If the expensive perfume was too extravagant for Jesus, thirty pieces of silver is simply not extravagant enough. Here is Jesus choosing to celebrate the worshipful extravagance of a humble woman because time is running short, and the response of one of Jesus closest friends is to get up and turn his back.
The next night, on Thursday, Jesus gathers together with these men one last time - Judas included - for The Last Supper. He washes His friends' feet, Judas included. He feeds them. He blesses them, even though He knows that one of them will lead Him directly to His death. He lives out extravagant grace on Thursday. But on Wednesday we witness Him choose it.
It is Wednesday where we begin to see the determined ferocity of Christ's grace - the dramatic goodness of the Son of God feeling the excruciating pain and frustration of being misunderstood and betrayed by His closest friends... but allowing the delight of worshipful extravagance rise up above pride and ignorance.
It is on Thursday when Jesus demonstrates extravagant grace toward a traitor. It is Friday when we feel the extravagant loss of our Savior. It is on Saturday that we wait in extravagant stillness.
But on Wednesday, we witness an extravagant choice.
A choice to zero in on the weirdo with perfume... to celebrate the outsider willing to give their all to worship Him. A choice to be present with His people. A choice to continue to love Judas. A choice to invite Him to dinner anyway, even though he has turned his back on God Himself. A choice to let the story unfold, betrayal, pain, blood, torture, death... all of it.
Why? Because on Wednesday, Jesus chooses us.