All too often, the events of the Wednesday of Passion Week are overlooked.
It was a seemingly insignificant day in the scheme of events that led to Jesus’ death on the cross. However, it is what’s not directly said about Wednesday, that plays a critical part in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. There is a general consensus among scholars that it is likely that Judas was paid in advance to hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities, and that he was paid on Wednesday. Mark 14 tells us “Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus and secretly kill him” (Mark 14:1, NIV). Before giving more information on those schemes, the gospel of Mark gives an aside about Jesus’ time in Bethany. In the aside, we are told about how a woman—who many presume to be Mary—broke an alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume, and anointed Jesus, pouring the oil on his head. At the indignation of his disciples, Jesus began to tell them of his coming death, and that the woman had done a good thing by preparing him for his burial.
Ending the aside, the gospel continues, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over” (Mark 14:10-11, NIV). The story’s turn to Judas then begs the question—why tell of this moment in Bethany, and why share it at this moment? We know from Mark 14:1 that throughout the week the chief priests were scheming to arrest Jesus, and that on Thursday, they did arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Perhaps this moment in Bethany, with Mary and her alabaster jar, tells us something about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.
When the disciples chastised the woman for wasting expensive oil, Jesus rebuked them by foretelling his own death. When Judas heard this, it may have been in this moment that he realized that Jesus had not come to assume control of Rome. What then were Judas’ motives for following Jesus? Was it a desire for fame or for power? Was it a desire for the glory that he assumed awaited Jesus in Rome?
In Matthew 26, we are told, “Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:14-15, NIV). Today, those thirty pieces of silver would be worth about $600. Judas’ motives were misplaced from the beginning, so he traded his savior cheaply. In Exodus 21, it is stated that the life of a slave was worth thirty shekels. Not only did Judas sell out cheaply, he sold his God for merely the price of a slave.
When our motives are misplaced, what are we willing to sell out for?
What do we trade Jesus for on a daily basis? When we deny Christ by believing that something else will fulfill us, we are trading Him for something cheap; for something that will never satisfy. Judas believed that fame and power and glory and wealth would fulfill him more than Christ would, and he sold Him for the price of a slave. Maybe we believe that approval from others, or material things, or anything but a relationship with Christ will satisfy the grief, and pain, and emptiness we experience as a part of human life. The second we let ourselves be convinced that anything is better than Christ, we will trade him in a heartbeat, only to be left devastated.
This Wednesday of Passion Week, be encouraged that our God is one who knows our tendencies to cling to things of this world instead of Him. He knows that we will choose many things over Him at different points in our lives, and He still died on the cross. He still took on the weight of our sin and shame, and would have done so if you were the only person in existence.
Let the love He has for you compel you to choose Him, even when everything in you wants to cling to cheap and temporary satisfaction.