Spy Wednesday

by Jason Bollinger on April 1st, 2015

I didn’t grow up in a church world where liturgy was practiced with any amount of regularity. I grew up oblivious to the beauty and traditions of Holy Week. In 19 years of full-time ministry, I think we mixed in a Good Friday service or two to build up to Easter Sunday, but I have to say that this year I’m inspired by the focus that Holy Week has brought. What a precious time of year for the Christian Church.

Holly asked if I was going to write something for the days leading up to Easter, and it honestly hadn’t occurred to me. I told her that I couldn’t imagine what I might add to all the great stuff floating around, but then I went running and got overwhelmed with a thought.

Today is Spy Wednesday, and it is a relatively quiet day in Passion Week. Jesus came to town with shouts of “Hosanna!” He cleared the temple in quite a dramatic fashion. Up to this point, the Pharisees had engaged him quite publicly in accusations and debate. In the middle of the week though, things were pretty quiet. They pick up again Thursday night, but Wednesday is out the public eye, spending time with close friends.

In some liturgical traditions, a service called “Tenebrae” is held. This is a Latin word that means shadows or darkness. A tradition of the service is to extinguish all of the candles on the altar and have the people sit in darkness. Deeds done in the darkness, in the secret shadows, set up the events that put Jesus’ murder into motion.

The public accusations and displays were not getting Jesus’ opponents the charges they needed. They needed something secret. Something sneaky. Something from the shadows. They needed someone from the inner circle to spy, to help them with their illegal plans to frame Jesus for crimes he didn’t commit. 30 pieces of silver were enough to lure Judas into that role.

On Spy Wednesday, we remember Judas betrayed not only the Savior, but his friend. He succumbed to the temptation of greed and pride and was an accomplice to Jesus’ death. The guilt literally became too much for him to bear. In the following days he took his own life as he was crushed by the weight of what he did in the shadows.  

This hit me today.  The most destructive things in our lives are done in the shadows. Those destructive things can be done by people close to us or we can even do them ourselves. Gossip and rumors reac havoc on churches and relationships. Addictions and secret sins destroy marriages and families. Kids struggle with decision making when the doors are closed and can make destiny-altering mistakes. The dark must have an awful lot of allure to it, because there’s a whole lot happening there all the time.

Publicly, Judas criticized Mary for wasting a year’s worth of wages to wash and anoint Jesus’ feet. When people were looking, he played the part of a righteous man. What a waste of money. We could give that to the poor...all while he was helping himself to the money bag and cashing in 30 pieces of silver to finance his friend’s murder. Hypocrisy is one of the fiercest opponents of faithfulness. Saying one thing up front and doing the opposite out of the lights is why plenty of people aren’t interested in the faith we proclaim.

Today is a great opportunity to remember that shadows are dangerous. If we are different in the dark than we are in the light, we’re in trouble and causing destruction to ourselves and other people. Also, if we claim Jesus in the light while living in sin in the dark, we’re doing nothing better than selling him out for 30 pieces of silver.

On the other end, you have Jesus’ friend Mary. Mary had been rescued from a horrendous life in the shadows. She was set free from her past of impurity and been given a prominent place in God’s Kingdom. She left the dark to worship at the feet of Jesus. When you’ve come out of the dark, you understand how precious the light really is. She didn’t hesitate to publicly anoint Jesus’ head with her expensive bottle of perfume and wash his feet with her hair. She understood there was far more value in Jesus than in a year’s worth of wages.    

When somebody does something beautiful in the light, there will always be someone who’s misbehaving in the dark to condemn the beauty. I love that Jesus rose to defend Mary’s act of worship. He wasn’t fooled by Judas’ holy talk and hypocritical words. Coming out of the dark into the light, finding relationship with Jesus, worshiping at his feet is the remedy for the sin and pain the shadows provoke.

If you’re in the dark, you don’t have to stay there. There’s hope. There’s help. There’s healing. Destruction doesn’t have to be the end. There’s forgiveness for sin. The light of the world has come to pay the penalty of sin and give life for death.  You don’t have to be crushed by the weight of it. That’s why Jesus died.

Maybe we should make a Spy Wednesday Confession. We confess that the temptation of darkness is alive and well. We have many opportunities to dwell there. Sometimes it can even feel thrilling. Judas was suddenly important, powerful with some extra coin in his money bag. In the end, the fruit was death and destruction. If we’re honest, we admit we are tempted. However, we remember that we serve a good God who pierced the darkness with marvelous light.

There are a lot of great opportunities to worship this weekend. This Holy Week… this Spy Wednesday...let light come out of the darkness...to the feet of Jesus.

- Jason Bollinger


Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Spy Wednesday, Passion Week, Holy Week, Tenebrae, shadows, darkness, light, Jesus, Mary, Judas, forgiveness, sin


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