Because His enemies were watching Jesus, looking for an opportunity and pretext to seize Him, this day is traditionally known in the West as Spy Wednesday (Holy and Great Wednesday in the East). It is marked by the great contrast between the betrayal of Judas and the devotion of Mary of Bethany. (Excerpt From: Patrick Henry Reardon. Spring 2016 The Daily Devotional Guide by Patrick Henry Reardon. The Fellowship of St. James. iBooks.)I’m watching Jesus as I lean into my Holy Lent spiritual disciplines, too. Not to seize him, but to apprehend him. I’m watching how he behaves and listening to what he says, especially when he was under such stress in the week leading up to his crucifixion. I'm not watching to see if I can catch him out, but to see a life well lived.
I see the “great contrast” to which Reardon refers in the St James Devotional Guide reading from Matthew 26; a contrast between the “beautiful thing” the woman did, and Judas’ betrayal. I know I am capable of both, depending on which way I choose to lean.
Judas, the “bad guy,” has been vilified through the ages for his treachery, but at the time, so was the woman who did the beautiful thing. The disciples were indignant and accused her of being wasteful with such expensive ointment. Doing the right thing isn’t always well received.
Knowing the right thing is not always clear, especially when someone is under stress. The disciples quarrelled about who would be the greatest (Lk 22.24-30), they fell asleep when Jesus was praying his agony in Gethsemane (Lk 22.39-46), Peter said he didn’t know Jesus when he was challenged by a servant girl (Lk 22.56), somebody lost it and cut a servant’s ear off (Mk 14.47), Jesus himself cursed an innocent fig tree when it didn’t provide a snack when he was hungry (Mk 11.12-14). It was a traumatic, shambolic time for all concerned.
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. (I Corinthians 1.18, 22-25)…a veritable maelstrom of foolishness, power, wisdom, weakness and strength swirling around all the participants as the unthinkable stumbling-block that was to be the crucifixion approached.
No wonder no body except Jesus knew what to do.